Finally Finally Finally, The U.S. Attorney Firing Scandal Has A Sexual Angle

Ken AshfordAttorney FiringsLeave a Comment

Arizona U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton was one of the 8 U.S. attorneys fired by the Bush Administration.  The Arizona Republic story raises the question of why he was fired:

Two weeks after Arizona U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton was ordered to give up his post, he sent an e-mail to a top Justice Department official asking how to handle questions that his ouster was connected to his investigation of Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz.

Charlton, one of eight federal prosecutors forced to resign last year, never received a written response….

When the first list of U.S. attorneys targeted for ouster was drafted, Charlton’s name was not on it. But his name was on a subsequent list, drafted in September. Although the Renzi inquiry was not yet public, it is likely the Justice Department was aware of the investigation, said a former U.S. attorney who is familiar with the protocol when a sitting lawmaker is involved.

What happened in the interim?  How did Charlton’s name end up on the list of U.S. Attorneys to get fired?

Well, as Max Blumenthal explains, Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) was in a competitive re-election race. When evidence of influence-peddling and land deals emerged in September 2006, just weeks before Election Day, Charlton opened a preliminary investigation against the Republican.

And that’s when, Kyle Sampson — Gonzales’ chief of staff — identified Charlton as someone “we should now consider pushing out.”

But wait — I promised a sex angle.  Just sit tight.

You see, having identified Charlton as someone they wanted to let go, they had to come up with a reason.  They couldn’t fire Charlton on the merits, because:

a model of professionalism, Charlton’s office was honored with the Federal Service Award and hailed by the Justice Department as a ‘Model Program’ for its protection of crime victims…

So instead, the administration relied on a Justice Department official named Brent Ward, who insisted that Charlton was “unwilling to take good cases.”

What were these "good cases"?  Here comes the sex angle:

Ward first came to prominence in Utah, where as US Attorney during the Reagan era he cast himself as a crusader against pornography. His battles made him one of the most fervent and earnest witnesses before Attorney General Edwin Meese’s Commission on Pornography; he urged “testing the endurance” of pornographers by relentless prosecutions. Meese was so impressed that he named Ward a leader of a group of US Attorneys engaged in a federal anti-pornography campaign, which soon disappeared into the back rooms of adult bookshops to ferret out evildoers. Ward returned to government last year as the chief of the Justice Department’s newly created Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, where his main achievement has been the prosecution of the producer of the Girls Gone Wild film series.

The appointment of the obscure Ward was a sop to the Christian right. His accomplishments, such as they are, have been symbolic at best. But when a paper trail to support the charge that US Attorneys were deficient in their performance was required to cover the reality of political dismissals, the Justice Department finally discovered an important use for its top porn cop.

Ward badgered the U.S. Attorneys’ office about bringing more pornography cases, none of which had anything to do with child porn, and everything to do regular ol’ adult porn.

Apparently, these are the “good cases” Charlton was unwilling to take.

Of course, this is just a sideshow amusement.  The real bill of particulars against the White House was best summed up by The Left Coaster‘s Steve Soto:

The truth still remains that a political hit list was drawn up inside the White House to rank these attorneys on their loyalty to Bush and not on their performance; that the rationale for these firings has changed several times as each reason fell apart under scrutiny; that the list of targets changed due to pressure from Republicans around the country on corruption cases and petty personal backbiting inside Justice; that there was an organized effort from the White House to provide misleading testimony to Congress; that the White House wants to avoid at all costs going under oath on this; and that the AG and his senior aides not only mismanaged the department but were willing participants in the White House’s efforts to politicize the federal prosecutors.