By: E&P Staff
White House press secretary Tony Snow told reporters today that it was no longer clear who first came up with the idea of dismissing a large number of the 93 federal prosecutors two years ago.
“The White House retreated today from its claim that former counsel Harriet E. Miers first came up with the idea of firing U.S. attorneys, another apparent shift in the Bush administration’s evolving version of events behind the controversy,” the Washington Post reports this afternoon.
Snow said at a briefing: “It has been described as her idea but . . . I don’t want to try to vouch for origination. At this juncture, people have hazy memories.”
The Post related: “Snow and other administration officials have said for the past four days that Miers first suggested firing all U.S. attorneys. They have cited e-mails from a Justice Department official on the topic and the recollection of presidential adviser Karl Rove.”
Snow was also asked whether Bush might have suggested the firings. “Anything’s possible,” he said, “but I don’t think so.” He said Bush “certainly has no recollection of any such thing. . . . I want you to be clear here: don’t be dropping it at the president’s door.”
From the transcript.
Q: Tony, you addressed this yesterday, the question about loyalty and how much that factors in … into the role U.S. attorneys play. You know, these emails are coming out, and this other one about the ‘Bushies,’ et cetera. What is the role of loyalty in how U.S. attorneys perform?
SNOW: Again, if you want to take a look … let’s first go back to that particular memo, because in the sentence before it says, “This is an operational matter. We’d like to replace 15 to 20 percent of the current U.S. attorneys, the underperforming ones.” No mention of political loyalty; it’s performance. So I think …
Q: But the next line says …
SNOW: Then it says, “This is a rough guess. We might want to consider doing performance evaluations after Judge comes on board. The vast majority of U.S. attorneys, 80-85 percent, I would guess, are doing a great job, loyal Bushies,” et cetera. I mean, I don’t see in there that there is political loyalty tests. It’s a characterization.
Q: Oh, come on. That seems to define a good job as political loyalty … the loyal Bushies.
SNOW: No, I don’t think so. It talked about underperforming, and then it talks about the history of these things. If you take a look … what you’re trying to do is cherry-pick your phrase.