Video: Fired U.S. attorney on Rove, Gonzales

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updated 4/24/2007 7:38:26 PM ET 2007-04-24T23:38:26

On Tuesday's Hardball, fired U.S. attorney David Iglesias told "Hardball" host Chris Matthews his complaint to the Office of Special Counsel may have resulted in starting the "ball rolling" into the current investigation of Karl Rove's activities.

"There may be other complainants that I’m not aware of," Iglesias said.  "But I believe my complaints are at least a partial basis for that."

Iglesias also went into his theories about his dismissal and shared his thoughts on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' recent testimony before Congress.

You can read a transcript of the conversation below or click on the video to the right to watch the interview.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:  On the phone right now is David Iglesias, who was fired from his post as a U.S. attorney in New Mexico. 

Mr. Iglesias, was your complaint to the Office of Special Counsel the reason for this investigation of Karl Rove? 

DAVID IGLESIAS, FIRED U.S. ATTORNEY: It—it—it could have started the ball rolling, yes.  This is something I filed back on April 3 of this year. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, April 3 is not that long ago. 

What—what, in terms of the timeline, leads you to believe that your - that your complaint led to this probe? 

IGLESIAS:  Well, based on Special Counsel having powers to investigate where the evidence goes. 

I actually filed a Hatch Act complaint against Gonzales, McNulty, Kyle Sampson, and Monica Goodling.  And I think OSC is already getting information, getting documents produced from the Justice Department and possibly from the White House already. 

MATTHEWS: The Hatch Act prevents public employees, government employees, from doing political work or being told to do political work. 

Who did such a thing that you noticed? 

IGLESIAS:  Well, that—and that’s why I authorized OSC to look into this. 

You know, we’re—we’re—as U.S. attorneys, we’re told to stay out of politics.  Every two years, we get the e-mails and whatnot.  And I believe the main reason I was forced to resign was for not getting involved in political activities, in activities that could have assisted a member of Congress. 

MATTHEWS: Was that to go after election fraud? 

IGLESIAS: Well, the election fraud was the initial problem, and then I think what broke the back, so to speak—the straw that broke the camel’s back was the non-rushing of politically sensitive corruption cases against Democrats in New Mexico. 

MATTHEWS:  And you felt you were operating on a good timetable?  You weren’t slowing anything down? 

IGLESIAS:  No.  I mean, in fact, the indictment got filed last month, when it was ready.  But it wasn’t ready last fall.  And I felt pressured to take action then. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you a Republican? 

IGLESIAS: Yes, I am. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you a partisan?  Did you vote for the president a couple of times?  He ran twice.  Did you vote for the guy who appointed you? 

IGLESIAS: Sure. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you root for the Republican side or do you have a problem with Karl Rove, in terms of his behavior as a political operative? 

IGLESIAS: Well, nobody broke the law. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you have a general problem with Karl Rove? 

IGLESIAS: No.  But I’d like to find out whether he’s involved in violating the law.  Nobody is above the law, Chris, including Karl Rove. 

MATTHEWS:  What law do you believe he broke? 

IGLESIAS:  He could have violated the Hatch Act by putting undue pressure on the Justice Department to fire me and my colleagues. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you have any evidence that Karl Rove had a hand in your dumping, your firing? 

IGLESIAS: There are some emails—there is some evidence.  It is circumstantial now.  I believe if OSC digs in, they can get direct evidence establishing that link. 

MATTHEWS: If you were prosecuting the case against Karl Rove, the man who you believe had a hand in firing you, what evidence would you go for right now? 

IGLESIAS: Right now I’d go for memoranda.  I’d go for emails.  I’d go for meetings.  I want to find out what the link is. 

MATTHEWS: OK, suppose Karl Rove decided he didn’t like the cut of your jib, totally a matter of just hunch.  He didn’t think you were one of his people, so called.  Would that be a violation of the law? 

IGLESIAS:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  Or would he have to find that you weren’t doing some political act he wanted you to do? 

IGLESIAS: If he didn’t like the cut of my jib, didn’t like the cut of my suit, you know, he could put pressure to let me go.  But I don’t believe that’s what happened in this case. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it possible that they will get nailed here in this case, by the probe by the Office of Special Counsel for something to do with the Iraq war?  Under the law, if you’re a reserve officer, like you are, no one can punish you at the workplace, including a public workplace, like the U.S. attorney’s office, if you were called away to do your reserve duty.  Do you believe that that was one of the reasons that they cited for removing you as U.S. attorney, the fact that you were busy with your duty to the country? 

IGLESIAS: Yes, I do.  I was gone between 40 and 45 days per year on military duty, which is a lot. 

MATTHEWS:  Did they cite that as a reason for your removal? 

IGLESIAS: That’s one of the three bases for authorizing special counsel to look into this, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe the investigation—have they talked to you at all?  Have the people in the office of—has Scott Bloch talked to you at all? 

IGLESIAS:  Yes.  I had a conversation with Mr. Bloch and his deputy and two other attorneys approximately three weeks ago. 

MATTHEWS: Did that lead you to believe they were going to act like they have? 

IGLESIAS:  Yes.  Yes, it did. 

MATTHEWS:  So you believe affirmatively that your complaint to the Office of Special Counsel in the Justice Department led to this probe, which we’re reading about today in the “L.A. Times,” the Associated Press and here on NBC? 

IGLESIAS:  I do.  There may be other complainants that I’m not aware of.  But I believe my complaints are at least a partial basis for that. 

MATTHEWS:  You know the law better than I, sir.  Mr. Iglesias, can the Office of Special Counsel prosecute or must it refer? 

IGLESIAS: They don’t have criminal jurisdiction.  But they have civil enforcement powers.  That means they can force the agencies to do specific acts, like reinstating people, like awarding back pay, things of that nature. 

MATTHEWS:  Can they subpoena Karl Rove to get the information or do they have to let somebody else do it? 

IGLESIAS:  Oh, no.  They have powers to subpoena any member of the executive branch except the president and vice president. 

MATTHEWS:  Have they used that? 

IGLESIAS:  That’s a great question.  I don’t know the history of the special counsel as much as I should.  But they do have…

MATTHEWS: Why did you go to them if you thought they might be feeble? 

You must have some confidence that going to them would get you some justice here, as you see it. 

IGLESIAS:  Because their entire mission is to bring enforcement actions against the executive branch of the federal government.  Also, their deputy is a military reservist, and I’ve got a lot of faith and confidence in him and in Mr. Bloch. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of Gonzales? 

IGLESIAS:  Well, I think, you know—that’s a large question.  You mean in terms of his testimony or personally? 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of him? 

IGLESIAS: I think he’s come a long ways, inspiring story, but did terribly when he testified last week. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he knew about your firing? 

IGLESIAS: Oh, I’m sure he had to have.  You don’t get rid of …

MATTHEWS:  OK, here is the key bureaucratic question, which I’ve been trying to get to—I don’t know the particulars of your case.  I know what you’ve told me.  I know about Pete Domenici, someone I’ve always respected. 

When Pete Domenici called you up, do you think you were being pressured? 

IGLESIAS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  You thought it was political interference in your job? 

IGLESIAS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Why?  What was it that made you think that? 

IGLESIAS:  Oh, because the timing of the call, right before the election; the questions he was asking me.  He didn’t have any business knowing about indictments that hadn’t been filed yet. 

MATTHEWS:  Who was behind him?  Who gave him his talking points?  Who goosed him into making that call to you, as you understand it? 

IGLESIAS:  That’s a great question.  It could have been local Republicans.  It could have been his chief of staff.  It could have been Karl Rove.  I mean, you know, we’re still at the beginning of this, Chris. 

MATTHEWS: Do you believe that the attorney general, who sits today, Alberto Gonzales, who you say, I think quite rightly, has come a long way in his life, and it’s a good American story, do you believe he’s a cipher or he is actually running the Justice Department politically?  He is the boss or is he simply a figurehead in a department where the president and Karl Rove are basically using that agency for their own purposes? 

IGLESIAS:  I used to think he was the bona fide leader of the Justice Department.  After watching his performance on the Hill last week, I’ve got real doubts and I think he may be a figurehead. 

MATTHEWS:  Therefore, who really calls the shots? 

IGLESIAS:  Great question.  Kyle Sampson doesn’t.  Perhaps White House counsel.  Perhaps Karl Rove.  I mean, it’s still early.  I can’t answer that question directly. 

MATTHEWS:  How did you get your job?  How did you get appointed by this system that seems to be working against you now? 

IGLESIAS:  It’s a political process.  I ran for office.  I did pretty well.  I made friends with Pete Domenici and interviewed and was one of four names sent up to the White House. 

MATTHEWS:  So you got a job through politics, but then you expected that, in your service, you would not be forced to act politically? 

IGLESIAS: Exactly, because of what John Ashcroft told every incoming attorney in 2001.  He said stay out of politics.  I took him at his word. 

MATTHEWS: Are you going to write a book? 

IGLESIAS:  I’m thinking very seriously about it. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you got a contract? 

IGLESIAS: No. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you got an agent? 

IGLESIAS:  I’ve got four agents in contact with me. 

MATTHEWS:  So you are hawking the book? 

IGLESIAS: Well, I’m trying to figure out…

MATTHEWS:  Have you written out a book proposal? 

IGLESIAS:  No, I haven’t done that yet. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you feel that you are a poster boy for misuse of political authority in the Justice Department?

IGLESIAS:  I think I was one of seven poster children. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, it’s great having you on.  Thanks for calling in.  We like people to call in with the news.  And you have a firsthand account of your side of this.  You’re going to stay with us.  When we return, we’re going to talk more about this, reaction from the HARDBALLers, Blankley, Lynn Sweet and Clarence Page.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We are back with former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, who was luckily enough, in fact, nice enough for us to call in tonight in the wake of the news that the U.S. Office of Special Counsel of the Justice Department is probing Karl Rove for possible political misuse of his office.  So we want to bring in Tony Blankley of the “Washington Times,” Lynn Sweet of the “Chicago Sun Times,” and Clarence Page of the “Chicago Tribune.”  In that order, your witness, Tony?  Ask David what you want. 

BLANKLEY:  You have a reputation for being a smart lawyer and having been a loyal Republican activist.  If you are still applying that good judgment, what you have said is quite damning.  Are you confident that you haven’t let any bitterness over these events distort your judgment?  Because I’m impressed by what you said and the firmness with which you said it. 

IGLESIAS:  Thank you.  Bitterness?  No, I really try not to do bitterness.  It ends up hurting the person more than the target.  I just want to get down to the truth.  I mean, I want to find out why I got fired and why my colleagues got fired, who were all doing good jobs.  The answers that the attorney general gave last week were just totally insufficient. 

MATTHEWS:  Lynn Sweet?

SWEET:  When you talk about how you wanted to know the link between e- mails and the memos, sometimes a good lawyer knows the answer to the question before they ask it.  Do you know what are in some of those memos and emails? 

IGLESIAS:  No, I sure don’t.  But I do know that the Justice Department papers everything.  I mean, the most minute issue has an incredible, you know, researched and memo product.  There has to be a paper trail.  I haven’t seen it yet.  If it’s not at the Justice Department, it has got to be at the White House. 

PAGE:  Yes, you mentioned that you don’t know why these firings took place.  I was wondering what is your best guess, in your heart of hearts?  What is your feeling about why the firings of the U.S. attorneys took place?

IGLESIAS:  You know, I—I know Lindsey Graham said, when he questioned the A.G., something to the effect of, you know, there were personality conflicts between your staff members and some of the U.S. attorneys.  I think that is true as to some of my colleagues.  That’s not true as to all of them.

In my case, I didn’t authorize authorization prosecutions involving voter fraud and I didn’t hurry up political corruption prosecutions, which got the local Republicans so angry they took their complaints to the White House. 

I believe that’s what got me fired. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you have a political future, sir?

IGLESIAS:  No, sir, zero. 

MATTHEWS:  You’re not going to run for political office on the Republican side again?

IGLESIAS:  No, I think I am persona non grata. 

MATTHEWS: Well, you never know.  Times change.  We will be back with you, David Iglesias.  Stay here as our star witness, Tony Blankley, Lynn Sweet and Clarence Page.  You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back with former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, Tony Blankley of the “Washington Times,” Lynn Sweet of the “Chicago Sun Times,” and Clarence Page of the “Chicago Tribune.” 

Mr. Iglesias, let me ask you about how you foresee this probe by the Office of Special Counsel into Karl Rove proceeding.  You pointed out they have the power of subpoena.  Who would you like to see questioned under oath?  Would you like to see the attorney general, Mr. Gonzales, questioned under oath on the manner and the information he has about how you were fired? 

IGLESIAS:  No, I mean, that has been tried.  I watched the five hours of testimony.  That was fruitless.  I think Monica Goodling holds the keys to the kingdom.  I think if they get her to testify under oath, with a transcript, and have her describe the process between the information flow between the White House counsel, the White House and the Justice Department, I believe the picture becomes a lot clearer. 

MATTHEWS:  So if Karl Rove or one of his deputies wanted to influence something in your department, they would work through her, through Monica Goodling? 

IGLESIAS: Yes, she wore two hats.  She was counselor to the attorney general.  She was also the White House liaison.  So her job was to serve as a conduit for information between the Justice Department and the White House. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you know if Karl Rove’s communications with her were through the White House e-mail system or through something else, through a private one, the Republican National Committee, for example? 

IGLESIAS: I really don’t have any knowledge as to that.  But normally I would think that they would use the .gov email system.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you why that is important.  If one of the local politicians in your are, in New Mexico, were to complain that there wasn’t enough action quick enough, lickety-split prosecutions enough to help the election, which was very close out there this November, they would go through the RNC perhaps.  And therefore Karl Rove would legitimately be able to take the e-mail and go back and forth on someone else’s account without having a paper trail.  Is that possible? 

IGLESIAS:  That’s very possible, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I’m wondering if that isn’t his MO.  Anyway, thank you very much David Iglesias.  Please call in, anybody out there with news.  We love to know the firsthand, especially in a case this big, with Karl Rove in the crosshairs.  Tony Blankley, Lynn Sweet, Clarence Page, we’ll have to talk again next time about this amazing South Carolina poll that’s just been taken. 

Watch 'Hardball' each night at 5 and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC. 

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