Reporting from Washington — The lead investigator lacks evidence to bring criminal charges in U.S. Atty. David C. Iglesias' ouster in New Mexico and to determine whether Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales committed perjury.
The Justice Department announced Wednesday that "no criminal charges are warranted" against officials in the George W. Bush administration for the firing of nine U.S. attorneys four years ago, which led to allegations of improper political pressure and ultimately cost Alberto R. Gonzales his job as attorney general.
The decision, revealed in a letter to Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, brings to a close any consideration of criminal misconduct in what became one of the most searing political controversies in the Bush administration.
Ronald Welch, an assistant attorney general, said in his letter to Conyers that Nora R. Dannehy, an assistant prosecutor from Connecticut who led the investigation, was unable to unearth enough evidence to bring criminal charges pertaining to the ouster of U.S. Atty. David C. Iglesias in New Mexico, and determine whether "misleading statements" from Gonzales and other top Justice Department officials were tantamount to perjury.
Welch said the investigation did find that Gonzales made a "series of statements" that were "inaccurate and misleading" about the firings after they became a political scandal in Washington. He said D. Kyle Sampson, then a top Justice Department official, also made "various misleading statements."
However, Welch said there was "insufficient evidence to establish that persons knowingly made false statements or corruptly endeavored to obstruct justice."
He said the investigative team also determined that the evidence did not warrant expanding the scope of the investigation beyond the removal of Iglesias.
Iglesias asserted after his removal in 2006 along with eight of his colleagues that it appeared to be politically motivated because then-Sen. Pete V. Domenici, a New Mexico Republican, called him about the status of a corruption inquiry that, had it been moving faster, could have helped a GOP candidate.
Welch said the "weight of the evidence established not an attempt to influence but rather an attempt to remove David Iglesias from office, in other words, to eliminate the possibility of any future action or inaction by him."
"It is clear that Ms. Dannehy's determination is not an exoneration of Bush officials in the U.S. attorney matter as there is no dispute that these firings were totally improper and that misleading testimony was given to Congress in an effort to cover them up," Conyers said in a statement.