Deep in the US Senate's renewal of the Patriot Act was a nearly-unnoticed provision that let the White House replace US attorneys — the nation's powerful, frontline criminal prosecutors — with no oversight from anyone.
Three months ago, the Justice Department headed down that road with a vengeance, canning seven US Attorneys in a single day. They were almost all Republican, but maybe not loyal enough to politics.
Some had prosecuted Republican politicians on corruption charges. Some had refused to dish on their investigations with Republican candidates. Now, the cry is political purge.
This hour On Point: politics and the charge of purge on the frontlines of American justice.
Quotes from the Show:
"They [the fired attorneys] wanted to be very clear on the record [at the hearings] that they were not there to say why they were fired." Dahlia Lithwick
"This is as close to a purge as we have ever seen. ... This is not business as usual. ...What's different this time is that these attorneys were discharged midterm. ... This is a way of double stacking — getting as many Republicans on the federal bench as possible." Laurie Levenson
"I think you need to be careful with the terminology. The idea that a US attorney should be completely divorced from any political pressure is erroneous in my opinion. ... It's important to distinguish from proper political pressure from within the administration and outside legislative inquiry into pending investigation." Stuart Gerson
Dahlia Lithwick, Slate senior editor and legal analyst;
Laurie Levenson, law professor, Loyola Law School - Los Angeles
Stuart Gerson, former Acting U.S. Attorney General and Assistant U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C. He served in the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations.
This program aired on March 7, 2007.