There’s a good reason why the Attorney General appointed a special prosecutor this past Monday. After all, even the Department of Justice report on what happened with the firing of Margaret Chiara is confused.
As Ken Kolker in the Press makes clear, the nominal reason of a disrupted office hid a more complicated, and in ways, more normal story.
The dysfunctional West Michigan District was an open invitation for mischief. And it had been that way for at least a decade: civil servants at war with their political appointee bosses. Say this about the conflict it was non-partisan. Neither the Democrat Michael Dettmer nor the Republican Chiara escaped unscathed.
So when Kyle Sampson at DOJ stated asking for replacements, the West Michigan District was a natural.
As the church lady used to say, “how con-vee-nient.”
Officially, the report concludes that Chiara was dismissed legitimately for administrative reasons. But the actual timeline gives pause to this easy conclusion.
The key date in all this is March 5, 2005, the date on which David Margolis puts Chiara’s name on the list of possible DAs to be replaced. Once on, she never left. Indeed, there is little evidence that Chiara’s mismanagement had risen to the actionable status by this date.
As the report details, the situation in the local office did get progressively out of control, but virtually all of it after the March 5 date. Chiara’s neck is on the block long before the conflict comes to its head. Indeed, the report investigates and dismisses the allegations. The very disruption made by these allegations thus becomes the rationale for the DoJ dismissal.
Were that all there is, the dismissal would be only a case of politically convenience. But there is one other item to consider.
Why did they think it would work?
The striking, all-too-obvious aspect of the entire affair is the assumption made by the internal accusers that news of Chiara’s sexual orientation would be actionable in Washington. In the bureaucratic knife fight, they acted on a view of who already staffed DOJ.
They believed that DOJ already had an operating (and impermissible) screen, a screen that corrupts the neutrality of the Attorney’s office necessary to its function, and to a civil society. And that’s the scandal, the one that does need clearing up by the special prosecutor.