The canard that San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol Lam was fired for weakness on immigration prosecutors rather than for pursuing Republican corruption was exposed further Sunday by Senator Chuck Schumer on Meet the Press and by Senator Dianne Feinstein on Face the Nation. Schumer and Feinstein both offered evidence that it was Lam's prosecution of Randy "Duke" Cunningham and his posse that led to Lam's demise.
Late last week right wing bloggers made much of the fact that Lam's record on immigration was the subject of negative comments in the DOJ before the Cunningham prosecution had even began. Patterico started it with a critique of this L.A. Times article that muddled the dates up a bit itself, and soon the theory was bouncing around the house of mirrors from David Frum at National Review Online to Tom Maguire guestblogging on Instapundit.
However, in this case, timing does not tell the whole story because the complaints about Lam's lack of immigration prosecutions had died down. They only reemerged as a smokescreen after Lam moved Cunningham from the Duke-Stir to the actual stir and was actively investigating Cunningham's pal, CIA official Kyle Dustin "Dusty" Foggo. Even right-wing viper Rep. Darrell Issa, who had long criticized Lam, has trouble with the story that her dismissal was unrelated to her investigation of Republican corruption.
On Meet the Press, Sen. Schumer discussed DOJ testimony that indicates that Lam's immigration prosecution record was not a matter of concern by 2006, when she was pursuing Cunningham and friends:
MR. RUSSERT: Where specifically did a U.S. attorney stop investigating or was a criminal justice case interrupted because of one of their removals?
SEN. SCHUMER: The most notorious is the Southern District of California, San Diego. Ms. Lam, the U.S. attorney, had already brought about the conviction of Duke Cunningham. It came out in the newspapers that she was continuing to pursue that investigation and it might lead to others, legislative and others. And in the middle of this investigation, she was fired. So I asked the deputy attorney general, "Why was she fired?" He said, "Well, she wasn't doing enough immigration re-entry cases." I said, "Really?" She--he said, did you tell--I asked him, "Did you tell her?" She said yes. I said, "Well, did she improve?" This was back in the summer. "Did she improve?" He said, "I have no idea."
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: . . . let me speak about Carol Lam . . . on May- I think it was May 10th, she sent a notice to the Justice Department Saying there would be two search warrants sent in the case of "Dusty" Foggo and a defense contractor. That-the next day, an e-mail went from the Justice Department saying, "we have a real problem with Carol Lam.
The notice of intent to serve a warrant apparently is an addition to the TPM list of events involving Lam and Foggo. According to this TPM timeline, Foggo's home and office were searched the day after the "real problem" e-mail, , May 12, 2006. TPM also points out that this August 2006 letter from DOJ to Sen. Feinstein indicated that the immigration issue was a thing of the past. TPM also linked to this article further describing the Feinstein interview.
So it does not matter, as Patterico and Maguire think it does, whether Lam was being criticized for lax immigration prosecution in March 2005. What matters is that by May 2006, the DOJ did not care about immigration prosecution, it cared about corruption investigations of the GOP and its cronies.
There is confusion about whether Lam was investigating a second GOP Congressman, Jerry Lewis. News reports indicate that the Lewis investigation was being conducted by Los Angeles U.S. Attorney Debra Yang because Lewis' office was in Yang's jurisdiction. Sunday, Donna Brazile repeated on This Week that Lam was investigating Lewis. Presumably, these investigations may have been linked and could have been coordinated, but I am not aware of any public information that this was the case. Yang herself was quoted in the L.A. Times as being puzzled why anyone in Washington would be upset with Lam over the Lewis investigation. Perhaps the answer is the presumably related Foggo investigation.
The "real problem" with Yang apparently was handled differently. Congressman Lewis's attorneys removed Yang from the case by paying her $1.5 million (according to the Recorder, a legal newspaper) to go to work for them. BTW, in California anyway, this trick only works when you are hiring government attorneys, who can then be prevented from spilling the government's beans by an "ethical wall." If a private attorney changed sides like this, the firm he or she joined would be presumed to have gained access to confidential information and the entire firm would be disqualified from continuing the representation.
Follow Stephen Kaus on Twitter: www.twitter.com/stephenkaus