Dick Morris asserted that the Bush administration fired eight U.S. attorneys “because they wouldn't prosecute voter fraud and other crimes.” In fact, two of the fired prosecutors have said that they investigated such allegations, but found insufficient evidence to warrant prosecution or a grand-jury investigation.
On the March 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Fox News political analyst Dick Morris asserted that the Bush administration ousted eight U.S. attorneys “because they wouldn't prosecute voter fraud and other crimes.” Morris' statement assumes that there was sufficient evidence of voter fraud to warrant prosecution. In fact, two discharged U.S. attorneys who Republicans claim neglected voter-fraud prosecutions both maintain that they investigated such allegations, but found insufficient evidence to warrant prosecution or a grand-jury investigation.
Indeed, Media Matters for America has noted the example of John McKay, former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington. McKay testified during a House hearing that he did not convene a grand jury to investigate charges of voter fraud in the 2004 Washington gubernatorial race because he and the chief of the Justice Department's Election Crimes branch had conducted a preliminary investigation and determined “there was no evidence of voter fraud.” A March 19 Washington Post article reported that the allegations of fraud in the governor's race -- which Democrat Christine Gregoire won by a margin of 129 votes after three recounts -- originated with the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a conservative group based in Olympia, Washington, as well as with several Republican leaders.
From McKay's testimony during a March 12 House hearing on the U.S. attorney firings:
McKAY: It is very true that the controversy surrounding the 2004 governor's election was one that had a lot of public debate. I was aware that I was receiving criticism for not proceeding with a criminal investigation. And, frankly, it didn't matter to me what people thought. Like my colleagues, we work on evidence, and there was no evidence of voter fraud or election fraud. And, therefore, we took nothing to the grand jury.
In addition, a March 13 Seattle Times article on the House hearing reported that McKay “wanted to make it clear that he pressed ahead with a preliminary investigation, despite the hesitation of Craig Donsanto, the longtime chief of the Election Crimes branch of the Department of Justice, who ultimately concurred with McKay that no federal crimes had been committed in the election.”
Another dismissed prosecutor -- David C. Iglesias, former U.S. attorney for New Mexico -- set up a voter-fraud task force in September 2004. But as the March 19 Post article explained, the task force failed to identify any significant violations, and Iglesias -- in concurrence with the “election-crimes branch of the Justice Department's public integrity section” -- decided to shut down the operation:
In the New Mexico case, two prominent Republican attorneys, Mickey Barnett and Patrick J. Rogers, met last June with [Attorney General Alberto R.] Gonzales's senior counsel, Monica Goodling, to complain that Iglesias was inattentive to voter fraud. Goodling met with them after a colleague sent her a note saying, “It is sensitive -- perhaps you should do it,” an internal e-mail exchange shows.
Iglesias said the fraud allegations are baseless. He formed a bipartisan task force to examine possible vote fraud in September 2004 -- two months before that fall's elections -- after hearing reports of “lots of low-level fraud going on. ... I figured where there was smoke, there was fire. I wanted to sound a message: We need to have integrity in our election process.”
A toll-free telephone number set up by the task force and operated by the FBI generated about 100 calls, three or four of which involved possible violations, Iglesias said. He said he considered prosecuting one case involving a woman signing up voters who put false information on registrations. But, Iglesias said, the case had “evidence problems” that made it difficult to prove the woman was trying to skew the election's outcome.
He said he conferred with the chief of the election-crimes branch of the Justice Department's public integrity section, who was “very lukewarm. So we kind of, in collaboration ... decided to shut it down.”
The Post article also reported that Iglesias was “one of two chief federal prosecutors invited to teach at a 'voting integrity symposium' in October 2005. The symposium was sponsored by Justice's public integrity and civil rights sections and was attended by more than 100 prosecutors from around the country.” According to the Post, Iglesias said that “the agency invited him back as a trainer last summer, just months before a Justice official telephoned to fire him.”
From the March 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
COLMES: Does Gonzales have to resign?
MORRIS: No. I think the administration may want him to resign, but they shouldn't. The administration should show some guts for a change and stand up and say, “We have the right to fire any of these guys. We fired them because they wouldn't prosecute voter fraud and other crimes. It's our right to enforce the president's policy on U.S. attorneys. That's why they're appointed and not civil servants, and you guys can go fly a kite.” And that's what the administration should say. Where are their guts?
COLMES: Do you think it's OK to fire attorneys because they're not prosecuting enough Democrats and prosecuting too many Republicans? I know he has the right to do it, but do you think that's a good system?
MORRIS: Because they're not prosecuting whoever the president -- because they're not prosecuting whoever the president wants. We have an appointive system of the Justice Department of prosecutors. And we do it because it's an instrument of presidential policy.
We do it because we want the president to be able to determine what crimes should be prosecuted, which ones are more important than others, and putting in good prosecutors into place. And to second-guess it was like when they tried to impeach Andrew Johnson for firing the secretary of war. It's a congressional outrage. The White House should stand up on this.
HANNITY: And you're right. The Republicans need a backbone here. They serve at the pleasure of the president. They haven't pointed out the double standard. And they're allowing this to become an issue.
MORRIS: Their terms are expired.
HANNITY: I agree.