Update on U.S. Attorneys Investigation: DOJ Official Denies Allegations Against Him

| Wed Mar. 7, 2007 11:30 AM PST

Yesterday, former U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee (read my dispatch from the hearing here) that Mike Elston, the chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, made a threatening phone call to him. (Cummins was removed to create a spot for former Karl Rove aide Timothy Griffin.) Cummins produced an email for the committee which he had sent to five of the other USAs that had been fired, in which he recounted the phone conversation with Elston. Elston strongly advised Cummins that any further discussion with the press or Congress regarding the attorneys' resignations would be seen as an escalation of the situation and the DOJ would be forced to take action. The email read that the department was threatening to "pull their gloves off and offer public criticisms to defend their actions more fully." This phone call was in response to a Washington Post article in which Cummins was reported saying, "If they [DOJ] are trying to suggest that people have inferior performance to hide whatever their true agenda is, that is wrong. They should retract those statements." It looks like the DOJ didn't like that friendly suggestion. TPMmuckraker reports today that Elston has issued a statement denying the allegations made against him yesterday. Read the whole letter here. Essentially, Elston said, he is "shocked and baffled" by the accusations.

The misconduct list of the DOJ is totally out of control. One of the most shocking and appalling things revealed yesterday at the senate hearing was the allegation launched at New Mexico's now high-profile former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias. A reason given for his forced resignation was that he was an "absentee landlord." Iglesias is a Navy Reserve Officer and must serve 40 days during the year, something, he claimed he is not only very proud of, but highlighted on his resume when he applied for the position of U.S. Attorney. The irony of this accusation did not slip past Iglesias. He noted that the DOJ is a strong advocate of USERRA, a law that protects reserve officers from discrimination in the workplace. So, shall we add discrimination to the list?

Stay tuned for more to come, because in the words of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Schumer, who is leading the senate's investigation, the "plot continues to thicken."

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