- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2007

A former federal prosecutor yesterday told a Senate panel that he was fired after Republican lawmakers called him and voiced concern about the sluggish pace of a corruption probe of New Mexico Democrats last year.

David C. Iglesias told committee members he felt “leaned on” by Sen. Pete V. Domenici and Rep. Heather A. Wilson of New Mexico.

Mrs. Wilson “wanted to talk about sealed indictments,” said Mr. Iglesias, an appointee of President Bush. “I felt leaned on. I felt pressure to get these things moving.”

Mr. Iglesias said Mr. Domenici hung up on him when told not to expect any indictments before the November elections.

While campaigning for re-election, Mrs. Wilson cast her Democratic opponent, Attorney General Patricia Madrid, as soft on corruption.

The Justice Department firings of Mr. Iglesias and seven other U.S. prosecutors are shaping up to be the first major investigation by the Democrat-led Congress.

“They were fired for no reason — or worse, a political agenda,” Chairman Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said at the opening of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Justice Department officials say the prosecutors were fired for performance-related issues.

“This may take a lot of time and a lot of hearings,” said Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the committee’s ranking Republican.

Mr. Domenici and Mrs. Wilson said they did not intend to pressure Mr. Iglesias about his case.

“In the fall of last year, I was told by a constituent with knowledge of ongoing investigations that U.S. Attorney David Iglesias was intentionally delaying corruption prosecutions,” Mrs. Wilson said yesterday.

“My call was not about any particular case or person, nor was it motivated by politics or partisanship. I did not ask about the timing of any indictments and I did not tell Mr. Iglesias what course of action I thought he should take or pressure him in any way.”

Federal law-enforcement sources said some lawmakers were concerned about Mr. Iglesias’ failure to convict David Hudak on arms dealing charges and his ability to convict former state Treasurer Robert Vigil on only one of 23 counts of extortion.

The House’s ethics manual says the House and Senate recognize that a request for background information or a status report “may in effect be an indirect or subtle effort to influence the substantive outcome of the proceedings.”

Carol Lam, a 2002 Bush appointee who oversaw the successful bribery prosecution of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, California Republican, told the panel that she felt her termination was connected to complaints by a Republican legislator.

The Justice Department issued a request for her dismissal in January for not aggressively pursuing the prosecution of border crimes.

“I don’t think anything we’ve done has been inconsistent with the mandates of the department,” Mrs. Lam said. She said Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, called the Justice Department to question her efforts.

c Jerry Seper contributed to this story, which is based in part on wire service reports.


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