[No Comment ]U.S. Attorneys Scandal—San Diego | Harper's Magazine

Sign in to access Harper’s Magazine

Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?

  1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
  2. Select Email/Password Information.
  3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.

Locked out of your account? Get help here.

Subscribers can find additional help here.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!

Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
Subscribe for Full Access
Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
[No Comment]

U.S. Attorneys Scandal—San Diego


The San Diego Union-Tribune has secured a thirteen-page document in which former U.S. Attorney Carol Lam answers follow up questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Lam lost her job after successfully prosecuting Rep. “Duke” Cunningham, now widely viewed as the single most corrupt political figure in the history of the U.S. Congress – and a Republican. Her inquiries also led to the indictment of “Dusty” Foggo, the right-hand man of short-term CIA Director Porter Goss, and of a contractor at the heart of a corruption scandal focusing on the intelligence and defense contracts. Internal email traffic points to her being dismissed for reasons which could “not be discussed” in email – just as her office started an inquiry in corruption surrounding contracts in which the office of Vice President Dick Cheney was involved. It’s abundantly clear at this point that her dismissal was part of a crude effort to shut down an expanding corruption investigation that involved no less than three Republican office holders, and potentially also the White House.

The Union-Tribune describes the brusque manner in which she was dismissed:

A few days after learning last December that she was to submit her resignation effective Jan. 31, Lam asked Michael Battle, then the head of the U.S. attorney executive office, for extra time to ensure “an orderly transition” especially regarding pending investigations and several significant cases that were set to begin trial in the next few months, Lam wrote in her answers.

At the time, Lam was investigating corruption cases stemming from her successful prosecution of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the Rancho Santa Fe Republican who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges after admitting to taking more than $2.4 million in bribes. Cunningham was sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison. Besides Lam, four other prosecutors were presiding over corruption investigations when they were dismissed. About a month passed when Lam got a call from Michael Elston.. telling her that her request for extra time was “not being received positively” and that she “should stop thinking in terms of the cases in the office.”

“He insisted that I had to depart in a matter of weeks, not months, and that these instructions were ‘coming from the very highest level of the government,'” Lam wrote. To add insult, Battle later accused Lam of prematurely leaking her departure to the press, Lam wrote, then criticized her for speaking with other dismissed U.S. attorneys about their firings.

Elston (who was the chief of staff to Paul J. McNulty, the Deputy Attorney General) apparently called several dismissed U.S. attorneys warning them that bad things would happen if they talked about what was done to them. He counseled them to be silent and to evade Congressional inquiries – upholding the honor code of omertà that is now the hallmark of the Gonzales Justice Department.

More from