[JURIST] David Iglesias, former US Attorney [DOJ backgrounder] for the District of New Mexico [official website], told reporters [McClatchy Newspapers report] Wednesday that he received two phone calls in October from federal lawmakers pressuring him to speed up indictments of local Democrats under investigation for a kickback scheme in time for the November elections. Iglesias and six other US Attorneys, who had been probing corruption among Republicans, subsequently received phone calls on December 7 saying that they were being fired, without explanation. Iglesias says he was fired for his failure to rush the indictment. Another US Attorney in Michigan announced her resignation last week [Washington Post report], reporting that she also received a call in December. The firings have sparked arguments about the power of the US Attorney General to indefinitely appoint replacement prosecutors, and also allegations that the firings were politically charged. Democrats announced Wednesday that they would seek testimony from the eight US Attorneys fired [AP report]. Iglesias' allegations will likely cause the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] to call on him to testify.
During a hearing [testimony] last month, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty denied that the firings were politically motivated [JURIST report], although he did admit that several were fired without cause. Also last month, the US Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send a bill to the Senate floor [JURIST report] which would permit US district courts to appoint temporary US Attorneys when those spots become vacant, reversing a provision in the Patriot Act reauthorization [JURIST report; HR 3199 text, PDF] that allowed the US attorney general to replace fired US Attorneys indefinitely. The Washington Post has more. The Albuquerque Tribune has local coverage.