GOP Sen. Domenici Hit By the Senate Ethics Committee
by Jonathan Singer, Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 01:14:01 PM EDT
It's been over a year since New Mexico's longtime Republican Senator Pete Domenici was implicated in the prosecutor purge scandal -- a scandal that in no small part helped lead to his decision to retire rather than run for reelection -- but now the chickens are really coming home to roost: Domenici has been admonished by the Senate ethics panel.
The Senate Ethics Committee today issued GOP Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico a "public letter of qualified admonition" for his involvement in the Justice Department's firing of several US Attorneys last year. It was a scandal that helped lead to the resignation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
In March of 2007, former US Attorney David Iglesias testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Domenici had called him at home asking about an ongoing investigation of Democrats in the senator's home state of New Mexico. Iglesias said Domenici wanted to know the timing of indictments.
According to the transcript from the hearing, the US Attorney said the senator asked, "'Are these going to be filed before November?' And I said I didn't think so, to which [Domenici] replied, 'I'm very sorry to hear that.'" Iglesias then said, "the line went dead."
Domenici later apologized for the call, but said he did not pressure Iglesias to move on the case. The 75-year-old senator has since announced his retirement saying he was diagnosed with a dementia type brain ailment.
The committee said it "finds no substantial evidence to determine that you attempted to improperly influence an ongoing investigation." But it did find that Domenici should have known his actions "created an appearance of impropriety that reflected unfavorable on the Senate."
It's not clear what, if any impact this news would have at this point; Democratic Congressman Tom Udall already appears on the inside track to replacing Domenici in the Senate despite Republican hopes of either Congresswoman Heather Wilson or Congressman Steve Pearce winning the New Mexico Senate race in November. Nevertheless, this news does at least round out the story and suggest that a United States Senator cannot attempt to bully a United States Attorney for political reasons and get away unscathed, either in the electoral realm (with Domenici not running for reelection) or in the public realm (with Domenici being publicly admonished by the Senate).