Friday, May 25, 2007

Gonzo Justice:
Former US Attorney Heffelfinger Publicly Reacts to Monica Goodling Testimony and Kyle Sampson Email

The StarTribune reports today on local effects of the Justice Department's latest disgraceful behavior. Excerpts are posted below. Please see the full article if you are interested as the situation is more complex than the casual reader might wish to know about.

[Addendum: The Desert Beacon does a good job in laying out this situation in all its ugliness:
"Vote fraud more important than rape? Gonzales Department of Justice replaced attorney trying to reduce reservation crime"]

Heffelfinger slams Justice Department

The former U.S. attorney has grown more open in his anger over the fired-attorneys controversy. Thursday that reached a peak.

By Eric Black, Star Tribune

Last update: May 24, 2007 – 11:18 PM

In a blistering attack that won a standing ovation from more than 200 members of the Hennepin County Bar Association, former U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger on Thursday defended his work on Indian issues and accused Justice Department officials of firing people without knowing the most basic information about their qualifications.

Heffelfinger, who says he had no idea anyone in Washington was thinking of firing him when he resigned his position as U.S. attorney in February 2006, has gradually become more open about his outrage over the controversy around the firing of U.S. attorneys as his name has been more publicly linked to it.

In remarks to the Bar Association in Minneapolis, he reached a new peak, saying among other things that "something is fundamentally broken within the Department of Justice."

And he read aloud from an e-mail, written by Kyle Sampson, then-chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, to other Justice Department officials under pressure to explain how particular U.S. attorneys had become candidates for dismissal.

Sampson suggested the attorneys on the list -- including Heffelfinger -- "had no federal prosecution experience when they took the job."

This elicited a burst of shocked laughter from the audience, many of whom knew Heffelfinger had been a Hennepin County prosecutor, a federal prosecutor, and had served a previous term as U.S. attorney for Minnesota under the first President Bush before the second President Bush appointed him in 2001.

In testimony in Washington on Wednesday, former Justice Department official Monica Goodling said that the complaints she had heard about Heffelfinger were that he spent too much time on American Indian issues. Heffelfinger defended his commitment to issues of Indian law and then called the claim that he was too interested in the issue "outrageous and shameful." That brought the biggest ovation of his luncheon address.

And, he told reporters after the luncheon speech, he also briefed Gonzales on his continuing plans and commitment to the issue, and Gonzales made no complaints about any of it.

Minnesota tribal officials Thursday rejected the idea that Heffelfinger spent too much time on Indian issues.

A general housecleaning is called for at Justice. The old saying about a fish rotting from the head seems appropriate.