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Power of attorneys

"Power of attorneys" Continued...

Issue: "Street warfare," April 7, 2007

In an attempt to explain why such information took so long to surface, Moschella noted that "the Department-out of respect for the U.S. attorneys at issue-would have preferred not to talk at all about those reasons, but disclosures in the press and requests for information from Congress altered those best laid plans." He added that "just because you might disagree with a decision, does not mean it was made for improper political reasons-there were appropriate reasons for each decision."

Moschella did not offer explanations for the removals of Margaret Chiara of Michigan or Kevin Ryan of San Francisco, but some media outlets have speculated that the pair's reluctance to seek the death penalty in murder trials may have played a role.

Justice Department emails hint that a little-publicized 2006 addition to the Patriot Act provided another potential motive for the eight firings: The provision allowed the attorney general to appoint replacement U.S. attorneys permanently without nomination by the president or confirmation from the Senate. The House and Senate have since passed bills with overwhelming majorities striking down that measure.

Democratic leaders now aim to strike down Gonzales, but even success in that ambitious objective will not foster resolution. Sen. Chuck Schumer intends to mount a long, drawn-out investigation in hopes of coloring the 2008 presidential campaign with a massive Republican scandal.

The Bush administration stands in a tough spot of its own making: How to apologize for a botched cover-up yet continue to insist there is nothing to hide? Professor Jonathan Turley of the George Washington School of Law is astonished at the level of mishandling needed to generate such a sticky predicament: "This is not one train wreck. This is a train wreck where people rush to the scene and crash the train again."

-with reporting by Becky Perry in Washington, D.C.

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