Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Justice: Why So Lukewarm on Patrick Fitzgerald?

There was a lot of buzz about U-S Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald after he got that perjury conviction against Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

However, this wasn't his first big score: in his backyard of Chicago, Fitzgerald took on terrorism funding, the mob and (successfully) prosecuted former Governor George Ryan on corruption charges.

So why, then, has the Justice Department listed Fitzgerald among a group of attorneys who had "not distinguished themselves?"

This was on a Justice Department chart sent to the White House in March 2005. At the time, Fitzgerald was leading the Plamegate investigation.

From the Washington Post:

"The ranking placed Fitzgerald below "strong U.S. Attorneys . . . who exhibited loyalty" to the administration but above "weak U.S. Attorneys who . . . chafed against Administration initiatives, etc.," according to Justice documents.

"The chart was the first step in an effort to identify U.S. attorneys who should be removed. Two prosecutors who received the same ranking as Fitzgerald were later fired, documents show.

"Fitzgerald's ranking adds another dimension to the prosecutor firings, which began as a White House proposal to remove all 93 U.S. attorneys after the 2004 elections and evolved into the coordinated dismissal of eight last year, a move that has infuriated lawmakers and led to calls for Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to resign."

In all the news stories I've read about this revelation, I find a general sense of disbelief. Patrick Fitzgerald is a pit bull!! What would one have to do to be "distinguished?"

Even two years ago, Fitzgerald caught the attention of the Washington Post for his tenacity. Here's their profile of Fitzgerald from 2005.

Note the title of this other Washington Post article: Inquiry as Exacting As Special Counsel Is.

It's becoming harder and harder for the administration to deny the political motivation driving the firings (and ratings)in the U.S attorney scandal.

For more on this story, listen to David Schaper on NPR's Morning Edition today.

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