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Clinton chutzpah

Posted by Richard on March 14, 2007

Shortly after Bill Clinton took office, every single U.S. Attorney was forced to resign. It's not unusual for most of them to be replaced gradually by a new administration (George H.W. Bush replaced most of Reagan's U.S. Attorneys). But the Clinton administration's sudden clean sweep was, I believe, unprecedented (but replicated by Clinton elsewhere; remember the White House Travel Office?).

There was at least some speculation at the time about the reason (from the March 24, 1993 New York Times, emphasis added):

Attorney General Janet Reno today demanded the prompt resignation of all United States Attorneys, leading the Federal prosecutor in the District of Columbia to suggest that the order could be tied to his long-running investigation of Representative Dan Rostenkowski, a crucial ally of President Clinton.

Jay B. Stephens, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, who is a Bush Administration holdover, said he had advised the Justice Department that he was within 30 days of making a "critical decision" in the Rostenkowski case when Ms. Reno directed him and other United States Attorneys to submit their resignations, effective in a matter of days.

While prosecutors are routinely replaced after a change in Administration, Ms. Reno's order accelerated what had been expected to be a leisurely changeover.

Says He Won't Resist

At a news conference today only hours after one by Ms. Reno, Mr. Stephens said he would not resist the Attorney General's move to force him from office, and he held back from directly accusing her of interfering with the Rostenkowski inquiry.

But Mr. Stephens left the strong impression that Ms. Reno's actions might disrupt the investigation as he moved toward a decision on whether to seek charges against the Illinois Democrat, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Mr. Stephens didn't resist because he no doubt knew that U.S. Attorneys, like all political appointees, serve "at the pleasure of the President." Today, many people in the Democratic Party and its public relations arm, the mainstream media, are either unfamiliar with that phrase or believe it has a different definition when a Republican is President.

Given that bit of history from 1993, it takes some nerve for Sen. Hillary Clinton to posture like this:

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is calling on President Bush to explain the firings of US attorneys, days after the White House admitted that White House adviser Karl Rove acted as a conduit for complaints about federal prosecutors.

"With the White House now acknowledging a direct role in the Justice Department's U.S. Attorney firings, the president must affirmatively step forward to explain what he is doing to address the politicization of our prosecutorial system and what role he and his aides played in this controversy," Clinton said in a statement sent to RAW STORY.

"It is imperative that the president act swiftly to explain what role the White House played in this situation, hold those who acted inappropriately accountable, and take responsibility," Clinton said.

 Since she objects to the White House and Attorney General firing U.S. Attorneys, and she decries "the politicization of our prosecutorial system," I expect Sen. Clinton will pledge not to remove any U.S. Attorneys other than for cause (independently verified) if she's elected President. 

Ha! Right after the airborne ham steaks pass overhead. 

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