Firings’ flap breakdown

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales initially dismissed the Democratic outcry over the firing of seven U.S. attorneys as “an overblown personnel matter,” but e-mails and evidence provided to congressional investigators show a coordinated plan to purge the prosecutors that was tied closely to political turns of the 2006 election cycle. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) yesterday called the Justice Department’s actions “untoward, wrong, immoral and illegal,” renewing calls within his party for Gonzales to step down. President Bush spoke directly on the matter for the first time yesterday, acknowledging that he had taken up lawmakers’ general complaints about prosecutors with Gonzales but denying issuing any specific instructions to respond. “What was mishandled was the explanation of the cases to the Congress,” Bush told reporters. “And Al’s got work to do up there.” BELOW IS A TIMELINE OF KEY EVENTS IN THE SCANDAL, BASED ON E-MAILS PROVIDED TO CONGRESS AND THE PUBLIC RECORD. 2/24/05: Kyle Sampson, Gonzales’s resigned chief of staff, sends a memo rating U.S. attorneys on their fealty to the administration’s priorities. David Iglesias of New Mexico and Paul Charlton of Arizona are recommended to remain at Justice. Carol Lam of San Diego is recommended for firing. 6/12/05: The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that a defense contractor mysteriously overpaid for then-Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s (R-Calif.) home. Lam later began investigating Cunningham’s network. 9/23/05: Justice officials field a call from Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) concerning Iglesias’s performance. 9/28/05: Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) is indicted, sparking a Democratic campaign pressing Rep. Heather Wilson (RN.M.), Domenici’s protégé, and other Republicans in close reelection races to return DeLay’s donations. 10/13/05: Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) sends a critical letter to Lam, citing her office’s “appalling record of refusal to prosecute even the worst criminal alien offenders.” 1/9/06: Sampson sends former White House counsel Harriet Miers a list of attorneys recommended for dismissal, again without Iglesias. 1/31/06: Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) calls Gonzales’s office to again raise questions about Iglesias. “Does the [U.S. attorney] know of anyone who might be stirring something up?” Moschella writes to Sampson and others. 5/11/06, morning: The Los Angeles Times reports that Lam’s investigation had swept thenHouse Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) into its net. 5/11/06, later: Sampson asks Miers’s office to call him concerning “the real problem we have right now with Carol Lam.” 9/20/06: Brent Ward, head of Justice’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, e-mails Sampson that “we have two U.S. Attorneys who are unwilling to take good cases we have presented to them.” They are Arizona’s Charlton and Daniel Bogden, of Nevada. 10/2/06: Wilson, the leading recipient of campaign donations from embattled Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), announces she will donate the money to charity. 10/4/06: A Reuters polls shows Wilson trailing her Democratic opponent by 10 points. 10/26-10/27/06: Iglesias says he received a call from Domenici on one of these days asking if indictments in a corruption probe of local Democrats would be filed by November. Iglesias says Wilson called about two weeks earlier. 11/15/06: Sampson sends Miers, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty and others a step-by-step plan to fire six of the attorneys, including Iglesias, warning them, “Prepare to Withstand Political Upheaval.” 12/4/06: Miers’s deputy tells her and Sampson that “WH leg, political and communications have signed off” on the plan. 12/8/06: “Heads up about disgruntlement in Nevada,” Miers’s deputy writes as Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) comes to Bogden’s defense. 1/16/07: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) gives her first floor speech calling attention to the prosecutor dismissals. 2/6/07: McNulty defends the firings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. 3/1/07: Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) issues the first subpoenas of the 110th Congress, to hear from four of the ousted attorneys. 3/5/07: The first Justice official linked to the firings resigns. 3/11/07: Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is the first of what will become multiple Democrats to call for Gonzales’s resignation.
Compiled by Elana Schor