As Paul Kiel notes, one of the pieces of news from today's hearing is that James Comey asked two different USAs to resign. Comey didn't say who he had to fire. But it's clear that one of those USAs is Thomas DiBiagio (DiBiagio resigned December 3, 2004, so he's the guy who resigned under Ashcroft). In an article earlier this year, David Margolis confirmed that DiBiagio was asked to step down.
The Justice Department acknowledged yesterday that Thomas M. DiBiagio, the Maryland U.S. attorney who stepped down early in 2005, was forced from office and did not, as he said at the time, decide on his own to leave for personal reasons.
But the department official who asked for his resignation dismissed DiBiagio's claim in a New York Times article yesterday that he was ousted because of political pressure over public corruption investigations into the administration of then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
Margolis said that he asked DiBiagio for his resignation because he had "lost confidence in his abilities" and that he was not aware at the time of any investigations involving the Ehrlich administration. "There were absolutely no political shenanigans," said Margolis, a 42-year department employee who oversees ethics matters.
DiBiagio made a half-baked attempt to yoke his fate with those who were fired last year, suggesting he was ousted because he was looking into corruption on Governor Ehrlich's Administration. But there is plenty of evidence that other things were behind the firing. First, there's the news that DiBiagio demanded at least three high-profile public corruption indictments in time for the 2004 election. Comey followed up on DiBiagio's deman by demanding to review any public indictments he planned to file.
In addition, there's the evidence that Ehrlich's associates actually intervened to try to support DiBiagio.
In fact, the Republican governor's chief legal counsel, Jervis Finney, twice contacted the Justice Department to argue in DiBiagio's behalf, said David Margolis, an associate deputy attorney general. Finney contacted the department in fall 2004, not long after DiBiagio drew a rebuke for ordering his subordinates to produce "front-page" indictments, Margolis said.
Finney, he said, "called me during this process, claiming that I was being too harsh on Tom and that Tom was being railroaded by a bunch of Democrats in the U.S. attorney's office."
There's much more smoke related to DiBiagio, including accusations from one of his AUSAs that DiBiagio's attempts to force out another of his AUSAs contribued greatly to that lawyer's stress before he died in mysterious circumstances.
The confirmation of DiBiagio as one of the two USAs about whom Comey said "it was not a close case" tells there's more story to DiBiagio's firing. Particularly since DiBiagio may have gotten ousted for things that Karl Rove and Monica Goodling would seem to approve of.
Update: There's some great detail in this Baltimore Sun profile of DiBiagio upon his resignation:
In July , The Sun obtained e-mails that DiBiagio wrote to his staff asking for three "front page" indictments for public corruption or white-collar crimes by November, and complaining about the pace of cases against elected officials.
The next day, the Justice Department told him all future public corruption cases from his office must be reviewed and approved by Washington to protect the office's credibility.
In a case that angered Democrats, DiBiagio indicted Stephen P. Amos, a former director of the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, on charges that he had misused grant money. Amos has pleaded not guilty. The office was overseen by former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a Democrat who lost the governor's race to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in 2002.
Ehrlich, a Republican who has long been friends with DiBiagio, recommended him for the U.S. attorney job while a congressman.
A running theme of DiBiagio's tenure has been criticism from [Baltimore Mayor Martin] O'Malley. The Democratic mayor argued that DiBiagio did not pursue enough of the city's gun cases in the federal system, where juries tend to be tougher on crime.
Update 2: It seems highly likely the second fired (for cause) USA was David York, the USA for the Southern District of Alabama before Deborah Rhodes. He apparently resigned on September 30, 2005, after the Alabama Mobile-Register reported he was the subject of an internal DOJ probe. I'm looking for the report to see if it specified what the probe was about.