Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), a Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today demanded accountability from the Bush Administration for the questionable firings of eight U.S. Attorneys.
Speaking on the Senate Floor, Sen. Cardin expressed outrage about reports that officials at the Justice Department, with guidance from the White House, may well have politicized the hiring and firing of U.S. Attorneys in an effort to interfere with pending public corruption cases. He also expressed his support for legislation (S. 214) to reinstate the Senate confirmation process for the appointments of all U.S. Attorneys.
Last week, the Senator voted to issue subpoenas to current and former Justice Department officials and federal prosecutors to require them to appear before the Judiciary Committee to defend their role in the firings. Sen. Cardin also believes that White House advisers Karl Rove and Harriet Miers should testify under oath before the Judiciary Committee. If they do not agree to testify willingly, the Senator supports issuing subpoenas. The Judiciary Committee will vote later this week on whether to subpoena Rove and Miers.
The following excerpts are from Senator Cardin's remarks delivered today on the Senate Floor:
- “On March 6th, former U.S. Attorneys appeared before the Judiciary Committee and their testimony was chilling. They talked about being intimidated and pressured by the Department of Justice and by the White House. They were fired, despite the fact they had received excellent performance evaluations by the Department of Justice. In several of these cases, the U.S. Attorney was involved in high-profile political investigations, some of which the Administration was not happy about.
- “The Judiciary Committee is continuing its work. I know that there were a lot of documents made available last night to the Judiciary Committee. What we need to have is the personal appearance of those who were directly involved: Ms. Miers, Mr. Rove, and Mr. Sampson. Those testimonies need to take place in the Judiciary Committee in the open, under oath, so we can get the information as to what exactly did happen with regard to the dismissals of the U.S. Attorneys.
- “The U.S. Attorney is the chief federal law enforcement officer in our states. The U.S. Attorney must work independently. The U.S. Attorney must carry out his or her responsibilities for the entire country. He is not the attorney for the President. The Department of Justice must maintain that independence. A U.S. Attorney has enormous power to determine who should be investigated and who should be prosecuted and what type of punishment should be recommended. It's a tremendous amount of power that must be exercised with total independence.
- “The manner in which these eight U.S. Attorneys were removed from office raised many concerns . . . about the independence of the U.S. Attorney… It raises concerns as to whether the Department of Justice or the White House was trying to influence the independent judgment of a U.S. Attorney in a specific investigation. It raises concerns as to how Congress was kept informed as to how the removals were being handled. The information that was made available to us has been inconsistent. It raises questions as to whether Congress, itself, was being misled by the Department of Justice.
- “This legislation would restore that appointment of our interim U.S. Attorneys to how it was prior to the passage of the PATRIOT Act. The PATRIOT Act included . . . a provision that affected the appointment of interim U.S. Attorneys. Prior to the passage of that provision, the Department of Justice had the ability to appoint interim U.S. Attorneys for up to 120 days without the confirmation of this body.
- “This legislation will restore the right balance between the Executive and Legislative branches of government. It will encourage the Department of Justice to work with this body so that interim U.S. Attorneys and permanent appointments can be considered timely and the confirmation process can be moved forward. More importantly, this legislation is necessary because of the recent actions of the Department of Justice.”