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Iglesias Encouraged by Direction of U.S. Attorney Probe

Of the nine dismissals in the U.S. attorney scandal, the firing of former New Mexico U.S. Atty. David Iglesias was probably the most blatantly partisan.

A Justice Dept. inspector general report released last week concluded that Iglesias was forced to leave because he didn’t pursue public corruption and voter fraud cases that New Mexico Republicans wanted him to prosecute.

Now, 22 months after his dismissal, Iglesias said in a phone interview that the IG report vindicates his repeated assertion that he was fired for improper and possibly illegal reasons.

He also had a surprisingly upbeat assessment of where the U.S. attorney investigation will go next.

So far, neither Justice Dept. nor congressional investigators has gotten cooperation from the White House, especially former top Bush advisers Karl Rove and Harriet Miers. But Iglesias said that could change with the Justice Dept. naming a special prosecutor, acting Connecticut U.S. Atty. Nora Dannehy, to probe criminal misconduct in the firings.

“The special prosecutor has the ability to get White House documents,” Iglesias said. “If she has authority similar to what Patrick Fitzgerald [the special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame investigation] had, she’ll have a lot of power.”

Not only did Rove and Miers not answer questions from the inspector general, but the White House did not turn over documents on the attorney dismissals. But Iglesias said that by specifically citing what documents were not turned over, the IG was “signaling to the special prosecutor what evidence was still out there and what was necessary.”

Iglesias is also confident that Congress’ probe into the scandal will last into the next administration.

“[Rep.] John Conyers, [D-Mi.] has made it clear that he wants to get to the bottom of this,” Iglesias said of the House Judiciary Committee chairman. A federal appeal courts ruled this week that whether Miers can be compelled give congressional testimony cannot be decided until next year.

Iglesias said he has kept in frequent contact with other dismissed U.S. attorneys since the IG report. “There’s been a lot of email chatter back and forth… we’re pretty high-spirited” he said. “The report made crystal clear that there is a small class of reasons that you cannot use to let go of a U.S. attorney.”

If the assessments of Iglesias are accurate, Alberto Gonzales and other former Justice Dept. officials may eventually face criminal charges.

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