Emails link Johnny "House of Death" Sutton to DOJ firing scandal

The U.S. Attorney who spearheaded a cover-up of a U.S. government informant’s role in the House of Death mass murder also appears to have played a leadership role in the recent U.S. Attorney firing scandal.

That U.S. Attorney, Johnny Sutton, is the lead federal prosecutor for the Western District of Texas (based in San Antonio) and serves as chairman of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys (AGAC), which has major influence in developing Department of Justice (DOJ) policies.

It is in the context of that latter role that Sutton’s name shows up in some of the e-mails turned over to Congress to date by DOJ concerning the Bush administration’s controversial move to fire eight U.S. Attorneys (USAs) — allegedly, according to some critics, in retaliation for their failure to pursue prosecutorial strategies deemed to be in the administration’s political interests.
According to the emails, it is clear Sutton was in the loop on the firings. How big a role he played, if any, in initiating or orchestrating those terminations behind the scenes is not clear from the electronic missives. But given his favored status within the Bush administration, and his long-time ties to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and to President Bush, it seems that someone in Congress should be asking that question.

After all, Sutton has already been exposed as an individual willing to use his political pull within the Bush administration to silence and retaliate against a DEA whistleblower who sought to expose the U.S. government’s complicity in mass murder in Juárez, Mexico, and its role in nearly causing the death of a DEA agent and his family in that same city — another obviously embarrassing political scandal for the Bush White House.

You can find the DOJ documents on the Web site of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary.

Following is the string of emails where Sutton’s name (bolded, along with email dates, for emphasis) surfaces, based on an initial examination of the DOJ documents.

From: Sampson, Kyle
Sent: Wednesday, November 15, 2006 12:08 PM
To: Harriet-Miers@who.eop.gov; William-K.-Kelley@who.eop.gov
Cc: McNulty, Paul J
Subject: RE: USA replacement plan

Who will determine whether this requires the President's attention?

----- Original Message-----
From: Harriet Miers@who.eop.gov [mailto:Harriet-Miers@who.eop.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, November 15, 2006 11:39 PM
To: Sampson, Kyle; William-K.-Kelley@who.eop.gov
Cc: McNulty, Paul J
Subject: RE: USA replacement plan

Not sure whether this will be determined to require the boss's attention. If it does, he just left last night so would not be able to accomplish that for some time. We will see. Thanks.

----- Original message -----
From: Kyle.Sampson@usdoj.gov [mailto:Kyle.Sampson@usdoj.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, November 15, 2006 11:02 AM
To: Kelley, William K.; Miers, Harriet
Cc: Paul.J.McNulty@usdoj.gov
Subject: USA replacement plan
Importance: High

Harriet/Bill, please see the attached. Please note (1) the plan, by its terms, would commence this week; (2) I have consulted with the DAG [deputy attorney general], but not yet informed others who would need to be brought into the loop, including Acting Associate AG Bill Mercer, EOUSA [Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys] Director Mike Battle, and AGAC Chair Johnny Sutton (nor have I informed anyone in Karl's shop, another pre-execution necessity I would recommend); and (3) I am concerned that to execute this plan properly we must all be on the same page and be steeled to withstand any political upheaval that might result (see Step 3); if we start caving to complaining U.S. Attorneys or Senators then we shouldn't do it — it'll be more trouble than it is worth.

We'll stand by for a green light from you. Upon the green light, we'll (1) circulate the below plan to the list of folks in Step 3 (and ask that you circulate it to Karl's shop), (2) confirm that Kelley is making the Senator/Bush political lead calls, and (3) get Battle making the calls to the USAs. Let us know.

Kyle Sampson
Chief of Staff
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W
Washington, D.C. 20530
(202) 514-2001 wk.
(202) 305-5289 cell
kyle.sampson@usdoj.gov

FROM THE PLAN (ATTACHED TO EMAIL CHAIN ABOVE)

STEP 3
Prepare to Withstand Political Upheaval: U.S. Attorneys desiring to save their jobs (aided by their allies in the political arena as well as the Justice Department community), likely will make efforts to preserve themselves in office. We should expect these efforts to be strenuous.

Direct and indirect appeals of the Administration's determination to seek these resignations likely will be directed at: various White House offices, including the Office of the Counsel to the President and the Office of Political Affairs; Attorney General Gonzales and DOJ Chief of Staff Sampson; Deputy Attorney General McNulty and ODAG staffers Moschella and Elston; Acting Associate AG Bill Mercer; EOUSA Director Mike Battle; and AGAC Chair Johnny Sutton.

Recipients of such "appeals" respond identically:

What? U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President (there is no right, nor should there be any expectation, that U.S. Attorneys would be entitled to serve beyond their four-year term).

Who decided? The Administration made the determination to seek the resignations (not any specific person at the White House or the Department of Justice).

Why me? The Administration is grateful for your service, but wants to give someone else the chance to serve in your district.

I need more time! The decision is to have a new Acting or Interim U.S. Attorney in place by the end of the year (granting "extensions" will hinder the process of getting a new U.S. Attorney in place and giving that person the opportunity to serve for a full two years).

From: Kelley, William K. [mailto:William-K.-Kelley@who.eop.gov]
Sent: Monday, December 04, 2006 4:48 PM
To: Sampson, Kyle
Cc: Miers, Harriet
Subject: US Atty Plan

We're a go for the US Atty plan. WH leg, political and communications have signed off and acknowledged that we have to be committed to following through once the pressure comes.

From: Sampson, Kyle
Sent: Monday, December 04, 2006 6:12 PM
To: Kelley, William K.
Cc: Miers, Harriet
Subject: RE: US Atty Plan
Importance: High

Great. We would like to execute this on Thursday, December 7 (all the U.S. Attorneys are in town for our Project Safe Childhood conference until Wednesday; we want to wait until they are back home and dispersed, to reduce chatter). So, on Thursday morning, we'll need the calls to be made as follows:

• AG calls Sen. Kyl

• Harriet/Bill call Sens. Ensign and Domenici (alternatively, the AG could make these calls and, if Senators express any concern, offer briefings re why the decision was made — let me know)

• White House OPA calls California, Michigan, and Washington "leads"

• EOUSA Director Mike Battle then will call the relevant U.S. Attorneys. Okay?

From: Sampson, Kyle
Sent: Monday, December 04, 2006 6:30 PM
To: McNulty, Paul J; Battle, Michael (USAEO)
Cc: Goodling, Monica; Moschella, William; Elston, Michael (ODAG)
Subject: FW: US Atty Plan
Importance: High
Attachments: USA replacementplan.doc

Paul/Mike, we are a go for Thursday (see below). At this point we likely need to inform Johnny Sutton and Bill Mercer re the plan (so they are not caught unawares) — Paul, do you want to handle that, or would you like me to? On Thursday, I think we should shoot to get the Senator calls done in the morning, and then have Mike start calling USAs at noon — let me know if anyone thinks otherwise. Thx.

From: McNulty, Paul J
Sent: Tuesday, December 05, 2006 9:44 AM
To: Sampson, Kyle
Subject: RE: US Atty Plan

I'll talk to Johnny [Sutton]. I'm still a little skittish about [Daniel] Bogden [U.S. Attorney, District of Nevada]. He has been with DOJ since 1990 and at age 50, has never had a job outside of government. My guess is that he was hoping to ride this out well into '09 or beyond. I'll admit have not looked at his district’s performance. Sorry to be raising this again now; it was just on my mind last night and this morning.

[Note: Bogden is one of the U.S. Attorneys who was fired.]

From: Sampson, Kyle
Sent: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 2:25 PM
To: Battle, Michael (USAEO)
Cc: McNulty, Paul J; Elston, Michael (ODAG); Moschella, William; Mercer, William W; Goodling, Monica; Sutton, Johnny K. (USATXW)
Subject: USA replacements

Mike, Bill Kelley called to report that they are weathering two main complaints: in making the calls, Battle (1) wasn't clear whether the USAs in question would be permitted to resign, or instead were being fired and (2) was too abrupt. Bill seemed nonplussed by the complaints, but nevertheless passed them on to me.

Perhaps a second round of calls from you, Mike, to the relevant USAs is in order? Talkers would be something like:

I wanted to be sure you understood that DOJ intends not to say anything about your leaving, but instead allow you to announce your resignation and the reasons for it.

We want to work with you over the next six weeks to ensure a smooth transition; and it's in our interest for you to land on your feet and maintain our good relations with the Department — how can I help?

Perhaps this is a bad idea? Thoughts?

Kyle Sampson
Chief of Staff
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
(202) 514-2001 wk.
(202) 305-5289 cell
kyle.sampson@usdoj.gov

From: McNulty, Paul J
Sent: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 6:42 PM
To: Sampson, Kyle; Battle, Michael (USAEO)
Cc: Elston, Michael (ODAG); Moschella, William; Mercer, William W; Goodling, Monica; Sutton, Johnny K. (USATXW)
Subject: RE: USA replacements

I generally think this is a good idea. The more communication, the better. They are probably slowly adjusting and some hand-holding may calm things down.

From: McNulty, Paul J
Sent: Thursday, December 14, 2006 1:03 PM
To: Sampson, Kyle; Battle, Michael (USAEO)
Cc: Elston, Michael (ODAG); Moschella, William; Mercer, William W; Goodling, Monica; Sutton, Johnny K. (USATXW)
Subject: RE: USA replacements

Just had a lengthy chat with Margaret [Chiara, U.S. Attorney, Western District of Michigan] and she is fine, although she has an issue on which I need to get back to her.

[Note: Chiara is one of the U.S. Attorneys who was fired.]

From: Iglesias, David C. (USANM)
Sent: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 08:00 PM Eastern Standard Time
To: USAEO-USAttorneys
Subject: Farewell, Adios, Good bye, Auf Weidersehen

[Note: Iglesias is one of the U.S. Attorneys who was fired.]

Dear friends and colleagues:

As King Soloman wrote more than 2,500 years ago. "there is a time for everything." It's time to say goodbye from this wonderful job. Tomorrow will be my last day as U.S. Attorney. It's been the most responsible job I've ever had and the second most exciting job I've ever had (nothing beats being launched off and landing on a Navy aircraft carrier). The years have been an unprecedented mixture of experiences, memories and accomplishments. Beyond the record number of criminal cases my AUSAs brought, I'm proud of my hard-working office and its 95% conviction rate. I'm proud to have successfully prosecuted the biggest political corruption case in New Mexico history. I'm proud of having nationally recognized Weed and Seed and PSN programs. But, it's more than just metrics, it's about forming friendships with many of you.

I'll never forget going to Colombia and Mexico with Johnny Sutton, Paul Charlton and the late great Mike Shelby. I'll never forget visiting drug cartel lord Pablo Escobar's home in Medellin and realizing America saved Colombia from becoming the world's first "narcocracy." I’ll never forget running in L.A.'s seedy MacArthur Park with Matt Whitaker in the early morning hours. I'll never forget speaking at Main Justice's Great Hall for Hispanic Heritage Month, or testifying before Congress, debating a member of Congress and Village Voice journalist on the Patriot Act, backseating an F-16, or getting an op-ed published on immigration reform in the Washington Times. I'll never forget former A.G. and Mrs. John Ashcroft giving us a walking tour of the Washington monuments at night. Heady stuff for a guy originally from Panama whose family is just one generation removed from substistence living in the jungle.

As one of just several US Attorneys born outside the United States, I know the America dream lives. I'd like to thank President Bush for nominating me to be the United States Attorney almost 6 years ago. I am grateful to have been allowed the honor of making a difference in my community. We need US Attorneys who "maintain justice and do what is right" (Isaiah 56:1) and are willing to pay the price for doing so.

After taking off the month of March to decompress and performing Navy duty overseas in April, I will begin my new job. I haven't decided which of my options to pursue, but in the interim you can reach me at dciglesias@earthlink.net or 505.220.6150. I wish you all success in the next 22 months in keeping America safe against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Respectfully,
David

It’s interesting that Iglesias visited Pablo Escobar’s house in Colombia while traveling with Sutton. You have to wonder if Sutton’s Colombia/Mexico tour with Iglesias (whom Sutton later helped to fire) also included a drive-by of the House of Death in Juárez, or of the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, which another DOJ attorney and whistleblower, Thomas M. Kent, alleges has been compromised by corrupt U.S. law enforcers who are on the payroll of narco-traffickers.

But I guess in the "big scheme," as Iglesias points out, it’s a good thing to remember that because of prosecutors like Sutton (who maintain justice and do what is right) we can now all put our faith in the comforting script that America saved Colombia from becoming the world's first "narcocracy."

Stay tuned….

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