The Bush administration has done a terrible job of explaining its decision to fire eight United States attorneys. Story after story has proved to be untrue: that the prosecutors who were fired were poor performers; that the White House was not involved in the purge. But the administration has been strangely successful in pushing its message that the scandal is at worst a political misdeed, not a criminal matter.
It is true, as the White House keeps saying, that United States attorneys serve “at the pleasure of the president,” which means he can dismiss them whenever he wants. But if the attorneys were fired to interfere with a valid prosecution, or to punish them for not misusing their offices, that may well have been illegal.