Carol Lam - U.S. Attorney - Forced Resignation

Forced Resignation

Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy
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G. W. Bush administration officials involved
  • Fred F. Fielding, White House Counsel
  • William K. Kelley, Deputy White House Counsel
  • William Moschella, Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General
  • Brett Tolman, U.S. Attorney, District of Utah, former counsel to Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Mary Beth Buchanan, U.S. Attorney, Western District of Pennsylvania, former Director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys from 2004 to 2005
Involved administration officials who resigned
  • Alberto Gonzales, United States Attorney General, former White House Counsel
  • Kyle Sampson, Chief of Staff to the Attorney General
  • Michael A. Battle, Director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys
  • Michael Elston, Chief of Staff to the Deputy Attorney General
  • Monica Goodling, Justice Department's liaison to the White House
  • William W. Mercer, U.S. Attorney, Acting Associate Attorney General (retains position as U.S. Attorney in Montana)
  • Sara Taylor, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Political Affairs
  • Paul McNulty, Deputy Attorney General
  • Harriet Miers, former White House Counsel (resigned prior to publicity surrounding the controversy, effective January 31, 2007)
  • Karl Rove, White House Deputy Chief of Staff
  • Bradley Schlozman, Director Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys; former Acting Assistant Attorney General for, and later Principal Deputy Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division; former interim U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri
U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary
110th Congress
  • Patrick Leahy, Chair (D)
  • Arlen Specter, Ranking member, former Chair (R)
  • Chuck Schumer, Chair: Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts (D)
U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary
110th Congress
  • John Conyers, Chair (D)
  • Lamar Smith, Ranking member (R)
  • Linda Sánchez, Chair: Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law (D)

On December 7, 2006, Michael A. Battle, director of the Executive Office for US Attorneys, called Lam and notified her that she must resign no later than January 31, 2007. Battle instructed Lam to explain that she had decided to pursue other opportunities. Following that phone call, Lam called Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty to find out why she was being asked to resign. McNulty said he wanted to take some time to respond since he didn't want to give an answer "that would lead" Lam down the wrong path. McNulty added that he knew Lam had been through a long trial (presumably the Alvarado Hospital case) and had great respect for her.

In a follow-up call with Battle, Lam requested additional time to ensure an orderly transition from office. On January 5, 2007, Battle said her request was "not being received positively" and that Lam "should stop thinking in terms of the cases in the office". Battle insisted that Lam had to depart in weeks, not months, and these orders were "coming from the very highest levels of government". Lam submitted her resignation January 16, 2007, effective February 15.

Many prominent Democrats, including Senators Charles Schumer and Diane Feinstein, allege that Lam's firing was part of a broader, vengeful move against prosecutors that have pursued political corruption cases that damaged the careers of Republican politicians, or that were not loyal enough to either the Republican Party or the Administration. Republican Congressman Darrell Issa has stated that he takes "maybe one-twentieth" of the responsibility for Lam's firing.

Statistics compiled by Lam's office corroborate the assertion that total prosecutions in border crossing cases have declined over Lam's tenure.

However, the Justice Department itself defended Lam in an August 23, 2006, letter to Senator Feinstein. They asserted:

The immigration philosophy of the Southern District focuses on deterrence by directing its resources and efforts against the worst immigration offenders and by bringing felony cases against such defendants that will result in longer sentences. For example, although the number of defendants who received prison sentences between 1–12 months fell from 896 in 2004 to 338 in 2005, the number of immigration defendants who received sentences longer than 60 months rose from 21 to 77. Prosecutions for alien smuggling in the Southern District under U.S.C. sec. 1324 are rising sharply in Fiscal Year 2006.

In her own defense, Lam echoed the Justice Department's August letter, emphasizing quality prosecutions over sheer quantity. "When you take on more difficult investigations, the number of prosecutions might not be as high, but you have a larger impact on crime in the community." During her tenure as U.S. Attorney, Lam received both the Director's Award for Superior Performance and the Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service.

United States Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, a Republican member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, stated on his April 1, 2007, appearance on NBC's Meet the Press broadcast:

Carol Lam, it's amazing to me she wasn't fired earlier because for three years, members of the Congress had complained that there had been all kinds of border patrol captures of these people, but hardly any prosecutions. She was a former law professor, with no prosecutorial experience, and the former campaign manager in Southern California for Clinton, and they're trying to say that this administration appoints people politically? Of course they do.

Senator Hatch's description of Lam, however, was inaccurate; Lam was never a campaign manager for any candidate, nor a law professor, and she is an experienced prosecutor. After a week of controversy, Hatch wrote a letter to Tim Russert claiming that he "mispoke" in naming Lam several times, intending instead to name Alan Bersin, Lam's predecessor; however, Bersin likewise had never been a law professor and was an experienced trial lawyer.

Read more about this topic:  Carol Lam, U.S. Attorney

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