Legal Brief

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Arizona Democrats are piling on U.S. Attorney Alberto Gonzales, who appears to be living beneath the shadow of what Hunter S. Thompson once called the million-pound shithammer.

Yesterday, Arizona Democratic Party Chairman David Waid sent out a letter to Sens. Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter calling for an investigation into whether Paul Charlton, the U.S. attorney for Arizona, was forced out because he began an investigation into Republican Rick Renzi.

The letter reads in part:

It has recently come to light that Paul Charlton, the United States Attorney for the district of Arizona, opened an investigation into Congressman Richard Renzi directly before he was asked to leave office. Through subpoenaed White House e-mails, we have learned that our U.S. Attorney was placed on the White House’s now infamous “black list” soon after initiating the investigation into Renzi’s alleged corruption.

The investigation into allegations of bribery and vote-selling by Congressman Renzi has since remained out of the public eye and no progress has been reported. The investigation raises deeply disturbing questions about behavior that is potentially criminal and absolutely undermines the confidence of Arizonans in their federal government.

Today, Congressman Raul Grijalva demanded in a letter to President George W. Bush that Gonzales be canned.

Mr. Gonzales has lost the confidence of the American people and is no longer credible in the this post, which requires him to serve, above all, the law, the Constitution and the American people, not the White House’s political agenda or you personally. The highest law enforcement officer in the land must be beyond even the appearance of impropriety, and Mr. Gonzales, clearly, no longer meets this minimal standard to hold the office.

The Arizona Republic’s Mike Madden and Dennis Wagner tackle the story today.

It's obvious that Charlton wasn't fired so the Bush administration could install a political hack, as happened in some of the other cases. So why did he get the ax? The excuses offered so far, as the Republic story shows, keep changing, which makes the theory that he was forced out for investigating Renzi increasingly plausible ...

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