This article from the LATimes today suggests that immigration — and unfunded policy mandates over it — may be a real undercurrent in AG Gonzales’s testimony tomorrow. Essentially, it suggests that some of the fired U.S. attorneys fell out of favor due to failures to be aggressive enough on immigration enforcement, but that perhaps the administration has good reason not to want to press that point too far (i.e., as a “performance-based” reason for the firings) because, the U.S. attorneys countered, the Justice Department (and, derivatively, the administration) did not provide adequate resources to carry out an aggressive enforcement policy. That is, the U.S. attorneys flap may be careening into the immigration debate in a way that will not be useful to advocates of “comprehensive immigration reform” whose burden is to convince the public that the government is serious about border enforcement.
All this also goes to the natural tensions I addressed here a few weeks ago between an administration’s enforcement policy directives and the situation on the ground confronted by each individual U.S. attorney in his or her district. It also underscores that these are inherently political matters. Consequently, it’s absurd for the Washington Post, among others, to keep running headlines like this one today: “Poll: Most Say Politics Motivated U.S. Attorney Firings.” You might as well announce: Poll: Most Americans Say Tuesday follows Monday.
The real issue here isn’t whether the firings were “political” — all U.S. attorney hirings and firings are political. That’s the nature of the beast. As far as impropriety (as opposed to competence) is concerned, the question is: Were the firings motivated by a desire to affect pending or prospective cases in a corrupt manner. There is is zilch evidence that Justice did such a thing despite thousands of disclosed documents and hours upon hours of testimony and interviews with key players.