LAS VEGAS - The former U.S. attorney in Nevada said Wednesday he was offered a job as a federal immigration judge shortly after the Justice Department told him he was being dismissed. But he turned it down.
Daniel Bogden, whose ouster last year along with seven other U.S. attorneys has sparked an uproar on Capitol Hill, said he declined the offer because the three immigration judge positions in Nevada were filled, "and immigration law isn't one of my primary areas of interest and expertise."
Bogden said by phone from Reno that he remained frustrated that Justice Department e-mails and documents released this week provide no firm answers about why he was dismissed.
"You go through those 3,000 pages, and if that's what the justification was, it just doesn't seem to make much sense," he said. "I'm still at a loss as to why I was requested to step down from my position."
Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and John Ensign, R-Nev., both have come to Bogden's defense, with Reid demanding the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Ensign calling on the Justice Department to "restore Bogden's reputation," possibly by finding him a new job.
Ensign said Wednesday those negotiations are "going well," but he declined to offer details.
Reid, the Senate majority leader, called the offer of an immigration judgeship to Bogden an insult.
"It is demeaning to a man of his talents and caliber," Reid told reporters on a conference call.
The dismissals of Bogden and prosecutors in San Diego, Seattle and elsewhere are turning into a constitutional showdown between the White House and Congress as a House panel on Wednesday approved subpoenas for President Bush's political adviser, Karl Rove and other top White House aides.
President Bush vowed to resist the subpoenas, in court if necessary, but Reid said Democrats would keep trying to get the aides' testimony.
"We're going to keep plugging away and not be hindered by the president throwing up these roadblocks for his buddy Karl Rove," Reid said.
Documents released this week showed that Bogden, 51, drew the ire of a Bush administration official after Bogden told him that the Nevada office was too short-staffed and focused on several other major cases to prosecute a particular obscenity case.
Bogden pointed to an Aug. 28-29 exchange of e-mails in which he told Brent Ward, head of an Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, that the Nevada office had "very limited to no capacity" to take the case "with what we currently have going on."
At the time, the Nevada staff of 40 attorneys was down eight lawyers. It was preparing for the first phase of a trial for 42 members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club on racketeering charges, and was preparing for a corruption trial for a former Clark County commissioner
Ward, head of an office established by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in May 2005, wrote a memo complaining about "the lame excuses of a defiant U.S. attorney."
Bogden denied Wednesday he was defiant.
"That's not just wrong," he said, "it's flat-out wrong."
Bogden was not the only one of the fired U.S. attorneys to pass up the chance at an immigration judgeship. Margaret Chiara of Michigan wrote an e-mail to a Justice Department official on Jan. 6 saying she'd been contacted about such a post but "I have concluded that the immigration judge would be the wrong next step for me."
Justice Department officials have offered shifting reasons for Bogden's dismissal, including complaining he was slow to act on obscenity cases - a complaint Bogden was never told of, according to Ensign.