House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and second ranking member Howard Berman (D-Calif.) Wednesday called on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to clarify the administration's request for U.S. Attorney Carol Lam's resignation.
Lam, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, announced Tuesday that she has submitted her resignation Feb. 15. A report in the San Diego Union-Tribune suggested that Lam was asked to resign because she had led a wide-ranging corruption case against former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) that has spawned pending probes involving other GOP members.
In a letter to Gonzales, Conyers and Berman defended Lam's record on immigration-related prosecutions, one of the reasons media reports have cited for the administration's request for her resignation. Conyers and Berman wrote that during the months of May through July of last year, the office was one of the top three U.S. attorney's offices in immigration prosecutions, "hardly a record that would lead to removal," they wrote.
"Forcing Ms. Lam's resignation now leaves the appearance that this growing public corruption probe may be part of the Administration's motivation in removing her," the letter states. "If this is untrue, it is vitally important that this perception be corrected, and we ask you to share with us the basis of your request for her resignation."
Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse dismissed accusations that Lam's resignation request was politically motivated in any way.
"The department's record of rooting out public corruption is tremendous," he said. "These cases have been brought by career prosecutors directed by departmental leadership to seek out corruption wherever it exists."