PURGEGATE UPDATE….Yesterday I wrote a post suggesting that some of the fired U.S. Attorneys really did have performance problems while others didn’t. How can you tell the difference? Well, the two who did have performance problems were given reviews that contained actual hard evidence of poor office management. The five who didn’t were given vague reviews that didn’t seem to add up to much. As it happens, these five were the same ones who had been suspected of being either too tough on Republican corruption cases or too weak on Democratic ones, which has led suspicious folks like me to suspect that this was the real reason they were fired.

One of the USAs who seemed to be a genuine management problem was Kevin Ryan of San Francisco. But according to a story in the LA Times today, until the very last minute that wasn’t enough to get him on the list:

“You would have to know Kevin,” said UC Hastings College of the Law professor Rory Little. “You can’t find a stronger supporter of the Bush administration agenda.”

His tenure, however, was plagued by morale problems and accusations that he was a bad manager. A number of the office’s most experienced lawyers left.

Despite his problems, which were well documented in legal newspapers, Justice officials wanted to keep Ryan on, even as they plotted the firings of other U.S. attorneys. It was only when a Democratic judge threatened to go to Congress to raise a public fuss over an excoriating written evaluation of Ryan’s office that Ryan was put on the termination list, according to e-mails released by the White House.

So: documented poor performance wasn’t enough to get a Bush loyalist on the list. He was only added at the last minute to prevent possible embarrassment if his performance became public during a mass firing that was supposedly due to performance problems.

Which kinda makes you think that neither poor performance nor policy differences really had anything to do with any of this, doesn’t it? We’re left with Kevin Ryan, who was fired to avoid his poor performance becoming public; Margaret Chiara, another loyalist who appeared to have genuine management problems; and five more who were fired for unclear reasons — but who all seem to have shared the fatal defect of prosecuting too many Republicans and not enough Democrats. (Plus one more who was fired to make way for a friend of Karl Rove to take his spot.)

The Fab Five are the ones to keep an eye on. Connect the dots.

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