- Iglesias’s Background
- The EARS Evaluations of Iglesias’s Office
- Iglesias’s Status on the Removal Lists
- Reasons Proffered for Iglesias’s Removal
This chapter examines the removal of David Iglesias, the former United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico.
Iglesias received his law degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 1984. From 1984 to 1988, he served in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG). After leaving active duty service, he has served on reserve duty in the Navy JAG, where he holds the rank of Captain.
From 1988 through 1991, Iglesias was an Assistant Attorney General in the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, after which he served as an Assistant City Attorney in Albuquerque from 1991 to 1994. Between 1994 and 1995, he participated in the White House Fellows program as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of Transportation. He served as Chief Counsel for the New Mexico Risk Management Legal Office between 1995 and 1998, and as General Counsel for the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department from 1998 to 2001. In 2001, he worked at a private law firm in Albuquerque.
In 1998, Iglesias ran unsuccessfully as the Republican Party’s candidate for New Mexico Attorney General. During the campaign, staff from U.S. Senator Pete Domenici’s office provided advice and logistical support, and Iglesias met personally with Senator Domenici on several occasions. Domenici also made a videotaped statement endorsing Iglesias’s candidacy, which Iglesias used to raise campaign funds. Iglesias told us that because of the Senator’s interest and support, Iglesias regarded him as a mentor and someone who might be able to help Iglesias if he continued to pursue a political career.
U.S. Representative Heather Wilson successfully ran for a seat in Congress from New Mexico in 1998, and Iglesias campaigned with her at several events. Iglesias said that previously, when Wilson was the Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Children, Youth and Families from 1995 to 1998, he worked with her on several matters while he was in the state’s Risk Management Legal Office.
During the 2000 Presidential campaign, Iglesias headed a New Mexico state-level organization called “Lawyers for Bush.” He said that after the election he learned that he could apply directly for the New Mexico U.S. Attorney position through a White House website. He submitted his résumé and simultaneously informed Senator Domenici’s staff that he was interested in the job.
Iglesias and three other candidates were eventually selected to be interviewed by Senator Domenici. Iglesias told us he believes he may have been the only one whose name was sent on to the Department of Justice. He said he was interviewed at the Department by Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis, Kyle Sampson (then with the White House Office of Presidential Personnel), and a third official from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA). After subsequent interviews with Attorney General John Ashcroft and Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, Iglesias was nominated by the President for the U.S. Attorney position on August 2, 2001, confirmed by the Senate, and sworn in on October 17, 2001.95
Iglesias was appointed as the Chair of the Border and Immigration Subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC) and served in that position until 2005.
According to Iglesias, at various times in 2004 the White House asked him to consider an appointment to be Director of EOUSA, or an Assistant Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, two positions he said he was not interested in pursuing. Documents also reflect that around the same time Sampson and others in the Department considered him as a potential candidate for U.S. Attorney vacancies in the Southern District of New York and the District of Columbia.
Iglesias’s office received EARS evaluations in 2002 and 2005, and both reports were positive. The 2002 EARS evaluation stated: “The United States Attorney was well respected by the client agencies, judiciary, and USAO staff. He provided good leadership . . . and was appropriately engaged in the operations of the office.” The 2005 EARS evaluation stated: “The United States Attorney . . . was respected by the judiciary, agencies, and staff. The First Assistant United States Attorney . . . appropriately oversaw the day-to-day work of the senior management team, effectively addressed all management issues, and directed resources to accomplish the Department’s and the United States Attorney’s priorities.” The EARS reports did not contain any criticisms or concerns about Iglesias’s leadership.
As discussed in Chapter Three, in March 2005 Sampson sent to the White House the first list of U.S. Attorneys recommended for removal. On that list, Sampson identified Iglesias as 1 of 26 “strong” U.S. Attorneys who should be retained by the Department. Iglesias did not appear on any of Sampson’s subsequent removal lists until the list Sampson circulated on November 7, 2006, 1 month before Iglesias and the other U.S. Attorneys were removed.
As described in Chapter Three, in February 2007 when the Department began to prepare witnesses for their congressional testimony regarding the U.S. Attorney removals, Monica Goodling and others created a chart with a list of the reasons justifying the removals. In her handwritten notes describing the reasons, Goodling wrote that Iglesias was an “underachiever in a very important district,” that he was an “absentee landlord,” that he was “in over his head,” and that “Domenici says he doesn’t move cases.”
Senator Domenici made three telephone calls to Attorney General Gonzales in 2005 and 2006, and one to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty in October 2006, complaining about Iglesias’s performance. However, Domenici’s complaints were omitted from the list of reasons for Iglesias’s termination, both in the final typewritten chart that Goodling prepared for McNulty’s use in his February 14, 2007, briefing of the Senate Judiciary Committee and from Department officials’ initial statements about Iglesias’s removal.96
According to the talking points McNulty used to prepare for the February 14 briefing for the Senate Judiciary Committee and notes of the meeting taken by Nancy Scott-Finan, an Office of Legislative Affairs official who attended the briefing, McNulty gave the following reasons for Iglesias’s removal:
- He was “under-performing”;
- He was an “absentee landlord,” who was out of the office a fair amount of time and who relied on the First Assistant U.S. Attorney to run the office; and
- The Department had received congressional complaints about Iglesias.
McNulty confirmed to us that he did not mention Senator Domenici in this congressional briefing. McNulty said that he did not want to refer to Domenici because he was “concerned about . . . putting the Senator in a bad light or in a difficult position” and that he wanted to keep his conversation with Domenici “confidential . . . . It was just a courtesy.” In her written testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, Goodling, the Department’s White House Liaison, also stated that Domenici’s complaints about Iglesias were omitted from the list of reasons for Iglesias’s removal at McNulty’s suggestion.
On March 6, 2007, Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General William Moschella testified before a House Judiciary Subcommittee about the reasons for the removals of each U.S. Attorney. Moschella stated that Iglesias’s removal was based on concerns about his management of the New Mexico U.S. Attorney’s Office:
There was a general sense with regard to this district . . . that the district was in need of greater leadership. We have had a discussion about the EARS report, and the EARS report does pick up some management issues, and Mr. Iglesias had delegated to his first assistant [Larry Gomez] the overall running of the office.97
Moschella, like McNulty, did not mention Domenici’s calls to Department officials.
Iglesias himself was the first to publicly disclose that Senator Domenici may have had a role in his removal. In a press conference on February 28, 2007, without naming Senator Domenici or Representative Wilson, Iglesias stated that he had received telephone calls from two members of Congress who pressured him to indict a public corruption case before the November 2006 election. In response, on March 4 and March 6, respectively, Domenici and Wilson released written statements confirming that they had called Iglesias but denying that they pressured him in any way.
In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 6, 2007, Iglesias again stated that he believed he was asked to resign because he failed to respond to political pressure to indict a public corruption case against Democratic officials before the November 2006 election. In his Senate testimony, Iglesias described the telephone calls he received from Senator Domenici and Representative Wilson in October 2006 regarding the status of a pending public corruption matter, and Iglesias testified that in both instances he felt he was being pressured to bring an indictment before the November election.
Sampson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 29, 2007, about the removals of the U.S. Attorneys. Sampson stated that he did not recall the reasons Iglesias was placed on the November 7 removal list, but said the fact that Senator Domenici had made three calls to the Attorney General and one call to the Deputy Attorney General regarding Iglesias may have influenced the decision to remove Iglesias. Sampson said he recalled McNulty saying that Domenici would not mind if Iglesias’s name stayed on the list. Sampson also stated that there were management concerns about Iglesias. He said that in 2005 William Mercer, at the time the Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General, “expressed negative views about Mr. Iglesias . . . and recommended that he not be reappointed . . . as chair of the Border Committee.”98 Sampson also stated that “at some point, Mr. David Margolis . . . indicated to me . . . that [Iglesias] wasn’t a strong manager, that he delegated a lot to his First Assistant.”99
On April 19, 2007, Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Iglesias had “lost the confidence of Senator Domenici” because he “did not have the appropriate personnel focused on cases like public corruption cases.” In his May 10, 2007, testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Gonzales added that because Iglesias did not have Domenici’s confidence, it was “enough for me to lose confidence in Mr. Iglesias.” During Gonzales’s House and Senate testimony, he also stated that in one of his conversations with Domenici the Senator mentioned voter fraud cases.
Gonzales also testified that in the fall of 2006 Karl Rove had mentioned to him his concern over voter fraud in three cities, one of which was Albuquerque, New Mexico. Gonzales said he did not recall, but did not dispute, that President Bush expressed similar concerns to him about the same three cities on October 11, 2006.
It is important to note that our investigation into Iglesias’s removal was hampered, and is not complete, because key witnesses declined to cooperate with our investigation. In particular, former White House officials Harriet Miers and Karl Rove, both of whom appear to have significant first-hand knowledge regarding Iglesias’s dismissal, refused our requests for an interview even though the White House Counsel’s Office informed them both, as it did all current and former White House staff who we wanted to interview, that the Counsel’s Office encouraged them to cooperate with our investigation and submit to an interview.
In addition, Senator Domenici and his Chief of Staff, Steve Bell, also declined to be interviewed by us. Domenici initially told us through his counsel that he would be “pleased to assist” our investigation once a pending Senate Ethics Committee investigation of his phone call to Iglesias was completed. We renewed our requests for interviews after the Senate ethics inquiry was concluded. Bell continued to decline to be interviewed. Domenici also declined to be interviewed, but said he would provide written answers to questions through his attorney. We declined this offer because we did not believe it would be a reliable or appropriate investigative method under these circumstances. In contrast, Representative Wilson cooperated with our investigation and was interviewed by us three separate times.100
In addition, we were not provided documents from the White House that we believe are critical to our investigation. As noted in Chapter One, the White House Counsel’s Office declined to provide us internal White House e-mails and documents related to the removals of the U.S. Attorneys. Moreover, as described in Chapter One, the White House refused to authorize the Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to release to us drafts of a chronology of events related to the U.S. Attorney firings prepared by Associate White House Counsel Michael Scudder in cooperation with Department staff. The White House only authorized the release of one paragraph of that chronology related to Iglesias, Harriet Miers, and Representative Wilson, and two paragraphs containing information Rove provided to Scudder but did not allow the release of other information from that chronology.
We interviewed Mickey Barnett, an attorney and former Republican state Senator from New Mexico, who provided documents to the U.S. Senate pursuant to a subpoena in connection with the Senate Ethics Committee investigation of Senator Domenici’s telephone call to Iglesias. Although Barnett gave us several documents from among those he produced to the Senate, he refused to give us all the documents he produced and we are not able to obtain them from the Senate Ethics Committee.
In this section, we examine the reasons proffered for Iglesias’s removal. We first discuss the Department’s assertion that Iglesias was removed because he was an “absentee landlord” and because he delegated many of his duties and responsibilities to his First Assistant U.S. Attorney.
We then describe in detail the factual chronology regarding Iglesias’s handling of voter fraud and public corruption cases in his district. We analyze whether the complaints about his handling of these cases were the cause of his removal. We also examine the nature and extent of both congressional and New Mexico Republican Party activists’ complaints to the White House and to the Department about Iglesias’s handling of these cases, and we describe the events leading to Iglesias’s removal.
- Alleged Concerns about Iglesias’s Management
- Voter Fraud and Public Corruption Matters
- Initial Complaints of Voter Fraud
- Representative Wilson’s Complaint Concerning Voter Fraud
- Formation of the Election Fraud Task Force
- Continuing Complaints About Voter Fraud
- Election Fraud Task Force Review of Complaints
- Iglesias’s Meeting with Weh Regarding his Handling of Voter Fraud Complaints
- Complaints to the White House Regarding Iglesias’s Handling of Voter Fraud Cases
- Complaints Concerning Iglesias’s Handling of Public Corruption Cases
- Senator Domenici’s Calls to Attorney General Gonzales Regarding Iglesias
- Complaints to the Department Regarding Voter Fraud and Corruption Cases
- Complaints to Senator Domenici
- Complaints to Karl Rove about Delays in the Courthouse Case
- Senator Domenici’s Telephone Call to Deputy Attorney General McNulty
- White House Communications with Attorney General Gonzales
- Iglesias’s Meeting with Rogers
- Representative Wilson’s Telephone Call to Iglesias
- Senator Domenici’s Telephone Call to Iglesias
- Allegation Concerning Representative Wilson’s Telephone Call to Harriet Miers
As noted above, in both its written materials and public testimony, the Department justified Iglesias’s removal based in part on an allegation that he was an “absentee landlord” who over-delegated authority to run the U.S. Attorney’s Office to his First Assistant.
We determined that during the preparation sessions for McNulty’s closed briefing, when Department senior officials were discussing the reasons they would present to Congress as justifications for the removals, someone raised the allegation that Iglesias had been an “absentee landlord.” No one we interviewed remembered who called Iglesias an absentee landlord at this meeting. According to Margolis, when he heard at the meeting the allegation that Iglesias was an absentee landlord, he told Goodling that the allegation had been “corroborated” by New Mexico First Assistant U.S. Attorney Gomez when he interviewed with Margolis and Goodling for Iglesias’s vacant U.S. Attorney position, after Iglesias had been removed. However, Margolis told us that he was not aware of any allegations concerning Iglesias’s management style until after Iglesias was removed because his knowledge was derived solely from his interview of Gomez.
As noted above, Moschella testified to the House Judiciary Subcommittee that an EARS report “picked up some management issues, and Mr. Iglesias had delegated to his first assistant the overall running of the office.” Moschella also testified that he did not recall whether the EARS report characterized Iglesias’s delegation of authority to his First Assistant as “appropriate.” We reviewed both EARS reports and found nothing in them to substantiate Moschella’s claim that an EARS report referred to any management issues regarding Iglesias’s delegation of authority. The 2002 EARS report stated “The United States Attorney was well respected by the client agencies, judiciary, and USAO staff. He provided good leadership . . . and was appropriately engaged in the operations of the office.” Similarly, the 2005 EARS report stated that Iglesias was respected by agencies, the courts, and his staff, and that his First Assistant “appropriately oversaw the day-to-day work of the senior management team.”
Attorney General Gonzales testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 19, 2007, that an “absentee landlord” issue regarding Iglesias was “not in my mind, as I recall, when I accepted the recommendation [for Iglesias’s removal].” Gonzales also told us that his recollection was that at the time he approved Iglesias’s removal, the only criticism of which he was aware came from Senator Domenici, and he was not aware at that time of any concern about over-delegation of authority by Iglesias to his First Assistant.
Both McNulty and Mercer testified to Congress that they did not know the basis for the allegations that Iglesias was an absentee landlord or that he overly delegated authority. McNulty said that he did not interpret the phrase “absentee landlord” to mean that Iglesias was physically out of his office. Rather, McNulty said that he interpreted the phrase to refer to Iglesias’s management style. McNulty said that he did not know who thought that Iglesias was an absentee landlord prior to the time that Iglesias was removed. Mercer told us that he had “no idea” how much time Iglesias spent in his office, and he told congressional investigators that he did not have “any idea about what sort of a leader or manager [Iglesias] was” in his office.
Former EOUSA Director Buchanan told congressional investigators that she was “surprised” that Iglesias was removed. She said that “everything I knew about [Iglesias] was positive.” Former EOUSA Director Battle also told congressional investigators that he “could see no reason” why Iglesias was removed. Battle told us that “Iglesias was doing a good job.”
Sampson testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee, however, that he had heard concerns about Iglesias’s management. He said Margolis had indicated to him that Iglesias was not a strong manager and that he “delegated a lot” to his First Assistant. Sampson said he could not recall when Margolis told him this. But, as discussed previously, Margolis told us he was certain that he told Sampson about these allegations only after Iglesias was removed. According to Margolis, when he interviewed First Assistant Gomez for the vacant U.S. Attorney position, Gomez explained his qualifications for the U.S. Attorney position by noting that he ran the day-to-day operations of the office. Margolis told us that he thought that Gomez’s statement that he ran the day-to-day operations of the office “corroborated” the allegation that Iglesias was an absentee landlord. However, Margolis also told us that Gomez said nothing negative about Iglesias during his interview.
Yet, Gomez told congressional investigators that he did not think that Iglesias over-delegated authority or was an absentee landlord. Gomez was Iglesias’s First Assistant and Criminal Chief from the fall of 2001 until he became Acting U.S. Attorney upon Iglesias’s removal. Gomez has been a career federal prosecutor since 1979. Gomez told congressional investigators that he agreed with the 2005 EARS report that found that Iglesias “appropriately” delegated authority to him to oversee the day-to-day work of the office. Gomez also said that he never told the EARS evaluators that Iglesias over-delegated authority or was absent from the office for an unusual amount of time. Gomez said that he met with Iglesias daily when he was in the office, and spoke by phone with him generally every day when Iglesias was out of the office. Gomez added that, prior to Iglesias’s removal, Gomez never heard anyone say that Iglesias over-delegated authority or was an absentee landlord. Gomez said that Iglesias was “engaged in his office,” and that Iglesias’s management style was “very good.” Gomez said he never heard complaints from others about Iglesias’s management style.
Rumaldo Armijo became Iglesias’s Executive Assistant in 2001. Armijo told us that he never heard anyone express concern that Iglesias was an absentee landlord or that Iglesias did not spend enough time in the office. Armijo said that he believed that Iglesias’s delegation of authority to Gomez was appropriate. Armijo said that Iglesias was “a strong leader” and that he was “very active in everything that went on here.”
Iglesias told us that no one at “Main Justice” or in his office ever told him that he over-delegated authority. Iglesias said he delegated “routine” matters to Gomez, but that he decided “major issues.” Iglesias said he told Gomez that he did not need to know “about every little case that’s going on” but that he did need to know about “cases that affect policy, national priorities, or have media impact.” Iglesias denied he was an absentee landlord, saying many of his trips out of the office were to Washington to work on Department matters. Iglesias said that as an officer in the Naval Reserve, he was away from the office from 4 to 6 days at a time, including weekends. As a Naval Reserve officer, he was required to serve 36 duty days a year, and he said that he probably averaged 40 to 45 days of service a year. But Iglesias said that no one ever told him that his absences were hurting his office.101 Iglesias also told us that he was in constant Blackberry communication with his office when he was away.
In sum, we concluded that the allegation that Iglesias was an absentee manager who had delegated too much authority to his First Assistant was an after-the-fact justification for Iglesias’s termination and was not in fact a reason he was placed on the removal list.
In the remainder of this chapter, we describe the facts concerning the complaints about Iglesias’s handling of voter fraud and public corruption matters, which we concluded was the real reason Iglesias was removed as U.S. Attorney.
Iglesias told us that sometime during the summer of 2004, he became aware of concerns about voter fraud in New Mexico.102 The New Mexico media began focusing on the issue around that time, and the New Mexico USAO received complaints of possible registration fraud from several sources, including the Democratic Clerk of Bernalillo County, Mary Herrera.
Iglesias said that he also received pressure from the Republican Party of New Mexico to pursue voter fraud cases before the 2004 elections. Scott Jennings, then the White House Associate Director of Political Affairs, told us that many Republicans believed that fraudulent registration by Democratic Party voters in New Mexico was a widespread problem and that it had cost President Bush the state in the 2000 Presidential election.103 Among those who urged Iglesias to investigate and prosecute voter fraud cases in New Mexico were Allen Weh, the Chairman of the state Republican Party; Patrick Rogers, a former general counsel to the state Republican Party who continued to represent the party on voter fraud and ballot access issues;104 Mickey Barnett, an attorney and former Republican state senator active in party politics; Steve Bell, Chief of Staff to Senator Pete Domenici; and Darren White, the elected Republican Sheriff of Bernalillo County and Chairman of the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign in New Mexico.105 Iglesias said he knew all of these individuals and considered many of them to be his friends.
On August 6, 2004, Weh sent Iglesias an e-mail proposing that Iglesias’s office become involved in “the party’s voter fraud working group” headed by Sheriff White. Weh copied his e-mail to Representative Wilson; Senator Domenici’s Chief of Staff Bell; Sheriff White; Greg Graves, former Executive Director of the New Mexico Republican Party; New Mexico Republican Congressman Steve Pearce; and Pearce’s Chief of Staff, Jim Richards. Bell responded to Weh’s e-mail that this was a “critical matter” due to concerns about potential violation of voter registration laws.
Iglesias responded that he would ask his office’s voting rights expert, Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Rumaldo Armijo, to coordinate a meeting regarding the proposal and contact White. No one associated with this proposal that we interviewed, including Weh, White, Wilson, Armijo, and Iglesias, said they recalled that the proposed working group was ever established, or that Iglesias’s office participated in any such group. However, as detailed below, Iglesias’s office continued to receive complaints from Republican officials and party activists about allegations of voter fraud in New Mexico.
On August 17, 2004, Representative Wilson wrote a letter to Iglesias complaining about what she considered to be evidence of possible voter fraud in her district. In the letter, Wilson stated that an unusually large number of mailings from her office to newly registered voters had been returned as undeliverable, and she asked Iglesias’s office to “investigate whether these voter registrations were lawful and whether any organizations or groups are intentionally causing false voter registration forms to be filed with the county clerk.”106
Iglesias responded to Wilson in a letter dated October 29, 2004, informing her that he was referring her complaint to the FBI “for their review and possible action. The FBI will determine whether a federal investigation may be warranted.” Wilson forwarded Iglesias’s response to her Chief of Staff with the handwritten comment, “What a waste of time. Nobody home at US Attorney’s Office.” Wilson told us that she faulted Iglesias for failing to pursue her August 17 complaint regarding possible voter fraud in a timely manner.
We determined that in response to these and other complaints, Iglesias consulted with his staff, spoke to attorneys in the Department’s Civil Rights and Criminal Divisions, and contacted federal prosecutors in other districts with experience in voter fraud matters.
After discussions with the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, Iglesias decided to form a state and federal task force to address what he then believed to be a serious problem of voter fraud in the state. However, in order to avoid any public perception that the task force was seeking to advance a Republican political agenda, Iglesias also sought the participation of the Democratic Secretary of State, Rebecca Vigil-Giron, who agreed to assign an employee to the task force. The New Mexico Department of Public Safety (the state’s law enforcement agency), the U.S. Veteran’s Administration Inspector General’s Office, the FBI, and DOJ’s Public Integrity Section (PIN) also agreed to participate.107
On September 7, 2004, the New Mexico USAO issued a press release announcing the formation of the Election Fraud Task Force. Two days later Iglesias announced at a press conference that a voter fraud (Task Force) hotline had been created, and he stated that allegations of fraud would be investigated thoroughly. In addition to Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Armijo, two experienced career AUSAs from Iglesias’s office were assigned to work with the Task Force.108
However, Iglesias’s task force approach to allegations of voter fraud drew immediate criticism from some New Mexico Republicans. Former Republican state senator Barnett wrote an e-mail to Iglesias stating that “[m]ost of us think a task force is a joke and unlikely to make any citizen believe our elections and voter registrations are honest.” Former Republican Party general counsel Rogers complained to Iglesias that he had “includ[ed] the target on the task force,” apparently a reference to the participation of an employee from the Secretary of State’s Office.109 Sheriff White told us that he thought the USAO should have investigated and prosecuted cases without involving state agencies, and that Iglesias’s concern about appearing nonpartisan was misguided.
Although criticized by some New Mexico Republicans, Iglesias’s task force approach received recognition within the Department. For example, in October 2005 Iglesias was asked to speak at a Department-sponsored symposium on voting integrity. In addition, according to an attorney in the Public Integrity Section, Iglesias’s approach to the problem in New Mexico was held up by the Department as an example of how to handle voter fraud investigations.
On September 15, 2004, the New Mexico USAO arranged for Rogers to meet with the FBI Supervisory Special Agent assigned to the Task Force. At the meeting, Rogers complained that large numbers of new voter registration forms in the state were fraudulent and should be investigated. Rogers identified an “ACORN” worker in particular as being responsible for a significant number of false registrations.110 Barnett told us that Republican activists hired a private investigator to identify and locate the ACORN worker in question, but they were unable to locate the worker.
On September 19, 2004, Rogers sent an e-mail to Iglesias and Armijo stating that because the Democratic Party had questioned the validity of the voter fraud claims, Rogers wanted to “dig up all past info,” and asked if there was “any easy way to access the public info related to voter fraud from the [USAO] (public) files? Asap? Before Nov 2?” Iglesias responded that he would look into Rogers’ question “asap and let you know what is publicly available.” Iglesias subsequently identified a case the New Mexico USAO had prosecuted in the early 1990’s, retrieved the file, and provided public information about the case to Rogers, who thanked him by e-mail “for the public info.”
On September 29, 2004, Rogers sent an e-mail to Iglesias, Armijo, and more than 20 persons associated with the New Mexico Republican Party, including Senator Domenici’s press secretary Ed Hild, Domenici’s Chief of Staff Bell, Representative Wilson’s Chief of Staff Bryce Dustman, New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Weh, and state Republican Party Executive Director Graves. Rogers’s lengthy e-mail included the following observations:
I believe the [voter] ID issue should be used (now) at all levels – federal, state legislative races and Heather [Wilson]’s race . . . . You are not going to find a better wedge issue . . . . I’ve got to believe the [voter] ID issue would do Heather more good than another ad talking about how much federal taxpayer money she has put into the (state) education system and social security. . . . This is the single best wedge issue, ever in NM. We will not have this opportunity again . . . . Today, we expect to file a new Public Records lawsuit, by 3 Republican legislators, demanding the Bernalillo county clerk locate and produce (before Oct 15) ALL of the registrations signed by the ACORN employee . . . .111
In a letter dated September 23, 2004, New Mexico Republican Party Executive Director Graves asked Iglesias to investigate an alleged theft of Republican voter registration forms from the office of the New Voter Project, an organization that seeks to register young people to vote. On October 21, 2004, Graves copied Iglesias on another complaint to the Bernalillo County Clerk asking that the Republican Party be allowed to inspect ACORN voter registration cards allegedly found during a drug raid.
Weh also continued to pressure Iglesias to bring voter fraud prosecutions before the 2004 election. On September 24, 2004, Weh sent Iglesias and several Republican political figures, including the chiefs of staff to New Mexico’s Republican congressional delegation (Jim Richards, Bryce Dustman, and Steve Bell) an e-mail about voter fraud that included the following statement:
We are still waiting for US Attorney Iglesisas [sic] to do what his office needs to do to hold people accountable, and have informed him that doing it after the election is too late. I have copied him on this e-mail for his info.
In his message to Iglesias, Weh wrote: “Vote fraud issues are intensifing [sic], and we are looking for you to lead.”
Weh told us he copied this e-mail to New Mexico Republican officials because he intended to send Iglesias the message that if he “cares about his professional reputation [he should] get his butt in gear and do what he is paid to do.”
In mid-October 2004, Weh forwarded Iglesias an e-mail message he had received from Congressman Pearce’s Chief of Staff with an attached newspaper article about voter fraud in Colorado. The next day, Weh forwarded an e-mail to Iglesias from the assistant to Senator Domenici’s Chief of Staff Bell that was addressed to Weh, Rogers, and John Dendahl, a former Republican Party Chairman and gubernatorial candidate. The original message read: “From Steve Bell. This [voter fraud] is really getting out of control.” Weh added the following message for Iglesias: “The game clock is running!”
The USAO’s Election Fraud Task Force met several times before the November 2004 election to review complaints of voter fraud. Iglesias informed his staff that Department of Justice policy prohibited their influencing the outcome of an election and that he did not believe the Department would authorize the commencement of any prosecutions before election day.
According to an AUSA on the Task Force, most of the complaints the Task Force received involved what it considered to be relatively minor matters, such as campaign yard signs being stolen, harassing phone calls, or registration problems, and these complaints were referred to local election officials. Other potentially more serious matters, including the complaints from Representative Wilson, Sheriff White, Graves, and Rogers, were referred either to the FBI or to the New Mexico Department of Public Safety for investigation.
In total, the Task Force received more than 100 complaints prior to the 2004 election. The FBI investigated several potential violations of federal law and presented written summaries of the evidence it developed to the USAO. EAUSA Armijo and Craig Donsanto from the Department’s Public Integrity Section reviewed the summaries and made preliminary determinations regarding prosecutive decisions, which Iglesias reviewed and approved. With respect to Representative Wilson’s August 17, 2004, complaint of voter fraud discussed above, the FBI ultimately determined that the correspondence from her office to newly registered voters had been returned as undeliverable because of incomplete addresses on voter registration cards, errors made by Wilson’s office in addressing the envelopes, or because the voters, many of whom were college students, had changed addresses since registering. The FBI recommended, and EAUSA Armijo concurred, that the matter should be closed without further investigation or prosecution.
With respect to the allegation that an ACORN worker was responsible for a significant number of false voter registrations, the FBI identified and interviewed the worker in question. As a result of the investigation, the USAO and the Public Integrity Section jointly concluded that there was insufficient evidence of criminal intent on the subject’s part to justify prosecution. Iglesias told us that he viewed this case as the strongest one to come out of the Task Force, but that the evidence nevertheless did not justify going forward with a criminal prosecution.
Iglesias also told us that when the Task Force began, he sincerely believed it would develop cases worth prosecuting. Contemporaneous e-mail records show that Iglesias encouraged his staff to pursue the Task Force cases, and that he believed the USAO needed to send a zero-tolerance message about voter fraud. Iglesias told us that in the final analysis, however, he concluded that there was insufficient evidence in any of the cases the Task Force reviewed to support criminal prosecution by the USAO or state authorities. The Task Force stopped meeting after the 2004 elections, but it was not officially disbanded until 2006 when the FBI completed the last of its investigations.
Iglesias said that sometime in 2005, while many of the Task Force investigations were still pending, he heard from a friend who had connections in the New Mexico Republican Party that the party was unhappy with his handling of voter fraud cases. Iglesias said he felt unable to respond directly to such reports and knew he could not provide information about ongoing investigations. However, he said he wanted to get the message out to his fellow Republicans that he would prosecute “provable” voter fraud cases but would not bring a case unless it could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. His friend agreed to pass the message along, but Iglesias later heard that many people in the Republican Party were still upset with him.
In a further attempt to defuse the situation, Iglesias called state Republican Party Chairman Weh, and the two met briefly for coffee near Weh’s home on May 6, 2005. Iglesias said he tried to explain to Weh that he wanted to prosecute provable voter fraud cases but could not go forward without sufficient evidence.
Weh told us that Iglesias began the meeting by asking if he was “in trouble” with the Republican Party, and that he tried to blame the lack of prosecutions on the FBI’s failure to commit resources. Weh also said he told Iglesias that Iglesias needed to do something about voter fraud and that he should have already done something about it.
Weh said that although his meeting with Iglesias was cordial, he remained unconvinced by Iglesias’s explanation. Weh told us that he also thought Iglesias was unqualified for his position as U.S. Attorney, and Weh said he had concluded by then that Iglesias had failed to adequately investigate and prosecute voter fraud crimes. Weh added that his opinion of Iglesias was widely shared by New Mexico Republicans, and that he made his views known to many people.
Weh said he complained about Iglesias to Scott Jennings in the White House sometime in 2005, and told Jennings that Iglesias should be replaced.112 E-mail records we obtained from the White House confirm that Weh wrote to Jennings about Iglesias on August 9, 2005. His message to Jennings, which was copied to Karl Rove, Sara Taylor, Tim Griffin, and Steve Bell, stated:
We discussed the need to replace the US Atty in NM several months ago. The brief on Voter Fraud at the RNC meeting last week reminded me of how important this post is to this issue, and prompted this follow up. As you are aware the incumbent, David Iglesias, has failed miserably in his duty to prosecute voter fraud. To be perfectly candid, he was ‘missing in action’ during the last election, just as he was in the 2002 election cycle. I am advised his term expires, or is renewed, in October. It is respectfully requested that strong consideration be given to replacing him at this point . . . . If we can get a new US Atty that takes voter fraud seriously, combined with these other initiatives we’ll make some real progress in cleaning up a state notorious for crooked elections.
Several other Republican officials and activists complained about Iglesias to the White House as well. Former Republican state senator Barnett told us that at one point he asked Iglesias why he was not bringing voter fraud cases. He said that Iglesias replied that he did not have enough people to work the cases, Department policy prohibited them from bringing cases close to the election, and the voter fraud statute required proof that the defendant intended to influence the election. Barnett said he concluded that Iglesias was responsible for the lack of prosecutions, and began complaining about his performance to people he knew at the White House and the Republican National Committee.
Senator Domenici’s Chief of Staff Bell also began complaining about Iglesias to the White House sometime in 2005. Jennings told us that shortly after joining the White House in early 2005, he received criticism of Iglesias’s performance as U.S. Attorney from Bell. Jennings said Bell told him on a periodic basis that he was unhappy with Iglesias’s response to complaints about voter fraud, among other issues, and that the White House should replace him. Jennings said he passed that information along to his immediate superiors at the time, Taylor and Griffin.113
Jennings said that after he was promoted to the position of Deputy Director of the White House Office of Political Affairs in October 2005, he continued to hear similar complaints from Bell, including complaints about Iglesias’s handling of public corruption prosecutions (which we discuss below). Jennings said he relayed that information to Taylor and Rove.
According to Jennings, sometime in 2006 Bell told him that Senator Domenici was going to call the White House Chief of Staff, Josh Bolten, about Iglesias. Jennings notified Taylor and Rove so that Bolten could be given a heads-up. We do not know whether this call was made, and if so what was discussed.
In 2006, Iglesias was also subject to criticism from both New Mexico Republican activists and New Mexico Republican members of Congress for his alleged failure to prosecute effectively or on a timely basis two significant public corruption matters in his district, the Vigil case and the “courthouse case.” We discuss those two matters in turn.
In late 2002 or early 2003, the subject of a counterfeiting investigation told the U.S. Secret Service that he had information about bribes being paid to New Mexico’s Democratic State Treasurer, Robert Vigil, to obtain government contracts. The case was referred to the Albuquerque office of the FBI, which opened an investigation and notified the New Mexico USAO. A career prosecutor in the office’s White Collar Crime Section was assigned to the case, and Vigil and his predecessor in the Treasurer’s office, Democrat Michael Montoya, were indicted in September 2005.
Montoya pled guilty to one count of extortion and agreed to testify as a government witness. Three other participants in the bribery scheme also pled guilty and agreed to cooperate. Vigil’s trial began in April 2006 and went to the jury on May 21, 2006. After 1 day of deliberation, the judge concluded that the jury was hopelessly deadlocked and declared a mistrial. According to press accounts, one juror was unwilling to convict Vigil and refused to deliberate with his fellow jurors.
Shortly after the mistrial, New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid, Representative Wilson’s Democratic opponent in the upcoming November 2006 election for a Congressional seat, indicted the government’s four cooperating witnesses. This was viewed by some as a political move to help Madrid in her election bid, and as likely to hurt the government’s case because those witnesses would be less likely to cooperate with the federal investigation while facing state criminal charges for the conduct. Wilson told us that she thought Iglesias should have responded publicly to the state indictments, and she said that his failure to do so demonstrated a failure of leadership on his part.114
Representative Wilson told us that shortly after the mistrial, Senator Domenici’s Chief of Staff Bell called her and asked what she had heard about the trial.115 Wilson told him she had heard that the government had a good case but that it was not presented well. She said Bell told her that the Senator’s office had received the same information. Bell also told Wilson that Senator Domenici had come to the conclusion that the district needed a new U.S. Attorney. According to Wilson, she cautioned Bell that removing Iglesias right away could adversely affect the Vigil re-trial and said that Bell seemed to agree. Wilson said that she and Bell had several subsequent conversations about Iglesias in which Wilson expressed her growing concern that Iglesias was not doing his job.
Iglesias told us that soon after the Vigil mistrial, Senator Domenici summoned Iglesias to his office in Albuquerque and asked him if he needed more prosecutors to handle white collar crime. Iglesias said he responded that he had enough resources in that area, but that he needed more people to do immigration work. Iglesias also told us that he was reluctant to ask for more resources since he was aware that Arizona U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton had been criticized because people in the Department thought he had lobbied his home-state Senator for additional prosecutors.116
Senator Domenici refused our request to interview him. In a public statement issued on March 4, 2007, however, Domenici stated that he had had discussions with Iglesias over the years about resource issues in the USAO.
According to Iglesias, the Vigil re-trial, which began in September 2006, proved to be more difficult than the first trial because Vigil’s attorneys knew the government’s case in its entirety and were able to use that information to their advantage in cross-examination. The defense also had additional impeachment material because of the state charges against the cooperating witnesses, and one cooperator refused to testify at the second trial because of the pending state charges.
On September 30, 2006, Vigil was convicted on 1 count of attempted extortion and acquitted on the remaining 23 counts in the indictment. The verdict was seen by many of Iglesias’s critics, including Representative Wilson, as a defeat for the USAO. Vigil was eventually sentenced to 37 months in prison.
Iglesias’s office handled another significant public corruption case in 2006. This case began in the fall of 2005, when an attorney representing the receiver in a state court civil proceeding provided the USAO with information he had uncovered about possible bribes to state officials in connection with the construction of a new county courthouse. The USAO notified the FBI and opened a grand jury investigation. The AUSA handling the Vigil case was also assigned to this case, which was given the code name “Operation Black Robe” but was commonly referred to as the “courthouse case.”
During the course of the courthouse case investigation, the grand jury issued subpoenas for documents to financial institutions and to the administrative offices of the state court. Word of the subpoenas spread quickly, and additional information about the government’s investigation came to light as the state court civil law suit progressed. In March 2006, a newspaper article identified former Democratic state Senator Manny Aragon as the target of the USAO’s investigation.
As described below, this case was not indicted before the November 2006 election, which drew complaints from New Mexico Republican activists.
From September 2005 through April 2006, Senator Domenici telephoned Attorney General Gonzales on three occasions to complain about Iglesias’s performance as U.S. Attorney: on September 23, 2005, January 31, 2006, and April 6, 2006. Gonzales said the calls concerned Iglesias’s handling of voter fraud and public corruption matters.
Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 19, 2007, that:
In the fall of 2005, when [Domenici] called me [he] said something to the effect that Mr. Iglesias was in over his head and that he was concerned that Mr. Iglesias did not have the appropriate personnel focused on cases like public corruption cases.
According to Gonzales, Domenici did not mention any specific cases, only “public corruption cases.” Gonzales further testified that Domenici never asked him to fire Iglesias, but “simply complained about the – whether or not Mr. Iglesias was capable of continuing in that position.” In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on May 10, 2007, Gonzales again stated that in his first conversation with Domenici, the Senator had expressed concern about whether Iglesias had “his best people working” on public corruption cases. Gonzales added that in one of their subsequent conversations Domenici “mentioned voter fraud cases.”117
According to calendar entries from the Office of the Attorney General, Sampson and Moschella may have been in the room with Gonzales during the three calls, and Goodling may have been present for the April 6 call. According to Moschella, Gonzales never used a speaker phone, so they would have heard only his side of the conversation. Moschella said he has no memory of the calls and is not certain that he was present for any of them, but said he talked to Domenici’s Chief of Staff Bell prior to at least one of the calls. Based on that conversation, Moschella said he believed that the Senator was concerned about the district’s caseload and that he planned to tell Gonzales that the USAO needed additional resources. Sampson stated that he did not remember any details of Gonzales’s telephone conversations with Domenici.
Goodling testified before the House Judiciary Committee that she “knew that Senator Domenici had told the Attorney General he had some concerns with public corruption,” but she was not questioned in detail about the telephone conversations and she declined our request to interview her.
Gonzales said he did not say anything to Iglesias about the telephone calls from Senator Domenici, and we found no evidence that Gonzales directed that the Department examine the merits of Domenici’s criticism. Gonzales told us that, in retrospect, he would have expected that someone would have looked into the complaints about Iglesias that Senator Domenici related to McNulty, which we discuss below. Gonzales said to us: “You can’t have, you know, a member of Congress calling and making an allegation and not checking it out and seeing whether or not there’s anything there to it.” Gonzales also told us that he “would hope” that the reason why Iglesias was removed was “more than simply Domenici calling and saying, ‘I have concerns about . . . David Iglesias.’”
As the 2006 elections approached, Patrick Rogers, the former general counsel to the New Mexico state Republican Party and a party activist, continued to complain about voter fraud issues in New Mexico. In a March 2006 e-mail forwarded to Donsanto in the Public Integrity Section, Rogers complained about voter fraud in New Mexico and added, “I have calls in, to the USA and his main assistant, but they were not much help during the ACORN fraudulent registration debacle last election.”
In June 2006, Rogers sent the following e-mail to Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Armijo:
The voter fraud wars continue. Any indictment of the Acorn woman would be appreciated. . . . The ACLU/Wortheim [sic] democrats will turn to the camera and suggest fraud is not an issue, because the USA would have done something by now. Carpe Diem! 118
In June 2006, Mickey Barnett said he asked White House Deputy Political Affairs Director Jennings to set up a meeting for Barnett and Rogers at the Department of Justice to discuss Iglesias’s performance. According to Barnett, he had complained to Jennings about Iglesias approximately 5 to 10 times by that point. Barnett told us that he wanted to ask someone at the Department about three explanations Iglesias had given him for why he had not indicted any voter fraud cases: (1) the USAO did not have enough resources; (2) Department policy prohibited them from bringing cases close to the election; and (3) the voter fraud statute required proof that the defendant intended to influence the election. Jennings arranged a meeting for Barnett with Goodling on June 21, 2006, when Barnett planned to be in Washington for interviews related to his pending nomination to the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors.
Jennings told us that he did not know that Barnett wanted to complain to the Department about Iglesias, only that the meeting concerned a matter Barnett did not want to discuss with the USAO in New Mexico.119 In an e-mail message to Goodling, Jennings asked her to meet with Barnett and Rogers, and Jennings characterized the subject matter as “sensitive.”
On the afternoon of June 21, 2006, Barnett and Rogers met with Goodling in her office at the Department. Barnett said they explained their concerns about Iglesias and outlined the questions they had about what Iglesias had told them regarding voter fraud cases. Barnett told Goodling that Iglesias was failing to prosecute good voter fraud cases, and Barnett also mentioned delays in a public corruption case (the “courthouse case” discussed above). According to Barnett, Goodling took extensive notes during the 20-minute meeting, but provided no feedback. Barnett said that after they finished explaining their concerns, Goodling telephoned Matthew Friedrich, then Chief of Staff to Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher, and asked if she could bring Barnett and Rogers to his office.
Friedrich told us that he remembered being called by Goodling, and that while waiting for her to arrive he telephoned Noel Hillman, the former Chief of the Public Integrity Section, who was then a Counselor to Assistant Attorney General Fisher while his nomination to be a federal judge was pending. Friedrich asked Hillman to sit in on the meeting. Shortly thereafter, Goodling brought Barnett and Rogers to Friedrich’s office and left them with him.
While they waited for Hillman to arrive, Friedrich, Barnett, and Rogers made small talk about New Mexico and Albuquerque. Friedrich told us that he had the impression that Barnett and Rogers were not particularly knowledgeable about how the Department operated. He said they told Friedrich that they had already complained to Goodling about Iglesias’s performance as U.S. Attorney and explained that they were unhappy with how he had handled voter fraud in New Mexico. They stated that one case in particular, involving ACORN, had not been vigorously pursued in their opinion. At some point during the discussion, Hillman joined them, and he and Friedrich tried to explain how the Department handled such cases. Friedrich said he told Barnett and Rogers that they could contact the Public Integrity Section if they felt voter fraud cases were being ignored in New Mexico. The courthouse case was not discussed.
Barnett told us that Friedrich and Hillman listened carefully to their complaints and gave them all the time they needed to explain the problem. He said that when he and Rogers realized they were starting to repeat themselves, they ended the meeting, which had lasted about an hour. According to Barnett, Friedrich and Hillman listened attentively but were extremely circumspect and did not provide any information or refer them to anyone else in the Department.
According to Jennings, the next day Barnett and Rogers joined him at the White House mess for breakfast, but they did not discuss Iglesias or voter fraud issues.
Barnett told us that 2 weeks after his June 21 meeting at the Department, when he returned to Washington for his confirmation hearing, he spoke briefly in person with Senator Domenici. He told the Senator that he wanted to talk about three or four items, which he had written down on a 3-by-5 card. The first item was Iglesias, but when he said to the Senator, “Do we need to discuss Iglesias?” Domenici simply replied, “Nah.” According to Barnett, Domenici was familiar with his complaints about Iglesias by then, and Barnett concluded from the Senator’s response that no further discussion was necessary. Barnett said that Domenici never told him what, if anything, he had done or was planning to do about the complaints regarding Iglesias.
Iglesias told us that after the Vigil mistrial he learned from a friend in the New Mexico Republican Party that Rogers had sent a 14-page letter to Senator Domenici complaining about Iglesias’s performance as U.S. Attorney.
In July 2006, another newspaper article identified former Democratic state senator Aragon as the target of the courthouse case investigation. On October 2, 2006, an article in the Albuquerque Tribune quoted a local FBI spokesman as stating the FBI had completed its investigation and had turned the case over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.120
That same day, Barnett sent a copy of the Albuquerque Tribune article by e-mail to Rove and Jennings at the White House, and to Rogers, with the message:
This article confirms what I mentioned Saturday.121 An FBI agent told me more than six months ago that their investigation was done and been turned over to the US Attorney a long time ago. He said agents were totally frustrated with some even trying to get out of New Mexico. I can put you or anyone you designate with lawyers knowledgeable about the US Atty office – including lawyers in the office – that will show how poorly it is being run.
Scott Jennings was kind enough to set up an appointment at the Justice Department several months ago where Pat Rogers and I laid all this out. I hope Justice can now be persuaded to send out some cracker jack prosecutor and perhaps promote Iglesias to a Justice department position.
We still await the results of the task force Iglesias convened about this time two years ago on the clear Acorn fraudulent voter registrations. We were told it would look to [sic] “political” to indict anyone that close to the election. Then we never heard anything else.
Barnett told us that the FBI agent he referred to in his e-mail was the agent who was handling his background investigation for the Postal Service Board of Governors. According to Barnett, that agent was not assigned to the courthouse case, and Barnett said he received no information from anyone with first-hand knowledge of the case.
Barnett also told us that his comment in the e-mail about promoting Iglesias to a Department of Justice position reflected his and Rogers’s belief that Iglesias should be replaced with an aggressive public corruption prosecutor and “kick[ed] . . . upstairs” to a supervisory position at the Department or the White House.
Barnett further stated that although he did not attend the fundraising lunch that brought Rove to Albuquerque on September 30, 2006, he met Rove at the airport that day and accompanied him to a short meeting with Republican Party volunteers.122 Barnett said he told Rove about the alleged delays in the courthouse public corruption case and the ACORN voter fraud cases, and Barnett said he complained about Iglesias’s failure to move these cases forward. According to Barnett, Rove indicated that he was aware of the complaints about Iglesias, although Rove did not tell Barnett what, if anything, he planned to do about the situation. Barnett said that by this time he had complained about Iglesias to Rove, Domenici, and other officials at the White House or the Republican National Committee on many occasions.
We asked the trial AUSA handling the courthouse case about the FBI spokesman’s comments in the October 2 Albuquerque Tribune article. The AUSA said that the courthouse grand jury investigation was still underway at that time, and that a great deal of work remained to be done before the case would be ready to indict. Subpoenas for documents were outstanding, additional subpoenas had to be issued, witnesses remained to be interviewed, and the AUSA had just finished retrying the Vigil case. The AUSA told us that no one with any knowledge of the investigation would have described it as complete at that time.123
The AUSA acknowledged that FBI officials in New Mexico thought the courthouse case should have been indicted right after the Vigil retrial, and that the FBI case agents were unhappy with the USAO’s decision not to assign another prosecutor to the courthouse case after the first Vigil trial.
On October 4, 2006, Senator Domenici called Deputy Attorney General McNulty. According to McNulty, the conversation was very brief. McNulty said Domenici expressed his concerns about Iglesias’s abilities in general terms such as, “he’s not up for the job,” he’s in “over his head,” and he is “not getting the job done.” McNulty said Domenici did not refer to any specific case and only talked in generalities about Iglesias’s lack of fitness for the job. According to McNulty, Domenici did not ask the Department to replace Iglesias or to do anything specific.
McNulty said he has no specific recollection of discussing Domenici’s phone call with Gonzales or Sampson, but he told us that it is the type of contact he would have passed along to them. McNulty told congressional investigators that he did not take any steps to find out what had triggered Domenici’s call, or take any steps “of an investigative nature” in response to the call.
Sampson said he learned in October 2006, most likely from Elston, that Senator Domenici had called McNulty on October 4 to complain that Iglesias was not “up to the job.” Sampson said he remembered McNulty mentioning the call and that Domenici had said that Iglesias did not move cases and was in over his head. Sampson said that he did not recall McNulty recommending the removal of Iglesias based on the call. However, McNulty told congressional investigators that Domenici’s call was a “significant factor” in why he did not object to Iglesias’s removal or ask that Iglesias’s name be taken off the list.
Gonzales told us that he was not aware that Senator Domenici had called McNulty “until this whole thing became very public.”
President Bush and Karl Rove both spoke with Attorney General Gonzales in October 2006 about their concerns over voter fraud in three cities, one of which was Albuquerque, New Mexico. There is conflicting evidence about exactly what was communicated to Gonzales, and what the Department’s response was to these concerns.
On March 13, 2007, in response to reporters’ questions about the removals of U.S. Attorneys, White House spokesman Dan Bartlett stated that the President had told Gonzales in late 2006 that he had been hearing about election fraud concerns from members of Congress regarding three cities: Albuquerque, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. Bartlett said the President did not identify any U.S. Attorney by name. Gonzales told Congress and us that although he had no specific recollection of his discussion with the President, he did not dispute Bartlett’s assertion. Gonzales testified to the Senate that after checking his calendar he believed his meeting with the President was on October 11, 2006.
Gonzales testified several times that in the fall of 2006, Rove had also told him that he had “concerns” about voter fraud in three cities. Gonzales told us that he thought these were the same three cities that Bartlett said the President mentioned to Gonzales during his October 11 meeting. Gonzales stated that he surmised that his conversation with Rove preceded his conversation with the President because of a remark made by Bartlett. Bartlett had told the media that when the President raised the issue of voter fraud with Gonzales, Gonzales replied, “I know, and we are looking at those issues.” Based on that statement, Gonzales told us that he thought his comment was referring to his prior conversation with Rove. Gonzales testified that he had no recollection of Rove asking or telling him to remove Iglesias.
Gonzales testified that he recalled mentioning his conversation with Rove to Sampson and asking him to look into the matter. Sampson told congressional investigators that he recalled that after the removals became public, Gonzales told him that he recalled the President telling him in October that Domenici had concerns about Iglesias. Sampson said that Gonzales told him that Rove had concerns about voter fraud enforcement by three U.S. Attorneys, in Albuquerque, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee, and that Gonzales had asked Sampson to look into the allegations. Sampson said he in turn asked Matthew Friedrich, then a Counselor to the Attorney General, to look into the allegations. Sampson said that he had no recollection of Friedrich ever getting back to him on the issue.
Friedrich told congressional investigators that according to his notes, on October 12, 2006, Sampson asked him to look into concerns from the White House about voter fraud enforcement in Albuquerque, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. Friedrich did not recall Sampson identifying anyone at the White House who raised those concerns. According to Friedrich, he then called Benton Campbell, the Chief of Staff to Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher, and asked him for an update on jurisdictions where voter fraud enforcement was a problem. Campbell in turn called Public Integrity Section attorney Donsanto, the Department’s expert on voter fraud matters. Based on his notes of their conversation, Friedrich said that Campbell had told him that voter fraud in Albuquerque was “not too bad,” but that in rural New Mexico it was “bad.” Friedrich said he passed this information on to Sampson. As noted above, however, Sampson said he did not recall hearing back from Friedrich on the issue.
According to Campbell, Donsanto gave him an overview of voter fraud issues in several districts, including New Mexico. With respect to New Mexico, Donsanto told Campbell that enforcement of voter fraud in Albuquerque was good, but that there were problems in rural counties. Campbell said that Donsanto mentioned that the New Mexico voter fraud initiative had not produced any cases. Campbell also said that Donsanto said something to the effect that the district did not follow up on cases and seemed reluctant to prosecute. Donsanto told us, however, that he thought Iglesias pursued voter fraud cases vigorously and fairly.
Both Gonzales and Sampson testified that Gonzales did not recommend that Iglesias be placed on the removal list as a result of the call from Rove. According to Gonzales, he neither intended nor expected Sampson to add Iglesias’s name to the removal list based solely on the fact of Rove’s complaint.
On October 11, 2006, Iglesias met with Rogers to discuss voter fraud issues. The meeting was prompted by an e-mail Rogers sent to EAUSA Armijo on October 3, 2006, attaching an item from a local political blog that was critical of the Republican claim that election fraud was a growing crisis in New Mexico. Rogers wrote in his e-mail:
[T]his is probably not the best time to remind you guys of the ACORN disasters, but I wanted to make sure you and David saw the Democrat’s analysis of the task force. History being the lie generally agreed upon, [the blogger’s] spin is the “history” of fraud in NM. Call when you can.
Armijo forwarded the e-mail to Iglesias, who suggested scheduling a meeting with Rogers. On October 11, 2006, Iglesias, Armijo, and Rogers met for lunch at an Albuquerque restaurant. After some small talk, Rogers brought up the issue of voter fraud and complained that Iglesias had not responded to the problem. According to Iglesias, he did not discuss the details of any Task Force cases, but he told Rogers that “if we have a prosecutable case, we’ll prosecute it. If we don’t, we won’t.” Armijo said he confirmed with Rogers that the FBI had interviewed him about his voter fraud complaints, but said he and Iglesias did not discuss the details of any cases with him.
Armijo also said that during the lunch Rogers mentioned the recent newspaper article about the courthouse case. Armijo was not involved in that prosecution, and told Rogers he had not seen the article. Armijo told us that he believed Rogers was looking for information about what the USAO was planning to do in that case. Armijo did not respond, and said that Iglesias cut off the discussion by telling Rogers they could not talk about a pending case.
On Sunday, October 15, 2006, Representative Wilson e-mailed a newspaper article about public corruption prosecutions in other states to her Chief of Staff, her campaign manager, another campaign aide, and Domenici’s Chief of Staff Bell with the message, “FBI or those close to them are talking about public corruption cases ongoing in other states.” Bell forwarded the message to Jennings in the White House with the comment, “Seems like other USAttorneys (sic) can do their work even in election season. And FBI has already admitted they have turned over their evidence to the USA in NM and are merely awaiting his action . . . .”
According to Wilson, her e-mail to Bell was not intended as a reference to Iglesias. However, the next day, October 16, 2006, Wilson telephoned Iglesias to ask about delays in public corruption matters being handled by his office. Wilson told us that a day or two before the call, a constituent had complained to her that Iglesias was intentionally delaying public corruption prosecutions in the district. According to Wilson, the constituent did not refer to any particular matter, just corruption cases in general. According to Wilson, the constituent alleged that sealed indictments had already been returned, and that Iglesias was delaying their release for no reason.
Wilson refused to identify the constituent to us and would not provide any information that would allow us to assess the constituent’s bias, motives, or credibility. She simply asserted that the constituent was a reliable source whom she believed to be knowledgeable about the matter. However, contrary to what Wilson was told, there were no sealed indictments in the courthouse case in October 2006.
According to Wilson, she told Iglesias in her telephone call that she had heard he was intentionally delaying corruption prosecutions. Iglesias responded that the accusation was not true and that the AUSA who handled corruption cases had simply been tied up with the Vigil trial. Wilson said she then asked if delaying the release of sealed indictments rang any bells with him. Iglesias responded that his office sometimes sealed national security cases or juvenile cases, but that such a practice would not necessarily apply to corruption cases. Wilson said she closed the conversation by stating that she would take him at his word.
Wilson, who had served in the Air Force, told us that because she thought she was speaking as one former military officer to another, she intended that final phrase to convey that Iglesias’s word was good enough for her and that she considered the matter closed. According to Wilson, she did not discuss this conversation “with any other legislative or executive official” and “did not tell New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici or anyone on his staff about the matter or her telephone conversation with Mr. Iglesias . . . or any other official.” Wilson denied calling Iglesias in an effort to induce him to file any indictments prior to the election, which was only weeks away, in order to influence the outcome of the election.
Iglesias told us that Wilson called him and said she had heard something about sealed indictments in corruption cases. Iglesias knew that the only pending public corruption case that had been reported in the press at that time was the courthouse case, so he concluded Wilson was referring to that matter. He said he was wary of discussing a pending investigation, and he deflected the question with a general statement about how the office sometimes used sealed indictments in juvenile cases or in national security matters. Wilson ended the conversation by saying something like, “Well, I guess I’ll have to take your word for it.” Iglesias told us that, based on her tone, he concluded that she was disappointed by his response.
Iglesias did not report Congresswoman Wilson’s call to anyone in the Department even though he acknowledged knowing that the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual required him to report the call.124 He said that he considered Wilson to be a friend, that he thought she had simply exercised poor judgment in calling him, and that he believed the matter would go no further.
Iglesias said that approximately 10 days after Wilson’s call, sometime around October 26, 2006, and possibly on a weekend, Steve Bell called him at home in the morning and told him that Senator Domenici wanted to talk to him about some complaints he had heard. Domenici came on the line and, without any preliminary small talk, asked about the district’s corruption matters. Iglesias said he took this as a reference to the courthouse case, the only publicly known corruption investigation in the office at the time. Domenici asked Iglesias if he was going to file an indictment before November.
Iglesias told us that he wanted to be responsive without revealing any information, so he tried to hedge his answer by saying that he did not think so. According to Iglesias, Domenici then said, “Well, I’m very sorry to hear that,” and hung up.
Iglesias told us he turned to his wife, who was in the room during the call. She asked him who he had been talking to, and he said, “You’re not going to believe what just happened,” and described the call.
We also interviewed Iglesias’s wife about her knowledge of the Domenici phone call. She confirmed that she was in the room with Iglesias when he took the call from Senator Domenici on his cell phone. She said it may have been a weekend morning because they were both in casual clothes. She described her husband’s tone during the call as serious, as if he were receiving bad news, and his body language suggested to her that it was not a friendly conversation. She said at one point in the conversation she heard him say, “I don’t think so.”
Mrs. Iglesias estimated that the conversation lasted 2 minutes, and said the call ended abruptly without a “good bye” or any other closing words. At first, neither of them could believe that Senator Domenici had hung up the phone, and she suggested that Iglesias’s cell phone had dropped the call and that Domenici would call back.
According to Iglesias, he felt ill after the call. He said he believed Domenici had asked for confidential information about an ongoing investigation, and that Iglesias would pay in some way for refusing to cooperate with him.
Iglesias said he did not mention the call to anyone other than his wife until after he was asked to resign. He said that he decided not to report the call to the Department, which he knew was required by the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, out of a combination of personal admiration for the Senator and gratitude for his past assistance, all of which made Iglesias unwilling to embarrass or create difficulties for Domenici. Iglesias said he also believed that he was unlikely to be the winner in a dispute with Senator Domenici.
On March 4, 2007, after Iglesias’s removal and public disclosure of the telephone call, Domenici issued the following public statement about the call to Iglesias:
I called Mr. Iglesias late last year. My call had been preceded by months of extensive media reports about acknowledged investigations into courthouse construction, including public comments from the FBI that it had completed its work months earlier, and a growing number of inquiries from constituents. I asked Mr. Iglesias if he could tell me what was going on in that investigation and give me an idea of what timeframe we were looking at. It was a very brief conversation, which concluded when I was told that the courthouse investigation would be continuing for a lengthy period.
In retrospect, I regret making that call and I apologize. However, at no time in that conversation or any other conversation with Mr. Iglesias did I ever tell him what course of action I thought he should take on any legal matter. I have never pressured him nor threatened him in any way. . . .
My conversations with Mr. Iglesias over the years have been almost exclusively about this resource problem and complaints by constituents. He consistently told me that he needed more help, as have many other New Mexicans within the legal community.
My frustration with the U.S. attorney’s office mounted as we tried to get more resources for it, but public accounts indicated an inability within the office to move more quickly on cases. Indeed, in 2004 and 2005 my staff and I expressed my frustration with the U.S. Attorney’s office to the Justice Department and asked the Department to see if the New Mexico U.S. Attorney’s office needed more help, including perhaps an infusion of professionals from other districts.
This ongoing dialogue and experience led me, several months before my call with Mr. Iglesias, to conclude and recommend to the Department of Justice that New Mexico needed a new United States Attorney.
As a result of Senator Domenici’s acknowledgement that he called Iglesias in October 2006 to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation, the Senate Select Committee on Ethics opened an investigation of Domenici on March 7, 2007. The Ethics Committee interviewed Senator Domenici, Iglesias, and others, and on April 24, 2008, issued a Public Letter of Qualified Admonition to Senator Domenici. The letter stated that the Ethics Committee found “no substantial evidence to determine that [Domenici] attempted to improperly influence an ongoing investigation.” The Ethics Committee’s letter also stated that Domenici’s telephone call “created an appearance of impropriety” because of the “approaching election which may have turned on or been influenced by the prosecutor’s actions in the corruption matter.”
As noted above, in response to our request for an interview, Senator Domenici initially informed us through counsel that he would cooperate with our investigation after the Senate Ethics Committee finished its investigation. At the conclusion of the Ethics Committee investigation, we again asked Domenici for an interview. Domenici’s counsel requested that we provide him in advance with the subject matter of our questions. When we did so, Domenici continued to decline to be interviewed, stating that there were “institutional implications” to such an interview, and noting that he served on a committee with oversight over the Department. Domenici’s counsel also expressed concern that our interview would be recorded and under oath. Although we agreed to consider waiving these conditions, Domenici again refused our request for an interview. Finally, Domenici’s counsel offered to respond through his attorneys to written questions. We declined that offer because we do not believe it would be a reliable or appropriate investigative method under these circumstances.
As mentioned in Chapters One and Three of this report, during our investigation we learned that in March 2007, to prepare a timeline of events related to the U.S. Attorney firings, White House Associate Counsel Michael Scudder interviewed several people in the White House and in the Department, and also gathered information from Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) Acting Assistant Attorney General Steven Bradbury, who had interviewed other Department managers about the U.S. Attorney removals. Although the White House refused to provide us with a complete copy of Scudder’s memorandum, it provided to us small portions of it, including the following paragraph:
In approximately October 2006, Paul McNulty received a telephone call from [White House Counsel Harriet] Miers in which she relayed a telephone conversation she had with Representative Wilson from New Mexico. McNulty recalls Miers stating that Wilson was displeased with David Iglesias’s performance as U.S. Attorney in New Mexico. McNulty does not recall Miers relating any concern about Iglesias not prosecuting voting fraud.
According to Bradbury, the information in this paragraph was relayed to Bradbury by McNulty, and Bradbury subsequently relayed it to Scudder. If true, the information in this paragraph about the call – particularly the timing - would be significant, because it would show that Wilson was complaining to the White House about Iglesias shortly before the 2006 election, and that the White House relayed her complaints to the Department in October 2006, both of which occurred just before Iglesias’s name first appeared on the list of U.S. Attorneys to be removed.
However, Representative Wilson told us she was certain that she never had a telephone conversation with Miers about Iglesias or any other related matter, never had a substantive discussion with her in person, and may never have spoken to her at all on any matter. Wilson suggested that we confirm her representations by examining White House telephone logs. We subsequently asked the White House Counsel’s Office to produce telephone logs that would show Miers’s calls in October and November 2006. In response, the Counsel’s Office told us that there were no entries in Miers’s telephone logs reflecting any conversations with Representative Wilson in September, October, or November 2006.
McNulty told us that Miers called him and said that Wilson had complained to her about Iglesias. But McNulty said that the call occurred in November 2006, not October 2006 as represented in Scudder’s chronology. McNulty said he was certain that Miers told him about Wilson’s complaint only after Iglesias had been added to the list of U.S. Attorneys to be removed (the November 7, 2006, list), and after that list had been transmitted to the White House.
Miers refused our requests for an interview. We were therefore unable to resolve whether or when this call occurred.
- Iglesias is Added to Sampson’s List
- White House Knowledge of the Decision to Remove Iglesias
- Iglesias is Told to Resign
As noted above, on November 7, 2006, Sampson sent Elston a revised list of U.S. Attorneys slated for removal that included Iglesias’s name for the first time. Elston responded to Sampson that the list looked “fine” to him, and he forwarded it to McNulty that evening.
In their various statements to Congress and to us, the Department officials who Sampson identified as being involved in the final stage of the U.S. Attorney removal process – Gonzales, McNulty, Goodling, and Elston – disclaimed any responsibility for causing Iglesias’s name to be placed on Sampson’s U.S. Attorney removal list in the first instance. McNulty stated that he did not add Iglesias to the list. Elston told us he did not recommend adding Iglesias to the list, although he assumed his removal had something to do with Senator Domenici’s call to McNulty. Goodling testified that she did not know who put Iglesias on the list. Gonzales stated that he lost confidence in Iglesias because Senator Domenici had lost confidence in him, but that he did not add Iglesias to the list.
As discussed below, Sampson gave inconsistent testimony to Congress and to us about his knowledge of who put Iglesias on the removal list and why. In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 29, 2007, Sampson was asked: “Who was responsible for your consideration of David Iglesias to be added to the list?” Sampson answered that “sometime after October 17 . . . an effort was made . . . by myself, the Deputy Attorney General, his chief of staff, [and] Monica Goodling” to look at the U.S. Attorneys whose 4-year term had expired for the purpose of determining whether additional names should be added to the removal list and, as a result, four names, including Iglesias, were added. According to Sampson, the other three names came off the list but Iglesias’s name remained “because nobody suggested that he come off.”
In fact, as described in Chapter Three of this report, only one name – Iglesias – was added to the list between October 17 and November 7. The three names that came off the list after October 17 – Tom Marino, Greg Miller, and Paula Silsby – had already appeared on the previous list on September 13, 2006.
Sampson told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the fact that Senator Domenici had made three calls to the Attorney General and one call to McNulty regarding Iglesias may have influenced the decision to remove Iglesias. Sampson also testified that he recalled McNulty saying that Senator Domenici would not mind if Iglesias’s name stayed on the list.
Sampson also told the Senate that concerns about Iglesias’s management contributed to his removal, including Mercer’s recommendation to remove Iglesias as chair of an AGAC subcommittee and Margolis’s statement suggesting that Iglesias delegated too much authority to his First Assistant. Yet, Sampson also acknowledged in his testimony that he did not attempt to verify any of the information he received about Iglesias and did not review an EARS evaluation of Iglesias’s office.
In his subsequent interview with Senate Judiciary staff on April 15, 2007, Sampson stated “I don’t remember how Mr. Iglesias first got on the list. I remember that after he was on the list, there was discussion about whether he should remain on the list. But I don’t have any memory about how that came to be.”
In his interview with us, Sampson gave a conflicting and confused account of how Iglesias was added to the removal list:
I don’t remember putting his name on the list. I did it, because I was the one who did that, but I don’t remember doing it and I don’t remember there being a specific reason for doing it. You know, I knew these things generally about Mr. Iglesias, and I apparently put his name on the list.
When Sampson referred to “these things” in this quotation, he said he was referring to what he thought he had heard about Iglesias in October 2006, including Domenici’s and Rove’s communications with the Department combined with bits and pieces of information he had learned about Iglesias before then. Sampson also said he recalled hearing from Matthew Friedrich that Republicans in New Mexico were unhappy with Iglesias and that this may have been a factor he considered.125 In addition, Sampson said he knew that in early 2005 Mercer had recommended that Iglesias be replaced as the head of an AGAC subcommittee for lack of effective participation.
Sampson also told the Senate that “to the best of my memory” he knew about Margolis’s allegation that Iglesias over-delegated authority to his First Assistant before October 2006. However, as we discussed above, Margolis did not become aware of the First Assistant’s comment until he was interviewed for Iglesias’s position, after Iglesias’s removal.
With respect to his various accounts of why Iglesias was placed on the list, Sampson told us: “The way Iglesias got on the list is I sort of generally knew all of these things, and in looking back over the list again, put him on, and then nobody suggested that he come off.”
Sampson claimed that no one at the White House exerted any pressure to place Iglesias’s name on the U.S. Attorney removal list. He testified that he did not recall anyone at the White House, including specifically Rove and Miers, suggesting that Iglesias needed to be removed.
The 2006 mid-term congressional elections occurred on November 7, 2006. At 1:03 p.m. that day, Domenici’s Chief of Staff Bell sent Rove an e-mail about ballot problems in a New Mexico precinct. Bell ended his e-mail with the statement, “We worry still about the USA here.” Rove responded at 1:35 p.m: “I’d have the Senator call the Attorney General about this.”
On November 15, 2006, Representative Wilson attended a White House breakfast meeting with a dozen or so Republican members of Congress who had just won closely contested elections. Rove was also present. Wilson told us that as the meeting was breaking up she approached him and said, “Mr. Rove, for what it’s worth, the U.S. Attorney in New Mexico is a waste of breath.” Rove responded, “That decision has already been made. He’s gone.” According to Wilson’s calendar, the meeting occurred from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m.
Department e-mail records show that Sampson sent the November “USA Replacement Plan” that first included Iglesias’s name to Miers at the White House on November 15, 2006, at 10:55 a.m. There is no record of the list being provided to the White House before then. Yet, neither Sampson nor any of the other Department or White House officials we interviewed said that the White House was told that Iglesias had been added to the removal list before then. As described previously, Miers and Rove declined our requests for an interview. Thus, we were unable to determine how or why Rove knew that Iglesias was slated to be replaced when he spoke to Wilson earlier in the morning on November 15.
Consistent with Sampson’s written plan for terminating the U.S. Attorneys, on the morning of December 7, 2006, Deputy White House Counsel Kelley informed Senator Domenici’s office that Iglesias was being asked to resign. After the call, Kelley reported to Sampson, “Domenici’s COS [chief of staff] is happy as a clam.”
Iglesias told us that on the afternoon of December 7, 2006, he was at the Baltimore Washington International airport when he received a message to call EOUSA Director Michael Battle. Iglesias said he returned the call right away and asked what was going on. Battle told him that the Administration wanted “to go a different way” and asked him to submit his resignation by the end of January 2007. Iglesias asked if there was a problem, to which Battle replied that he did not know and did not want to know, but that “it came from on high.”126
Iglesias told us that he had no previous indication the Department had any problem with his performance as U.S. Attorney, and that he had expected to stay in office until the end of the Bush Administration. Iglesias said he had not thought about his next job and knew that he would need more time to line something up.
On December 14, 2006, Weh attended a Christmas party at the White House and asked Rove, “When are we ever going to get rid of Iglesias?” Weh told us that Rove responded, “He’s been told.”
On December 18, 2006, Iglesias asked Battle by e-mail for additional time before he stepped down as U.S. Attorney. On January 5, 2007, not having heard back from Battle, Iglesias made the same request by e-mail to McNulty. McNulty passed the request along to Sampson, who gave his approval. McNulty let Iglesias know later that day that he had until the end of February 2007 to leave office.
Iglesias thanked McNulty by e-mail and asked if he could use him as a reference. McNulty replied, “I would be happy to be a reference for you.” Iglesias made the same request to Attorney General Gonzales through Sampson, who responded, “You can list the AG as a reference – not a problem.”127
In this section, we provide our analysis regarding the reasons proffered for Iglesias’s removal. However, at the outset it is important to note that we were unable to fully investigate these issues because of the refusal by several former key White House officials, including Harriet Miers and Karl Rove, to cooperate with our investigation. In addition, the White House would not provide us any internal documents and e-mails relating to the removals of Iglesias or the other U.S. Attorneys. Our investigation was also hindered by the refusal of Senator Domenici and his Chief of Staff to agree to an interview by us. In addition, we were not able to interview Monica Goodling, who also declined to cooperate with our investigation.
As a result, important gaps remain in the facts regarding Iglesias’s removal as U.S. Attorney. As discussed at the end of this chapter, we believe this investigation should be pursued further, and we recommend that a counsel specially appointed by the Attorney General work with us to further examine the reasons behind Iglesias’s removal and whether criminal laws were violated.
However, as discussed below, we believe the evidence we uncovered showed that Iglesias was removed because of complaints to the Department of Justice and the White House by New Mexico Republican members of Congress and party activists about Iglesias’s handling of voter fraud and public corruption cases. We concluded that the other reasons proffered by the Department after his removal were after-the-fact rationalizations that did not actually contribute to Iglesias’s removal.
Moreover, we determined that the Department never objectively assessed the complaints raised by New Mexico politicians and activists about Iglesias’s actions on the voter fraud or public corruption cases, or even asked Iglesias about them. Rather, based upon these complaints alone and the resulting “loss of confidence” in Iglesias, the Department placed Iglesias on the removal list and told him to resign along with the other U.S. Attorneys.
As we discuss below, by these actions we believe Department leaders abdicated their responsibility to ensure that prosecutorial decisions would be based on the law, the evidence, and Department policy, not political pressure.
In the following sections, we discuss in turn the inaccurate reasons proffered by the Department for Iglesias’s removal, the real reason that we were able to determine in this investigation, and the unanswered issues regarding Iglesias’s removal.
- Iglesias was not Removed Because of Management Issues
- Complaints about Iglesias’s Handling of Voter Fraud and Public Corruption Cases
- Additional Issues
- Unanswered Questions
On Sampson’s first list of U.S. Attorneys sent to Miers at the White House in March 2005, Iglesias was identified as 1 of 26 “strong” U.S. Attorneys who should be retained by the Department. Iglesias did not appear on any of Sampson’s subsequent removal lists until the list Sampson circulated on November 7, 2006, after Republican members of Congress and party activists from New Mexico had repeatedly complained to the White House and the Department about Iglesias’s handling of voter fraud and public corruption cases.
After the U.S. Attorneys were removed and as part of their preparations for their congressional testimony about the removals, Department officials constructed a list of reasons justifying the removals. This list, and McNulty’s subsequent briefing of Congress using this list, stated that Iglesias was removed in part because he was an “underperformer” and an “absentee landlord” who over-delegated authority to his First Assistant U.S. Attorney. Similarly, Moschella stated in his congressional testimony, again based on the information from this list of reasons, that Iglesias’s removal was based in part on concerns about his management and that his office was in need of greater leadership.
Based on our investigation, we concluded that these statements were disingenuous after-the-fact rationalizations that had nothing to do with the real reason for Iglesias’s removal. As noted above, Iglesias was identified as a strong U.S. Attorney on Sampson’s initial U.S. Attorney removal list, and nothing changed substantively to alter that assessment – except the complaints from New Mexico politicians and party activists about his handling of voter fraud and public corruption cases.
The two EARS evaluations of his office completed during his tenure as U.S. Attorney do not support claims that Iglesias was an “absentee landlord” who “over delegated,” or that the office lacked strong leadership. For example, the 2002 EARS evaluation described Iglesias as “well respected by the client agencies, judiciary, and USAO staff. He provided good leadership . . . and was appropriately engaged in the operations of the office.” Similarly, the 2005 EARS evaluation noted that Iglesias “was respected by the judiciary, agencies, and staff.” It added that his First Assistant appropriately oversaw the day-to-day work of the office’s senior management team, effectively addressed all management issues, and directed resources to accomplish the Department’s and the U.S. Attorney’s priorities. Neither of these EARS evaluations criticized Iglesias for his management of the New Mexico U.S. Attorney’s Office.
We also found no evidence that any Department official ever raised any concerns about Iglesias’s management of the office to him, or to others within the Department, prior to his removal.
The testimony of Sampson, who placed Iglesias on the removal list, also did not support these alleged reasons for his removal. Sampson initially stated that he did not recall the reasons Iglesias was placed on the November 7 removal list, although he said the fact that Senator Domenici had made three calls to the Attorney General and one call to McNulty complaining about Iglesias may have influenced his decision. Sampson’s only claim that was vaguely related to a management concern was that he had heard that Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Mercer said in 2005 that Iglesias and several other U.S. Attorneys should not be reappointed as chairs of subcommittees of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC) because they were not as effective as chairmen as Mercer thought they should have been. Yet, Iglesias was not included on the first four removal lists Sampson produced in 2005 and 2006. Moreover, no other U.S. Attorneys were removed because of some concern about their effectiveness in chairing an AGAC subcommittee. Even Mercer told us that he did not expect to see Iglesias on the list of U.S. Attorneys to be removed.
We concluded that the alleged concern that Iglesias was an “absentee landlord” or that he had delegated to his First Assistant too much authority to run the office had nothing to do with Iglesias’s removal. Other than Sampson, none of the witnesses involved with reviewing the various U.S. Attorney removal lists said that they considered Iglesias’s alleged absence from the office or delegation of management responsibility as reasons for his dismissal.
Moreover, although Sampson testified to Congress that Associate Deputy Attorney General Margolis had indicated at some point that Iglesias “delegated a lot to his First Assistant,” Margolis told us that he never heard about that claim until after Iglesias was removed, during his interview of Larry Gomez, Iglesias’s First Assistant, for the U.S. Attorney position. However, according to Margolis, he heard from Gomez only that he ran the day-to-day operations of the office, and Margolis thought that this statement “corroborated” the allegation that Iglesias was an absentee landlord. Margolis acknowledged that Gomez said nothing negative about Iglesias during his interview. In fact, Gomez told us that he did not think that Iglesias over delegated authority or was an absentee landlord. Gomez said that Iglesias was “engaged in his office,” and that that Iglesias’s management style was “very good.” In addition, Gomez said he never heard complaints from others about Iglesias’s management style. Rumaldo Armijo, Iglesias’s Executive Assistant, also told us that he never heard anyone express concern that Iglesias was an absentee landlord or that Iglesias did not spend enough time in the office. Armijo said that he believed that Iglesias’s delegation of authority to Gomez was appropriate, that Iglesias was “a strong leader,” and that he was “very active in everything that went on here.”
It is true that Iglesias was a Captain in the Navy Reserves and was required to serve reserve duty for 36 days each year. However, the Department and the White House knew about these responsibilities when he was appointed, and no one raised that as a concern during his tenure as U.S. Attorney. Further, neither of the two EARS reviews raised that concern.
In sum, we believe the Department’s claims after Iglesias’s removal that concerns about his management of his office or that he was an “absentee landlord” were justifications created after-the-fact in an attempt to buttress the rationale for his removal. We found no evidence that any such concerns actually contributed to Iglesias’s removal.
The evidence we uncovered in our investigation demonstrated that the real reason for Iglesias’s removal were the complaints from New Mexico Republican politicians and party activists about how Iglesias handled voter fraud and public corruption cases in the state.
As detailed above, many Republicans in New Mexico believed that fraudulent registrations by Democratic Party voters was a widespread problem in New Mexico, an evenly divided state politically that has had very close national elections. Beginning in the summer of 2004, New Mexico Republican Party activists talked to Iglesias about the “party’s . . . efforts” on the voter fraud issue, and sought to involve him in those efforts.
In response to the allegations of voter fraud, and after discussions with the Department’s Criminal Division about the issue, Iglesias formed an Election Fraud Task Force to examine the complaints. The Task Force’s participants included the FBI and election law experts in the Department. Iglesias also sought to explain to New Mexico Republican Party officials the Department’s policies regarding the appropriate handling of such complaints.
We found that Iglesias’s approach to these complaints received recognition from within the Department as an example of how to handle voter fraud investigations. In addition, the Chief of the Public Integrity Section’s Election Crimes Branch, Craig Donsanto, told us that he thought Iglesias pursued voter fraud cases vigorously and fairly, and that he had no complaints about Iglesias’s office’s attention to those matters.
However, New Mexico Republican officials were dissatisfied with Iglesias’s task force approach and its prosecutorial decisions on individual voter fraud cases. Consequently, they began making repeated and vociferous complaints about Iglesias’s handling of these cases, first directly to Iglesias, then to the Department, to New Mexico Republican members of Congress, and to the White House. These complaints generated requests from Senator Domenici and Representative Wilson for Iglesias’s removal. It also appears that the complaints from the New Mexico Republicans reached the highest levels of the White House, including Karl Rove.
We found that Senator Domenici called Attorney General Gonzales three times about Iglesias – in September 2005, January 2006, and April 2006. Domenici declined to be interviewed by us, and Gonzales’s testimony was vague about the substance of each of the three calls. However, Gonzales told us he recalled that Domenici questioned whether Iglesias should remain in his position as U.S. Attorney and mentioned voter fraud and public corruption cases as areas of concern.
In addition, in 2006 New Mexico Republican officials began complaining about Iglesias’s alleged delay in indicting a case, known as the courthouse case, against a prominent Democrat prior to the 2006 congressional mid-term election. However, the New Mexico AUSA handling the matter told us that the courthouse investigation was still ongoing at that time, that a great deal of work remained to be done before the case would be ready to indict, and that no one with any knowledge of the investigation would have described it as complete at that time.
In October 2006, shortly before the elections, the complaints about Iglesias intensified. On September 30, 2006, and October 2, 2006, New Mexico Republican political activist Mickey Barnett complained to Rove and others that Iglesias was not moving quickly enough on the courthouse case and was not prosecuting voter fraud cases before the election. According to Barnett, Rove said he was familiar with the complaints about Iglesias. On October 4, Senator Domenici called McNulty expressing concern about Iglesias’s lack of fitness for the job of U.S. Attorney.
Also in October 2006, according to Gonzales, Rove expressed concern to him about voter fraud in three jurisdictions, including Albuquerque, New Mexico. Gonzales said he mentioned the conversation to Sampson and asked him to look into it. In addition, on October 11 President Bush told Gonzales he was receiving complaints from congressmen regarding voter fraud in three jurisdictions (apparently the same three that Rove discussed with Gonzales). Although Gonzales told us he did not recall this conversation with the President, he did not dispute that it occurred. Sampson told congressional investigators that he recalled that after the removals became public, Gonzales told him that he recalled the President telling him in October that Domenici had concerns about Iglesias. Sampson said that Gonzales told him that Rove had concerns about voter fraud enforcement by U.S. Attorneys in Albuquerque, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee.
On October 15, Representative Heather Wilson sent an article to Senator Domenici’s Chief of Staff, Steve Bell, noting public corruption prosecutions in states other than New Mexico. Bell forwarded the complaint to the White House, stating that other U.S. Attorneys were able to “do their work in an election season.” The next day Wilson called Iglesias inquiring whether he was delaying public corruption investigations. Ten days later, around October 26, Senator Domenici called Iglesias about the courthouse case, and asked Iglesias if an indictment would be filed “before November.” When Iglesias responded that he did not think it would, Domenici said he was sorry to hear that and hung up.
Several days later, on November 7, Iglesias appeared on Sampson’s removal list for the first time. Sampson transmitted this list to the White House on November 15. Yet, even before the list was transmitted, the White House had apparently been informed that Iglesias’s name had been included on it.
We found that the Department officials who Sampson identified as being involved in the final stage of the U.S. Attorney removal process – Gonzales, McNulty, Goodling, and Elston – disclaimed any responsibility for causing Iglesias’s name to be placed on this list. McNulty stated to us that he did not add Iglesias to the list. Elston told us he did not recommend adding Iglesias to the list, although he assumed his removal had something to do with Senator Domenici’s call to McNulty. Goodling testified to Congress that she did not know who put Iglesias on the removal list.
When Gonzales was asked about Iglesias’s removal during his hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, he noted that Senator Domenici had lost confidence in Iglesias, and also said that “[n]ot having the confidence of the senior senator and the senior leadership in the Department was enough for me to lose confidence in Mr. Iglesias . . . .” However, Gonzales also testified that he hoped that Iglesias was not removed solely because of Domenici’s calls.
In Sampson’s congressional testimony, he disclaimed knowledge of how or why Iglesias was added to the removal list. He ultimately acknowledged that he added Iglesias to the list sometime between October 17 and November 7, 2006, but stated that he had no specific recollection of why he did so. He said that at the time he added Iglesias to the list he was aware that Senator Domenici had complained to Gonzales and McNulty about Iglesias, and that Gonzales had received some sort of complaint from Rove about voter fraud. He said he later learned that the President had raised similar concerns to Gonzales. However, Sampson stated to us that he did not know about the President’s comment when he put Iglesias on the removal list.
In sum, we believe the evidence shows that the complaints about Iglesias from New Mexico Republican politicians and party activists, both to the Department and to the White House, caused Sampson to place Iglesias on the removal list. Once Iglesias was on the list, none of the senior Department leaders questioned his inclusion or asked that he be taken off the list.
We believe that Senator Domenici’s complaints were the primary factor for Iglesias’s placement on the list. Although Gonzales and McNulty stated that Domenici never directly asked the Department to replace Iglesias, the nature of Domenici’s criticisms left little doubt that he wanted a new U.S. Attorney in New Mexico. Gonzales said that Domenici “complained about . . . whether or not Mr. Iglesias was capable of continuing in that position.” According to McNulty, Domenici criticized Iglesias’s handling of public corruption cases and said that Iglesias was “in over his head.” McNulty said that Domenici’s assertiveness and tone during the conversation were “striking.”
Yet, we found no evidence that anyone in the Department examined any of the complaints about Iglesias through any careful or objective analysis. Although Gonzales said he asked Sampson to look into Rove’s concerns about voter fraud enforcement in New Mexico, Gonzales never followed up with Sampson about his findings or to ensure that the complaints were objectively examined. McNulty said he did not take any steps to find out what had triggered Domenici’s telephone call or take any steps “of an investigative nature” in response. Gonzales told us that in retrospect he would have expected that someone would have looked into the complaints. Gonzales said “you can’t have, you know, a member of Congress calling and making an allegation and not checking it out and seeing whether or not there’s anything there to it.”
However, no one reached out to anyone in the U.S. Attorney’s Office or the FBI to ask about the voter fraud or public corruption cases, or whether Iglesias was inappropriately delaying an indictment in a prominent public corruption investigation. More importantly, no one in the Department ever asked Iglesias about these complaints, or why he had handled the cases the way he did.
Rather, Gonzales, McNulty, Sampson, and those involved in the decision to remove Iglesias accepted at face value that the complaints raised about Iglesias by New Mexico Republican officials were a sufficient reason to remove him. Because of complaints by political officials who had a political interest in the outcome of these voter fraud and public corruption cases, the Department removed Iglesias, an individual who had previously been viewed as a strong U.S. attorney.
We believe that these actions by Department officials were a troubling dereliction of their responsibility to protect the integrity and independence of prosecutorial decisions by the Department. These officials had an obligation to determine that the complaints about Iglesias and the suggestions that he be removed were not made to influence the investigation and prosecution of the courthouse case or the voter fraud cases. Yet, they took no action to look into the matter.
In our view, the primary responsibility for this dramatic failure rests with Attorney General Gonzales, Deputy Attorney General McNulty, and Chief of Staff Sampson. While Sampson placed Iglesias’s name on the removal list, neither Gonzales nor McNulty ensured that the complaints about Iglesias were appropriately and objectively assessed. Gonzales said he asked Sampson to look into the complaints, but never inquired about the outcome of any review or ensured that the complaints were fairly assessed. McNulty abdicated any responsibility for Iglesias’s removal, stating that he did not add Iglesias to the list, that he did not have any reason to recommend his removal at the time, and that he assumed whoever placed him on the list had an independent reason for doing so. But neither Gonzales nor McNulty inquired whether a Department prosecutor was being unfairly criticized for appropriately doing his job – weighing the evidence on particular cases in accord with the law and Department policy, and determining whether and when a prosecution was warranted.
We recognize that Senators and other political officials can recommend to the White House candidates for U.S. Attorney in their states, and they can use political factors in determining who to recommend. But once U.S. Attorneys assume office, they are obligated to put political considerations aside when making prosecutive judgments on individual cases. Inevitably, their decisions may displease the political officials who initially supported them.
If a U.S. Attorney must maintain the confidence of home-state political officials to avoid removal, regardless of the merits of the U.S. Attorney’s prosecutorial decisions, respect for the Department of Justice’s independence and integrity will be severely damaged and every U.S. Attorneys’ prosecutorial decisions will be suspect. The longstanding tradition of integrity and independent judgments by Department prosecutors will be undermined, and confidence that the Department of Justice decides who to prosecute based solely on the evidence and the law, without regard to political factors, will disappear.
In sum, we believe that Department’s actions in this case to remove Iglesias – based on complaints from New Mexico political officials and party activists about his handling of particular criminal cases and without any action to determine whether the complaints were legitimate or whether they were made in an effort to influence the initiation or the timing of an investigation or prosecution for political gain – were an abdication of senior Department leaders’ responsibilities, independence, and integrity.
First, we believe it is also important to point out that Iglesias was not completely blameless in this matter. Department policy requires that any requests from members of Congress or congressional staff (including telephone requests) to U.S. Attorney’s Offices for non-public information must be promptly reported to the Counsel to the Director of EOUSA. See Section 1-8.010 of the United States Attorneys’ Manual (USAM). This requirement is important because the Department needs to be aware of elected officials’ requests relating to both matters of policy and to ongoing or prospective investigations, in part to ensure the absence of political pressure or influence.
Iglesias acknowledged that he was aware of this requirement but that he did not report to EOUSA either Representative Wilson’s or Senator Domenici’s telephone calls. He said that he considered Wilson to be a friend, that he thought she had simply exercised poor judgment in calling him, and that he believed the matter would go no further. Iglesias also stated that he decided not to report Senator Domenici’s call out of a combination of personal admiration for the Senator and gratitude for his past assistance. Moreover, Iglesias said he believed that he was unlikely to be the winner in a dispute with Senator Domenici.
As Margolis later noted, had Iglesias reported these calls as he should have, it would have made it more difficult for the Department to remove him without first examining the substance of the complaints raised against him. Whether this is true or not, Iglesias should have reported the telephone calls from the members of Congress, as he later acknowledged to us, and his failure to do so violated Department policy.
Moreover, we found that Iglesias’s answer to the question Domenici posed in their telephone conversation was inappropriate. Iglesias acknowledged that he understood Domenici to be asking him about whether a grand jury indictment in a specific case – the courthouse case – would be filed before November. Iglesias should have told Domenici that he could not answer that question. Instead, he answered, “I don’t think so.” Although Iglesias told us that he was trying to be responsive without providing information, the words he used gave Domenici the answer to his question about the timing of the courthouse case indictment.
In contrast, according to Iglesias, when Wilson called him she said she had heard something about sealed indictments in public corruption cases, apparently seeking non-public information about the courthouse case, the only public corruption case that had been reported in the press at that time. Iglesias did not disclose any non-public information in response.
We believe that Iglesias committed misconduct both in answering Domenici’s question and in failing to report the contacts from Wilson and Domenici pursuant to Department policy. However, while we believe Iglesias committed misconduct, this does not excuse or mitigate in any way the Department’s actions in this matter.
Second, we are troubled by McNulty’s failure to discuss Senator Domenici’s call to him in his congressional briefing when he described the reasons for Iglesias’s removal. McNulty said he did not want to refer to Senator Domenici because he was “concerned about . . . putting the Senator in a bad light or in a difficult position” and that he wanted to keep the conversation between Domenici and him about Iglesias “confidential . . . . It was just a courtesy.” McNulty also attempted to defend his action by noting that he had disclosed in his briefing generic “congressional concerns” about Iglesias.
We disagree with McNulty’s actions, and do not believe that Senator Domenici’s call should have been kept confidential or that the Department owed the Senator any “courtesy” with regard to his multiple complaints about Iglesias, which led to Iglesias’s removal. Rather, McNulty and the Department owed Congress and the public a duty to provide full, honest, and complete testimony regarding this matter. McNulty failed to provide such testimony as a result of his misguided attempt to shield Domenici from criticism. And, as discussed above, not only did the Department fail to provide details about the real reason Iglesias was fired, it also proffered after-the-fact rationalizations for Iglesias’s termination, such as concerns with his management and that he was an “absentee landlord.”
Third, we were concerned about the accuracy and consistency of Sampson’s testimony before Congress and his statements to us about why Iglesias was placed on the removal list. Sampson claimed not to remember why Iglesias was placed on the list and disclaimed responsibility for the decision. In addition, his testimony was varying, vague, and sometimes contrary to the evidence, despite the fact that it concerned an event that happened only a few months before his testimony. For example, Sampson told the Senate Judiciary Committee that sometime after October 17, 2006, the Deputy Attorney General, his Chief of Staff, the Attorney General, and Goodling looked at the U.S. Attorneys whose 4-year terms had expired to determine whether additional names should be added to the removal list and, as a result, four names, including Iglesias, were added. According to Sampson, the other three names came off the removal list but Iglesias’s name remained “because nobody suggested that he come off.” In fact, only Iglesias’s name was added to the list between October 17 and November 7 – the three other names had already appeared on previous lists.
In his subsequent interview with House and Senate Judiciary staff, Sampson stated that he did not remember how Iglesias’s name first came to be placed on the list. Sampson also testified that Senator Domenici had made three calls to the Attorney General and one to McNulty regarding Iglesias and that these calls may have influenced the Department’s decision to remove Iglesias, but he did not recall whether they did.
In his interview with us, Sampson acknowledged that he put Iglesias’s name on the removal list, but said he did not remember putting it on the list and did not remember there being a specific reason for adding it. He also said he placed Iglesias on the list based on what he had heard about him in October 2006 regarding complaints from Senator Domenici, combined with bits and pieces of information he had learned about Iglesias before then. We question why Sampson could not remember the precise reason why he placed Iglesias on the removal list, given the relatively short passage of time since the incident, the fact that Iglesias’s name was the only one placed on the list at that time, and the high-profile nature of the contacts (three calls to the Attorney General and one to the Deputy Attorney General) from a Senator. Sampson’s other inaccurate explanations about why Iglesias was placed on the list, such as his over-delegation of authority to his First Assistant, also caused us to doubt the candor of his explanations, and we question whether he provided us the full story about Iglesias’s placement on the list.
We believe we were able to ascertain with reasonable assurance that the complaints from New Mexico Republican politicians and party activists about Iglesias’s handling of voter fraud and corruption cases were the reasons for his removal as U.S. Attorney. However, based upon our inability to compel the cooperation of certain witnesses and obtain White House documents, we were not able to identify the role the White House played in the decision to remove Iglesias. Nor could we uncover all the evidence regarding the role of congressional or New Mexico Republican party activists in Iglesias’s removal. As discussed above, we were not able to interview Senator Domenici, his Chief of Staff Steve Bell, Monica Goodling, and several White House officials, including Harriet Miers and Karl Rove. The White House also would not provide us internal documents related to the removals of U.S. Attorneys.
While Sampson said he did not place Iglesias on the list at the behest of the White House, his claimed recollection of the reasons for Iglesias’s removal was inconsistent and vague. In addition, Attorney General Gonzales did not dispute that he had conversations with the President and, separately, with Rove about voter fraud in several districts, including in New Mexico, although Gonzales said he did not recall the specifics of the conversations. The limited evidence we were able to obtain about the White House’s involvement in Iglesias’s removal showed that Rove was interested in and aware of the plan to remove Iglesias. Indeed on the morning of November 15, 2006, before Sampson sent his list to the White House with Iglesias’s name on it for the first time, Rove told Representative Wilson that the decision to remove Iglesias had already been made. Nevertheless, we were unable to determine Rove’s precise role. Moreover, it appears that Miers spoke to McNulty about Iglesias in the fall of 2006, although we could not determine when or what exactly was discussed.
Iglesias’s removal led to serious allegations that he was dismissed for improper partisan political reasons – namely, to influence voter fraud prosecutions in a closely divided state or to affect the timing of a public corruption case against a prominent Democrat in order to influence the outcome of the election. While we were able to obtain a significant amount of evidence related to Iglesias’s removal, we could not obtain all the evidence related to these allegations.
Therefore, we recommend that a counsel specially appointed by the Attorney General work with us to further investigate these issues. We believe obtaining this additional information is important for several related reasons.
First, it is important to be able to ascertain the full facts relating to why Iglesias, and other U.S. Attorneys, were removed.
Second, we believe this counsel should consider whether Sampson or other Department officials made false statements to Congress or to us about the reasons for the removal of Iglesias or other U.S. Attorneys. The false statements statute applies to any individual who “in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive [or] legislative . . . branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully – (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact; [or] (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation . . . .” 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a).128
As described above, we are concerned about Sampson’s testimony before Congress and his statements to us about the reasons for the removal of Iglesias, as well as his statements about other U.S. Attorneys. For example, while Sampson claimed he did not remember the reasons that Iglesias was placed on the removal list, and that he did not recall anyone at the White House, including Rove and Miers, suggesting that Iglesias needed to be removed, other evidence suggests White House involvement in Iglesias’s removal. We question why Sampson could not recall the precise reason why he placed Iglesias on the removal list, given the relatively short passage of time between the incident and his testimony, and the fact that Iglesias’s name alone was added, for the first time, to the November 2006 list. Moreover, Sampson’s other misleading after-the-fact explanations for why Iglesias was placed on the list caused us to further doubt the candor of Sampson’s explanations.
We believe that interviews of witnesses who refused to cooperate with us, such as Goodling, Rove, and Miers, and a review of White House documents would provide more evidence to determine whether Sampson or anyone else made false statements to Congress or to us about the reasons for the removals of Iglesias or the other U.S. Attorneys. Without such additional testimony and documents, we cannot fully assess the accuracy of testimony provided by Sampson and other Department officials to us or Congress.
Third, we believe a full investigation is necessary to determine whether other federal criminal statutes were violated with regard to the removal of Iglesias. For example, Iglesias and others have alleged that he was removed in retaliation for his failure to accelerate the indictment of a public corruption case and his alleged failure to initiate voter fraud investigations. Iglesias said that Representative Wilson, who was running for reelection in a close race, called him before the 2006 election and asked him about delays in public corruption cases being handled by his office, apparently referring to the courthouse case. In addition, Iglesias believed that Senator Domenici attempted to pressure him to indict the courthouse case before the election in order to benefit Wilson, and when Iglesias declined to do so Domenici engineered his removal. The evidence we have developed so far shows that Wilson and Domenici in fact called Iglesias shortly before the election, and that the substance of the calls led Iglesias to believe he was being pressured to indict the courthouse case before the upcoming election. Moreover, New Mexico Republican politicians and party activists contacted Iglesias, the Department, and the White House to complain about Iglesias’s handling of voter fraud investigations and public corruption cases.
It is possible that those seeking Iglesias’s removal did so simply because they believed he was not competently prosecuting worthwhile cases. However, if they attempted to pressure Iglesias to accelerate his charging decision in the courthouse case or to initiate voter fraud investigations to affect the outcome of the upcoming election, their conduct may have been criminal. The obstruction of justice statute makes it a crime for any person who “corruptly . . . influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct or impede, the due administration of justice . . . .” 18 U.S.C. § 1503(a). While we found no case charging a violation of the obstruction of justice statute involving an effort to accelerate a criminal prosecution for partisan political purposes, we believe that pressuring a prosecutor to indict a case more quickly to affect the outcome of an upcoming election could be a corrupt attempt to influence the prosecution in violation of the obstruction of justice statute. The same reasoning could apply to pressuring a prosecutor to take partisan political considerations into account in his charging decisions in voter fraud matters.
In addition, the wire fraud statute bars “any scheme or artifice to defraud” that is furthered by the use of interstate wire communications. 18 U.S.C. § 1343. A “scheme or artifice to defraud” includes “a scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.” 18 U.S.C. § 1346. The elements of an honest services wire fraud case are: (1) a scheme or artifice to defraud by depriving another of the intangible right of honest services; (2) an intent to defraud; and (3) the use of interstate wire communications to execute the scheme. See generally United States v. Sawyer, 85 F.3d 713, 723-727 (1st Cir. 1996); United States v. Welch, 327 F.3d 1081, 1104 (10th Cir. 2003). An individual who conspires or attempts to induce a public official to violate a public duty can be prosecuted for wire fraud. See 18 U.S.C. § 1349.
As a United States Attorney, Iglesias had a duty to prosecute cases without regard to his own professional or personal considerations, and without regard to partisan political considerations. See United States Attorneys’ Manual § 9-27.000 (Principles of Federal Prosecution) and § 9-27.260 (A)(3) (Initiating and Declining Charges – Impermissible Considerations). If anyone used interstate wire communications to pressure Iglesias to take partisan political considerations into account in his charging decision in the courthouse case, that could violate the wire fraud statute.
Senator Domenici declined our request for an interview. So did his Chief of Staff, who was involved in both fielding and making complaints about Iglesias’s handling of the courthouse case and voter fraud matters and thus should have knowledge about whether there were efforts to influence Iglesias to consider partisan political factors in his charging decisions. Although Wilson consented to be interviewed, she refused to tell us the identity of the constituent who allegedly told her that Iglesias was intentionally delaying public corruption prosecutions in her district. An interview of that person could potentially provide evidence regarding Wilson’s intent in calling Iglesias and complaining to others about him.
In addition, the evidence indicates that Monica Goodling may have knowledge of the nature of the complaints about Iglesias to Department officials or the White House, and the reasons for Iglesias’s removal, but she also refused to cooperate with our investigation. Moreover, we were unable to interview Rove and Miers about the complaints that reached them about Iglesias and any actions they took in response. Nor have we been able to review relevant White House documents, such as the Scudder memorandum and internal e-mails.
We want to make clear that we are not stating that the evidence we have uncovered thus far establishes that a violation of the false statements, obstruction of justice, or wire fraud statutes has occurred. However, we believe that the evidence collected in this investigation is not complete, and that serious allegations involving potential criminal conduct have not been fully investigated or resolved.
We recommend that a counsel specially appointed by the Attorney General assess the facts we have uncovered, work with us to conduct further investigation, and ultimately determine whether the totality of the evidence demonstrates that any criminal offense was committed. Because we do not have the authority to compel witness testimony or the production of documents from the White House, we cannot pursue this investigation further on our own. We believe that this matter should be fully investigated, the facts and conclusions fully developed, and final decisions made based on all the evidence.
Iglesias hired as his Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney (EAUSA) Rumaldo Armijo, a former colleague from both the state Attorney General’s Office and Albuquerque city government. Iglesias hired Larry Gomez, a career prosecutor who had been with the New Mexico U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) since 1979 as the First Assistant U.S. Attorney and Criminal Chief.
When he chaired the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee in February 2005, Mercer had recommended to Sampson that Iglesias and several other subcommittee chairs be replaced because Mercer did not think they were as effective chairmen as Mercer thought they should be. However, Mercer told us that while some of the names on Sampson’s U.S. Attorney removal list did not surprise him when he first saw the list on December 5, 2006, he had not expected to see Iglesias on the list.
However, as detailed below, Margolis told us he was certain that he told Sampson about these allegations only after Iglesias was removed. Margolis said he only became aware of Iglesias’s delegation of authority to his First Assistant when he interviewed a replacement for Iglesias after his removal.
Patrick Rogers, a New Mexico Republican Party activist who complained about Iglesias to Department and White House officials, notified us through his attorney that he would not agree to be interviewed. In one letter, he also stated that he would “consider providing testimony to DOJ, but only if the interview is conducted in public.”
Margolis told us that during the preparation sessions for McNulty’s testimony everyone agreed that Iglesias’s absences from the office as a result of his military duty were “honorable” and not the reason why Iglesias was deemed to be an absentee landlord.
The terms “voter registration fraud,” “voter fraud,” and “election fraud,” generally refer to practices such as fraudulently registering persons who are not eligible to vote, paying individuals to vote, attempting to vote multiple times, or impersonating a non-voting legitimately registered voter.
The results of several recent presidential and congressional elections in New Mexico were extremely close, and the state was almost evenly balanced between votes for Republicans and Democrats. For example, in the 2000 presidential election Al Gore received 286,783 votes and George Bush received 286,417 votes, a difference of 366 votes. In 2006, incumbent House of Representative member Heather Wilson received 105,986 votes and her Democratic challenger Patricia Madrid received 105,125 votes, a difference of 861 votes. The New Mexico Republican Party became increasingly concerned about allegations of voter fraud in New Mexico, because it believed such fraud benefited Democrats by increasing the number of Democratic voters. As a result, Republican Party officials and activists began asking Iglesias to take action to address those concerns.
Iglesias told us that Rogers had represented Iglesias’s campaign for Attorney General pro bono in 1998 when Iglesias contested a fine imposed by the state for late reporting of campaign contributions. Rogers also represented the Wilson campaign in 2006.
Sheriff White referred several voter fraud complaints to the New Mexico USAO in early August 2004, including a case that received significant attention in the local press involving the registrations of a 13- and a 15-year-old. White is currently a Republican candidate for Congress in one of New Mexico’s three congressional districts.
Around this time, in a letter dated September 8, 2004, Senator Domenici complained to the Department’s Civil Rights Division that incidents of voter registration fraud in New Mexico raised “serious concerns about the integrity of the upcoming elections.” The Senator’s letter was referred to the Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs, which sent a generic response on November 23, 2004, stating that the Department investigates such allegations and “where appropriate” prosecutes them. We found no evidence that the Department took any other action in response to the letter.
On the day the Task Force was announced, Rogers sent an e-mail to Iglesias criticizing the task force approach and attaching a copy of a deposition Rogers took of the employee from the Secretary of State’s Office assigned to the Task Force in a lawsuit contesting the state’s interpretation of a voter identification law.
ACORN, an acronym for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, describes itself as “the largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities.” One of ACORN’s projects is to register new voters.
Because of the political nature of this and other e-mails he received from Rogers and Weh, Iglesias had previously asked them to use his personal e-mail account for these types of e-mails. However, both Rogers and Weh continued to contact Iglesias on occasion through his government e-mail account.
The AUSA who tried the Vigil case told us that USAO management considered issuing a public response to Madrid’s action, but ultimately decided the better course was not to respond to the state indictments. Iglesias told us that he and his First Assistant were concerned that a public statement would be seized on by either the Madrid or the Wilson campaign and that the USAO would be accused of trying to affect the election.
The USAO did not begin to try the Vigil case until May 2006, and we believe that Attorney General Gonzales was incorrect when he stated that Senator Domenici’s 2005 call concerned public corruption matters. We found no evidence of complaints about Iglesias’s handling of public corruption matters until after the first Vigil trial concluded. We believe it is likely that all of Domenici’s calls to Gonzales, not just one of the later ones as Gonzales testified, concerned the voter fraud issue. However, we were unable to interview Domenici about this matter, and Gonzales told us that he did not have a specific recollection of which matter was discussed in which call.
On March 29, 2007, 1 month after Iglesias left office, the New Mexico U.S. Attorney’s Office obtained an indictment charging Manny Aragon and three others with mail fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy in connection with the courthouse case. Also, on that day, the USAO announced plea agreements with three other defendants in the case. On August 23, 2007, the grand jury returned a 28-count superseding indictment, adding an additional defendant. The case is still pending trial.
USAM Section 1-8.010 requires that all congressional requests to U.S. Attorney’s Offices for information about or assistance with non-public matters must promptly be reported to the Counsel to the Director of EOUSA.
Yet, Friedrich told us that he did not tell Sampson about the complaints from Rogers and Barnett until February 28, 2007, the day of Iglesias’s press conference, which was well after he was told to resign. On that date, Friedrich was traveling with Gonzales, Sampson, and AAG Fisher to a meeting in San Diego. Fisher, who was seated at the front of the plane with Gonzales and Sampson, called him to the front and asked what he knew about voter fraud in New Mexico. Friedrich said he gave them a brief account of his meeting with Rogers and Barnett, and related what Campbell had told him about New Mexico and other districts. However, Friedrich told us that he is certain that he did not tell Sampson about Rogers and Barnett before then because he regarded their complaints as unsubstantiated. We concluded that Sampson did not learn about this complaint until after Iglesias had been removed.
Shortly after receiving the December 7 call from Battle, Iglesias spoke by telephone with U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton from the Western District of Texas, the Chair of the AGAC. Iglesias told Sutton about the call and asked for his advice. According to Iglesias, Sutton said, “This is political. If I were you, I’d go quietly.” Sutton told us he remembers the conversation, but said that if he used the word “political,” it would have been in the context of, “we’re all political appointees, and there’s not a lot we can do if they ask us to leave.” He stated that he had no advance knowledge of any political considerations that may have been behind Iglesias’s removal.
Iglesias told us that he made the reference requests because he was trying to understand why he had been fired. He said he reasoned that if he had been fired for poor performance, neither official would have been willing to serve as a reference.
With regard to investigations by Congress, the statute applies to “any investigation or review, conducted pursuant to the authority of any committee, subcommittee, commission or office of the Congress, consistent with applicable rules of the House or Senate.” 18 U.S.C. § 1001(c)(2).