CBS's Cohen Wrong on Reno: She Pushed Attorneys Out the Door

March 14th, 2007 3:12 PM
CBS legal pundit Andrew Cohen is back at it again with a new blog post at Katie's e-sandbox, "Couric & Co.":

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my post and to write a response. The more dialogue and discussion and debate we have on this topic the better. It is true that Janet Reno, as her predecessors before her had done, asked for the resignations of U.S. Attorneys. This is standard operating procedure designed to allow the President to have in place his own federal prosecutors. What is different about this current episode is that a Republican White House sought to replace Republican-appointed federal prosecutors mid-stream who were by all accounts doing precisely what they had been asked to do. We now know, from last week’s testimony, why in some cases this was so and the answers we got make it clear that the reasons were not high-minded or lofty.

Of course, Cohen got it wrong yet again. In 1993, Clinton's attorney general did not just show President George H.W. Bush's appointees the door, she pushed them through it and told them not to let it hit them on the way out.

As Michael Isikoff reported in the March 24, 1993, Washington Post, Reno's press conference had called for the "immediate resignation of all U.S. attorneys so they can be replaced by Clinton appointees." Reno denied that the abrupt action would harm the federal government's case against Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.), insisting that an interim prosecutor could just as ably handle the case.

Isikoff's colleague at the Post, Dan Balz, reported on March 23, 1993, that the Reno/Clinton move was an abrupt forced resignation, adding that Republicans noted that previous administrations gradually eased out old U.S. attorneys with their replacements in a case-by-case fashion.

Isikoff's article also noted that Reno took time in her March 23 news conference to push for adoption of legislation before the Democratically-controlled Congress to stiffen federal penalties for protesters who block abortion clinics.

In other words, Reno's announcement was made in a politics-rich environment, tucked in a news conference filled with policy pronouncements favorable to the Clinton camp's liberal base.

As we've previously reported, however, there was no media outrage about the Clinton/Reno mass firing.