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The Libby Verdict and the U.S. Attorneys Scandal: Two Symptoms of the Same Disease

Make no mistake, the U.S. attorney story is going to become a major scandal -- if only for the way it reveals how extensively the Bush rot has spread throughout the Republican Party.
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It was fitting that on the same day federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald won a conviction in the Libby trial, up on Capitol Hill six fired federal prosecutors were testifying about their questionable removal from office. Plamegate and the starting-to-boil Justice Dept. scandal are of a piece, emblematic of the Bush administration's use of intimidation -- and of the crass politicization of parts of government supposed to be above partisan manipulation.

The U.S. attorneys story is a major scandal, which reveals how extensively the Bush rot has spread throughout the Republican Party.

There was former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico, testifying about how Sen. Pete Domenici had "leaned on" him, pressuring him over the phone to move forward on the investigation of a state Democrat before the November election.

When Iglesias told the senator that the cases wouldn't be filed before November, Domenici said "I'm sorry to hear that," and hung up on Iglesias, who testified that he was sickened by the exchange.

Republican Rep. Heather Wilson, her eyes set on inheriting Domenici's seat, made a similar call to Iglesias, one that raised ethical "red flags" in his mind.

Another of the fired prosecutors, John McKay of Seattle, testified that the chief of staff to GOP Rep. Doc Hastings had called, looking for information on McKay's investigation of possible election fraud in Washington state's highly contentious 2004 governor's race. McKay was uneasy about the call and ended it as quickly as he could. He said that then-White House counsel Harriet Miers later suggested he had "mishandled" the voter-fraud inquiry.

It's worth noting that Hastings is the ranking Republican on the House ethics committee. And that four of the fired prosecutors were looking into corruption charges against Republicans when they were handed their pink slips. And let's not forget that Bush felt Harriet Miers -- and her heart, which he knew so well -- belonged on the Supreme Court.

Trying to control the bleeding, Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse dismissed the former prosecutors as "disgruntled employees grandstanding before Congress."

Apparently Roehrkasse didn't get the memo that the fired U.S. Attorneys had refused to voluntarily appear before Congress, and only did so after being subpoenaed by the House Judiciary subcommittee.

Bush and Cheney's mendacity and fondness for bullying tactics -- put on repellant display in the Libby trial -- haven't just contaminated the White House staff. The disease has infected the entire Republican Party.

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