"Inconvenient" U.S. Attorneys Fired?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. in 2004
In the wake of the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, some people are calling for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's head.

The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman said Sunday he intends to subpoena White House officials involved in ousting federal prosecutors and is dismissing anything short of their testimony in public.

The Bush White House was expected to announce early this week whether it will let political strategist Karl Rove, former White House counsel Harriet Miers and other officials testify, or will seek to assert executive privilege in preventing their appearance.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calf., a member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she's reserving judgment about whether or not he should resign. But one of the fired U.S. attorneys is from San Diego. Feinstein said Carol Lam was fired after she sent a notice to the Justice Department that she had a case against Dusty Foggo, a defense contractor.

"The next day, an e-mail went from the Justice Department to the White House saying 'We have a real problem with Carol Lam,'" Feinstein told Chief Washington correspondent Bob Scheiffer. "All I'm saying, as the evidence comes in, as we look at the e-mails, there were clearly U.S. attorneys that were thorns in the side — for one reason or another — of the Justice Department. And they decided, by strategy, in one fell swoop, to get rid of seven of them on that day, December the 7th."

Feinstein said that even though U.S. attorneys are appointed by the President, they have to be politically independent, and she worries that if this issue isn't dealt with, U.S. attorneys will not be able to act objectively.

"That is very difficult for me to believe that you can fire seven prosecutors on a given day, five of whom are involved in major corruption cases one way or another, and the attorney general who is the head of the organization hasn't given a go-ahead somewhere along the line," she said. "We need to find that out."

Feinstein also said that senior Justice Department official William Moschella suggested a change in the Patriot Act which essentially would let the attorney general have the ability to appoint a U.S. attorney without confirmation by the Senate. She and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., have co-sponsored a bill which would prevent this from happening.

"Most, if not all, United States Senators believe it is critical to have Senate confirmation," she said. "This is what prevents people from coming in who aren't qualified, for people coming in who are political operatives. This is what makes our system of justice so stellar. It's the system of checks and balances."