Dear Attorney General Gonzales:
We are writing to express our concern that the work of federal prosecutors in districts where you recently have removed U.S. Attorneys not be encumbered in any way by the fact that they are now led by interim appointees. In particular, we want assurances that the decision to remove U.S. Attorneys in the middle of public corruption investigations has not delayed consideration of those inquiries. The interim status of the successors of these dismissed U.S. Attorneys should not limit their ability to get support from the Department to pursue pending investigations or indictments in public corruption cases.
Let us be very clear: We are not prejudging these matters. We have no basis for knowing how they should conclude and we are not seeking a particular conclusion. We think a clear message should be sent that prosecutors should go where the facts and the law lead them and no other factors should interfere. We would like your assurance that this message has been sent.
Regardless of the reason for their dismissals, the fact remains that many of the U.S. Attorneys you removed were in the midst of serious public corruption investigations. The most public of these investigations was Carol Lam's indictments of former-Rep. Duke Cunningham and former CIA Executive Director, Dusty Foggo and the subsequent expansion of that investigation, but other pending investigations had not yet developed to the level of indictments by the time the US Attorneys leading them were removed from office.
Yesterday, the Arizona Republic reported that Paul Charlton's name was added to the list of U.S. Attorneys targeted for ouster after he initiated an investigation into a land deal involving Representative Rick Renzi. In mid-February, media sources reported that prior to his dismissal, Nevada U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden had opened a probe examining whether then-Rep. Gibbons accepted unreported gifts and payments from friend and businessman Warren Trepp in exchange for his help as a member of the House Intelligence and Armed Services committees. Press reports also note that in a separate matter Bogden had asked the FBI to review a request for an investigation of Rep. Jon Porter. Similar accounts suggest that U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins was asked to step down at a time when his office was in the midst of an investigation into Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt's administration.
Since we last wrote, oversight efforts on this situation have continued in Congress and details have emerged on discussions in the Department of Justice about the perceived "loyalty" of many of the federal prosecutors who were fired. When prosecutors with more than satisfactory performance evaluations are labeled disloyal by your staff and then removed after engaging in public corruption investigations, the potential chilling effect on the pursuit of these investigations is serious.
The American people must be reassured that the best efforts of the top federal law enforcement officers in their communities are not going to be hobbled by political partisanship. We feel strongly that these interim U.S. Attorneys, most of whom are career prosecutors, must be assured that their future at the Department of Justice will not be jeopardized if they choose to pursue the investigations that some now perceive as the reason their predecessors were dismissed. We ask you to address this issue with the interim U.S. Attorneys directly. Additionally, we ask for your assurance that the U.S. Attorneys' Offices involved will be permitted to move purposefully and forthrightly in pursuing these cases consistent with the necessary and appropriate independence of the prosecutors conducting these investigations.