CBS' Schieffer failed to ask Rep. Wilson about DOJ report calling for investigation of possible charges

››› ››› HANNAH DREIER

On Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer did not ask Rep. Heather Wilson about a recent Justice Department report that called for further investigation of actions she and others allegedly took surrounding the firing of former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias. The report stated that their actions may have constituted an "attempt[] to pressure Iglesias to accelerate his charging decision" in a case and that if attempts to pressure Iglesias occurred, they could constitute obstruction of justice or wire fraud.

During an interview on the October 5 broadcast of CBS' Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer did not ask Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) about a September 29 Justice Department report that called for further investigation of actions she and others allegedly took surrounding the firing of former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias. The report stated that their actions may have constituted an "attempt[] to pressure Iglesias to accelerate his charging decision in [a] ... case or to initiate voter fraud investigations to affect the outcome of the" 2006 election and that this "conduct may have been criminal." The report also stated that if attempts to pressure Iglesias occurred, they could constitute obstruction of justice or wire fraud.

The report, by the Justice Department's Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility, stated: "On Sunday, October 15, 2006, Representative Wilson e-mailed a newspaper article about public corruption prosecutions in other states to her Chief of Staff, her campaign manager, another campaign aide, and [Sen. Pete] Domenici's [R-NM] Chief of Staff [Steven] Bell with the message, 'FBI or those close to them are talking about public corruption cases ongoing in other states.' " The report later stated: "According to Wilson, her e-mail to Bell was not intended as a reference to Iglesias. However, the next day, October 16, 2006, Wilson telephoned Iglesias to ask about delays in public corruption matters being handled by his office. Wilson told us that a day or two before the call, a constituent had complained to her that Iglesias was intentionally delaying public corruption prosecutions in the district." The report also stated that "Wilson refused to identify the constituent to us and would not provide any information that would allow us to assess the constituent's bias, motives, or credibility."

The report later added, "According to Wilson, she told Iglesias in her telephone call that she heard he was intentionally delaying corruption cases." The report added that when Iglesias said the allegation that he was intentionally delaying cases was "not true," "Wilson said she closed the conversation by stating that she would take him at his word."

According to the Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility, Iglesias said he was asked to resign on December 7, 2006.

The report stated: "We believe that Senator Domenici's complaints were the primary factor for Iglesias's placement on the list" of U.S. attorneys slated for removal in November 2006. But later in the report, the IG raised questions about Wilson's actions and stated that Wilson still needed to answer questions about the identity of the constituent who she said had called her to complain about Iglesias. The report stated:

[W]e believe a full investigation is necessary to determine whether other federal criminal statutes were violated with regard to the removal of Iglesias. For example, Iglesias and others have alleged that he was removed in retaliation for his failure to accelerate the indictment of a public corruption case and his alleged failure to initiate voter fraud investigations. Iglesias said that Representative Wilson, who was running for reelection in a close race, called him before the 2006 election and asked him about delays in public corruption cases being handled by his office, apparently referring to the courthouse case. In addition, Iglesias believed that Senator Domenici attempted to pressure him to indict the courthouse case before the election in order to benefit Wilson, and when Iglesias declined to do so Domenici engineered his removal. The evidence we have developed so far shows that Wilson and Domenici in fact called Iglesias shortly before the election, and that the substance of the calls led Iglesias to believe he was being pressured to indict the courthouse case before the upcoming election. Moreover, New Mexico Republican politicians and party activists contacted Iglesias, the Department, and the White House to complain about Iglesias's handling of voter fraud investigations and public corruption cases.

It is possible that those seeking Iglesias's removal did so simply because they believed he was not competently prosecuting worthwhile cases. However, if they attempted to pressure Iglesias to accelerate his charging decision in the courthouse case or to initiate voter fraud investigations to affect the outcome of the upcoming election, their conduct may have been criminal. The obstruction of justice statute makes it a crime for any person who "corruptly ... influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct or impede, the due administration of justice ... ." 18 U.S.C. § 1503(a). While we found no case charging a violation of the obstruction of justice statute involving an effort to accelerate a criminal prosecution for partisan political purposes, we believe that pressuring a prosecutor to indict a case more quickly to affect the outcome of an upcoming election could be a corrupt attempt to influence the prosecution in violation of the obstruction of justice statute. The same reasoning could apply to pressuring a prosecutor to take partisan political considerations into account in his charging decisions in voter fraud matters.

In addition, the wire fraud statute bars "any scheme or artifice to defraud" that is furthered by the use of interstate wire communications. 18 U.S.C. § 1343. A "scheme or artifice to defraud" includes "a scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services." 18 U.S.C. § 1346. The elements of an honest services wire fraud case are: (1) a scheme or artifice to defraud by depriving another of the intangible right of honest services; (2) an intent to defraud; and (3) the use of interstate wire communications to execute the scheme. See generally United States v. Sawyer, 85 F.3d 713, 723-727 (1st Cir. 1996); United States v. Welch, 327 F.3d 1081, 1104 (10th Cir. 2003). An individual who conspires or attempts to induce a public official to violate a public duty can be prosecuted for wire fraud. See 18 U.S.C. § 1349.

As a United States Attorney, Iglesias had a duty to prosecute cases without regard to his own professional or personal considerations, and without regard to partisan political considerations. See United States Attorneys' Manual § 9-27.000 (Principles of Federal Prosecution) and § 9-27.260 (A)(3) (Initiating and Declining Charges -- Impermissible Considerations). If anyone used interstate wire communications to pressure Iglesias to take partisan political considerations into account in his charging decision in the courthouse case, that could violate the wire fraud statute.

Senator Domenici declined our request for an interview. So did his Chief of Staff, who was involved in both fielding and making complaints about Iglesias's handling of the courthouse case and voter fraud matters and thus should have knowledge about whether there were efforts to influence Iglesias to consider partisan political factors in his charging decisions. Although Wilson consented to be interviewed, she refused to tell us the identity of the constituent who allegedly told her that Iglesias was intentionally delaying public corruption prosecutions in her district. An interview of that person could potentially provide evidence regarding Wilson's intent in calling Iglesias and complaining to others about him.

The section of the report on Iglesias concluded by stating:

We want to make clear that we are not stating that the evidence we have uncovered thus far establishes that a violation of the false statements, obstruction of justice, or wire fraud statutes has occurred. However, we believe that the evidence collected in this investigation is not complete, and that serious allegations involving potential criminal conduct have not been fully investigated or resolved.

We recommend that a counsel specially appointed by the Attorney General assess the facts we have uncovered, work with us to conduct further investigation, and ultimately determine whether the totality of the evidence demonstrates that any criminal offense was committed. Because we do not have the authority to compel witness testimony or the production of documents from the White House, we cannot pursue this investigation further on our own. We believe that this matter should be fully investigated, the facts and conclusions fully developed, and final decisions made based on all the evidence.

On September 29, Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed acting Connecticut U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy to continue to the investigation, stating, "I have asked Nora Dannehy to exercise the authority of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia for purposes of this matter. In that capacity, Ms. Dannehy will report to me through the Deputy Attorney General."

Posted In
Government, Ethics
Network/Outlet
CBS
Person
Bob Schieffer
Show/Publication
Face the Nation
Stories/Interests
U.S. Attorneys Scandal
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