Salon.com (watch a short ad for a day pass)
Justice Department leaders have vigorously denied that the firings (of eight US Attorneys) were politically motivated. "I would never, ever make a change in the United States attorney position for political reasons," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in Senate testimony in early January. In a Feb. 6 hearing, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told lawmakers, "When I hear you talk about the politicizing of the Department of Justice, it's like a knife in my heart."
But at least three of the eight fired attorneys were told by a superior they were being forced to resign to make jobs available for other Bush appointees, according to a former senior Justice Department official knowledgeable about their cases. That stands in contradiction to administration claims that the firings were related either to job performance or policy differences. A fourth U.S. attorney was told by a top Justice Department official that the dismissal in that attorney's case was not necessarily related to job performance.
[..]Former officials, legal scholars and U.S. lawmakers from both parties have publicly questioned the administration's stated rationale for the firings and have suggested troubling theories about the real reasons for the purge, which experts say is without precedent. Some former Justice Department officials say they believe the administration's moves are a politically driven power grab -- aimed not only at a tighter grip on policy from Washington, but also at creating openings with which to reward their friends and build up a bench of conservative loyalists positioned to serve in powerful posts in future administrations.
[..]Incoming presidents are known to overhaul the corps of U.S. attorneys installed by prior administrations. Upon taking office, both Presidents Clinton and Bush replaced nearly all of the head prosecutors serving in the Justice Department's 94 districts nationwide. But it is rare for even one U.S. attorney to otherwise be dismissed during a president's term -- and in this case, all those dismissed by Bush were his own appointees.
Experts see a continuing pattern that began long ago: A Bush White House seizing greater executive power to the detriment of democratic principle.
Dallas Morning News is reporting that one US Attorney, David Iglesias (apparently the inspiration for the Tom Cruise character in A Few Good Men), is absolutely claiming that he was fired for NOT PURSUING CASES AGAINST DEMOCRATS MORE STRONGLY. (h/t ysbaddaden)