What we know about Bill Mercer’s involvement in the prosecutor purge
by Jay Stevens
Talking Points Memo – the place to go for prosecutor purge information – yesterday posted on Bill Mercer’s involvement with the firing of Carol Lam, the San Diego US attorney who busted Duke Cunningham and was sniffing around Dusty Foggo, Brent Wilkes, and Jerry Lewis (the Republican Representative) when she was canned, ostensibly over her failure to prosecute illegal immigrants with enough fervor.
TPM showed that Lam’s record on immigration was actually commendable, especially considering the lack of resources in her office.
Enter Bill Mercer, the interim number 3 man at the Department of Justice (and now likely to never receive Senate confirmation). In a May 31 email, Mercer flat out rejects the idea of sending Lam more resources:
“There are good reasons not to provide extensive resources to [Carol Lam’s district],” wrote Bill Mercer, a senior Justice Department official in May of 2006, responding to a suggestion that the Department provide Lam with more prosecutors. “Other border districts have done substantially more. It will send the message that if your people are killing themselves, the additional resources will go to folks who haven’t prioritized the same enforcement priority.”
In a June 5 email — five days later — Mercer suggests several plans of action, including adding resources to her San Diego office “immediately after Carol’s successor is named.”
Permeating the DoJ correspondence about Lam is criticism about her prosecutorial policies. But what’s obvious is that no one bothered to tell Lam that she wasn’t prioritizing the right cases.
That’s actually not surprising, if you consider this July 8 email from Mercer about Lam, dripping with contempt, in which he responds to Michael Elston’s comment about the plans to lay Lam low, “This is so sad – I am not adjusting well to this change”:
What that Carol can’t meet a deadline or that you’ll need to interact with her in the coming weeks or that she won’t just say “O.K. You got me. You’re right, I’ve ignored national priorities and obvious local needs. Shoot, my production is more hideous than I realized.”
Or that I’m not going to send you as many of these humorous missives?
Here’s what’s clear from these three brief emails. Mercer was out to fire Lam, even to the extent of ensuring that she wouldn’t be able to increase her production rate by sending her more resources – resources that would be available to her successor. In other words, it’s not about immigration, it’s about Lam.
But what’s not known is if Mercer knew Lam’s firing was political. Was he following orders and isolating and setting Lam up for certain failure because of orders? Did he believe it was about her record on immigration, and that the firing was about policy? Or was he in on it?
Update: Josh Marshall points out that the Duke Cunningham scandal was heading straight to the White House. Someone there approved a mail-screening contract for Cunningham crony, Mitchell Wade, who had no experience, manpower, or know-how for the job…
No wonder Carol Lam was fired.