WHY WERE THEY FIRED?….Over at TPMmuckraker, Paul Kiel points to something that I too found odd when I was skimming through the Purgegate document dump last night:

Among the documents last night are some showing that the “performance related” reasons for firing eight prosecutors were the result of an ongoing collobaration at Justice. In other words, the officials appear to have brainstormed on the reasons they had fired the eight.

What Paul means is that DOJ hasn’t released any documents from prior to the purge showing how they judged the performance of the folks they were firing. All we have is a summary document from after the purge, where DOJ apparatchiks are tripping over themselves trying to figure out just what those reasons were. But of course, that doesn’t make sense. If they had really had firm, irreproachable reasons for firing the “USA-8,” they would have just dug up the old memos that spelled out those reasons and transferred them to the summary sheet. Or maybe just released the original memos themselves. Instead they were running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

But there was something else I noticed as I read the document that Paul highlighted: there was a noticable difference in the quality of the stated reasons for firing the eight prosecutors. Some reasons seemed pretty strong, some pretty weak, and a couple in between. Here’s how they looked to me:

  • Strong: Chiara, Ryan, Cummins. The first two seem to have had serious morale/management issues that had previously required on-site visits to address. Cummins was planning to resign eventually anyway.

  • Middling: Charlton, McKay. In both cases, EOUSA managers appeared to be unhappy about “insubordination” and working “outside of proper channels.” It’s not clear what the problems were, but these are at least colorable stories.

  • Weak: Bogden, Iglesias, Lam. In the first two cases, virtually no reasons are given at all. “Lack of energy” and “Underperforming generally” is the best they could come up with. In Lam’s case, they complained about “time management” and then tossed in some items about illegal immigration and gun prosecutions that were pretty plainly bogus.

Notice anything unusual about this list? I didn’t at first, but it turns out that the five firings with the weakest official explanations are the same five prosecutors who have been suspected of being either too tough on Republican corruption cases or too weak on Democratic ones. You can’t very well put that on your summary sheet, though, which probably explains why the DOJies had trouble coming up with good reasons for firing them. The dots are practically begging to be connected here.

One of the interesting things this affair demonstrates is that Bush and his confidants are still clueless. They genuinely didn’t expect this to blow up in their faces. They thought everyone would buy their story that this was a routine housecleaning and then move on. They simply haven’t figured out that, given their track record over the past six years, no one is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt anymore. Even their own supporters are barely willing to defend them. But they still don’t get that.

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