I’ll let you be the judge. The U.S. attorney for his district is investigating a contracting corruption scandal allegedly involving a leading state Democrat. The November, 2006 election is approaching. It’s a tight race. Heather Wilson, one of the State’s two Congressional representatives is in a life or death struggle with her Democratic challenger. A nice juicy indictment would tarnish the latter just enough possibly to throw the election to Wilson. So what does Pete do? He calls David Iglesias, said U.S. attorney, asking about the status of the case. According to Iglesias he made clear his desire for action in the case (i.e. an indictment). and Iglesias disappointed him. According to Domenici:
“I asked Mr. Iglesias if he could tell me what was going on in that investigation and give me an idea of what time frame we were looking at,” Mr. Domenici said. “It was a very brief conversation which concluded when I was told that the courthouse investigation would be continuing for a lengthy period.”
Mr. Domenici apologized in the statement and said he regretted making the call, but added that he had not urged any course of action in any investigation. “I have never pressured him nor threatened him in any way,” he said.
No, he certainly didn’t. And the proof of that is that he never took any further action against Iglesias, right? Well, uh, no that’s not exactly right:
A Justice Department spokesman said on Sunday that records at the agency showed that the senator complained about Mr. Iglesias in calls to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in September 2005 and again in January and April 2006. The senator made a brief call to Paul J. McNulty, the deputy attorney general, in October 2006 when the deliberations over Mr. Iglesias’s dismissal began.
In each of these calls, said Brian Roehrkasse, a Justice Department spokesman, Mr. Domenici expressed general concerns about Mr. Iglesias and questioned whether he was “up to the job.” Mr. Roehrkasse added, “At no time did they discuss the public corruption case.”
So “deliberations over Iglesias’ dismissal” began right around the time Domenici called him to ask about the corruption case and was given an answer he clearly did not like. That timing couldn’t be a coincidence now, could it?? Nah.
The Justice Department swears up and down that while Domenici did pressure it to remove Iglesias, the corruption case NEVER, do you hear–NEVER came up. That explains this little tidbit:
Justice officials have said that F.B.I. officials complained that Mr. Iglesias was not bringing corruption cases fast enough,
The FBI was complaining he wasn’t bringing the corruption case fast enough. But Pete certainly wasn’t doing that, now was he? The real reason all this happened is because Pete wants to be the Senate’s top corruption fighter. And Iglesias was just standing in the way of his zeal for good, clean government. Makes sense, no?
Why is this important? First, because Domenici was trying to artificially influence a close election. But even more importantly he was interfering in the course of justice–not just illegal but a definite ethical no-no. Pete’s been in the Senate since 1972. With some of these old warhorses they start believing their own press about how they walk on water and wear that imperial olive wreath around their brow. I think Don Pete’s taken things a step or two too far. Will anyone rein him in?
And Heather Wilson should be in even deeper hot water because she appears to have also pressured Iglesias but isn’t fessing up to it. And also, she, more than Domenici would directly benefit from the indictment. Undoubtedly, her silence is fueled by the fact that she’s trying to find out how much evidence there is tying her to involvement in this sordid little tale. It wouldn’t do to issue a denial if someone’s got the goods on you. But her continued silence simply doesn’t pass the smell test. How ’bout a recall??