Days after his non-denial denial of having called fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to pressure him to indict a Democrat before November's elections, New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici has suddenly remembered that, well, ok, he did call Iglesias. Only he definitely didn't pressure him or anything.
Domenici also said he had told the Justice Department that U.S. Attorney David C. Iglesias should be replaced, but said that occurred prior to the call about the criminal investigation of Democrats.
"In retrospect, I regret making that call and I apologize," Domenici said in a statement. "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."
So then why deny it, if the call was so blameless? Couldn't be because it was a possible ethics violation, could it?
Stanley Brand, an ethics lawyer who served as House counsel in the 1980s, said Iglesias's allegation could result in internal congressional ethics probes. "It's going to precipitate a huge problem," Brand said, warning also of a potential review by the Justice Department.
At Talking Points Memo, David Kurtz analyzes Domenici's admission.
Well, when a U.S. Senator--a senior Senator from your own party, no less--calls you about a case, you can be damn sure it's not a social call. Here's what Domenici says transpired on the call:
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.
What timeframe "we" were looking at? The royal "we." It's just us Republicans here, old boy. Notice too that Domenici's version of events doesn't preclude him having abruptly hung up the phone, as Iglesias claims.
Domenici is up for re-election in 2008; his recent bizarre behavior had already made it seem likely he'd be weakened if he ran again, and there was speculation about whether he'd do so. A public scandal and possible ethics investigation has to figure into his thinking about that. Meanwhile, the firing of Iglesias and 6 other U.S. attorneys continues to gain steam as a story, with House Judiciary Committee hearings coming up on Tuesday.