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Transcript: Two Fired U.S. Attorneys on 'FNS'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published March 19, 2007 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a partial transcript of the March 18, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Well, the firing of those eight U.S. attorneys is the big political story in Washington right now, and we're going to cover it from several angles.
Gentlemen, let's start with Attorney General Gonzales' apology Friday for any suggestion that you and the other six U.S. attorneys were fired for poor performance.
This seems to contradict what the attorney general told Congress in January when he said that all of you were dismissed based on performance, not politics. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO R. GONZALES: I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney position for political reasons or if it would in any way jeopardize an ongoing serious investigation. I just would not do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Mr. Cummins, what do you make of the attorney general's apology now and of his credibility?
FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY BUD CUMMINS: Well, Chris, I'm not familiar with the apology that was made Friday, if it was made.
And my understanding of the telephone call to the United States attorneys was that he more or less apologized for the manner in which this was handled, but I wasn't aware that he apologized for suggesting that there was performance reasons behind the firing of any of my colleagues or myself.
If he did that, I think that's a huge step. And I'm really pleased that they've appointed Chuck Rosenberg to be his chief of staff. I think that's a great first step.
Mr. Rosenberg's a real professional, and he will be in a position to help them assess what's happened here.
As far as the attorney general's credibility, it's obviously been injured, and I guess it just remains to be seen about how much of this nonsense that went on he was actually aware of while it was going on.
WALLACE: Mr. Iglesias, your sense of the attorney general's credibility, given what seemed to be somewhat shifting stories.
FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY DAVID IGLESAIS: Well, that's a distinctive problem. The stories keep changing. I just wish they would have said at the beginning in January, "These are political appointees. There are political problems. We don't have to tell you."
Instead, they said performance, and now they're saying not performance. I think the credibility is significantly strained at this point.
WALLACE: Let's talk about that, because, in fact — and we've looked at the records that have been brought forth — you both got strong ratings on performance from the Justice Department.
So, Mr. Cummins, let's talk about other reasons that you may have been let go. The e-mail traffic seems to indicate that the reason you were dismissed is because Karl Rove wanted a political associate of his, Tim Griffin, a former aide, given your position.
Given that these are political appointments, what's wrong with that?
CUMMINS: Well, you know, I have no comment about it. You may think that that may be a good decision, or you may think that that might not have been a wise decision.
But in my case, I served at the pleasure of the president. They asked me to leave. I left. And they told the truth almost consistently throughout this about my situation.
So I really don't think this is as much about me as it is the positions they've taken to try and explain the other seven. And that's where I personally am still very concerned, because I don't think they've been fair to the other seven colleagues at all.
WALLACE: All right. Let's bring in Mr. Iglesias.
You say that last fall that you got calls from New Mexico Republican Senator Pete Domenici and Republican Congresswoman Heather Wilson asking whether you were going to bring charges against Democrats before the November election.
Now, the day you were fired, the White House deputy counsel sent this e-mail to justice, "Domenici's chief of staff is happy as a clam and will get us names," possible replacements, "forthwith."
A week later, the attorney general's chief of staff sent this e- mail, "Domenici is going to send over names tomorrow, not even waiting for Iglesias' body to cool."
Mr. Iglesias, what did you think when you saw those e-mails?
IGLESAIS: Well, it absolutely corroborated what I'd been thinking all along. Performance has nothing to do with this. This is a political hit.
And I just wish the Justice Department would have been honest when it testified in January that these were, in fact, not performance related but, in fact, political.
I think it's incredibly telling that I wasn't on any hit list until just weeks after those two very inappropriate phone calls from two members of Congress.
WALLACE: Well, New Mexico Republicans — and this is a story on the front page of The New York Times today. They say the real problem was that there was significant evidence of voter fraud, that left-wing groups were trying to register ineligible voters and that you failed to prosecute those cases.
IGLESAIS: And that's true, because we didn't have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors can't just prosecute on rumor and innuendo.
I set up only one of two election fraud task forces in the country. In fact, the Justice Department asked me to speak at an election fraud seminar as a result of those task forces.
I wanted to prosecute those cases. I thought I had one case that I could have prosecuted. At the end of the day, I didn't have the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, so I did not prosecute.
WALLACE: Well, you say, Mr. Iglesias, "Look, this is a political hit." The fact is these are political appointments. We all know that home state senators often have a say in who gets appointed or not appointed.
So what is wrong with what happened to all of you?
IGLESAIS: Nothing wrong per se. It was just the manner in which they tried to misrepresent the true nature of our firings.
All they should have done was just say at the very beginning, "These political appointees have lost political favor. We don't need to give any details," and let it go at that.
But instead, they tried to slander us on our way out. And I had a duty to defend my honor and the honor of my office, which is one of the hardest-working offices in the country.
WALLACE: Mr. Cummins, how much damage has been done to the Justice Department? And I'm sure you must have an opinion on all this. Should Attorney General Gonzales step down?
CUMMINS: Well, you know, out here in Arkansas, we don't necessarily put a bullet in everybody that makes a mistake like they seem to do in Washington.
So I wouldn't say that, in my opinion, he necessarily needs to step down. I think they need to take a quick look — and it really shouldn't take very long.
And they need to go around the room and say, "Who knew about the bases for these decisions as they went along? Who knew that the White House had this much input, was able to inject this much improper political consideration into these decisions?"
Because each of those people really don't need to be at the Department of Justice anymore. If he's one of them, then maybe he does need to resign, but I know he's a very close friend of the president. Judge Gonzales is a good, fair man.
And if he wasn't involved in this, then he might be as good a person to fix it as anybody. But they need to get to work fixing it.
And the first step is to apologize to these seven people that I worked with that they said had performance problems. They didn't. There's no evidence that they did. And it's long overdue for them to retract those statements.
WALLACE: Finally, Mr. Iglesias, in January, after you were fired, you sent this e-mail to the Justice Department, to the chief of staff, to the attorney general.
Let's put it up on the screen. "I wondering if you could ask the judge," meaning Attorney General Gonzales, "if I can list him as a reference."
Mr. Iglesias, if you were so upset about the way your case was handled, why were you asking the Justice Department for a job reference?
IGLESAIS: It's a good question. It's a very simple test. I wanted to see if the true nature of my firing was performance based. If it was performance based, there is no way they would have agreed to have allowed me to list them as a reference.
In fact, they agreed, telling me that the true nature was political, not performance.
WALLACE: Mr. Cummins, Mr. Iglesias, we're going to have to leave it there. We thank you both so much for coming in today and talking with us.
CUMMINS: Thank you.
IGLESAIS: Thank you very much, Chris.