Excerpts from interview with U.S. Attorney Diane Humetewa - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Excerpts from interview with U.S. Attorney Diane Humetewa

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Posted: Sunday, July 6, 2008 6:16 pm | Updated: 12:06 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Q: How did you first get connected with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.?

A: I applied for and was selected to do a semester when I was in my second year of law school for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and at that time, he was the vice chairman.

Q: How did you first get connected with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.?

A: I applied for and was selected to do a semester when I was in my second year of law school for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and at that time, he was the vice chairman. So I spent the semester in Washington, D.C., working under the staff that worked for him. And that was really my first exposure. At the end of that semester, he offered me the opportunity once I graduated law school, should I desire, to come back to work for him on the committee. And frankly, that was - it was something that was unexpected ... I immediately accepted it. So I knew at the end that I would have a job, at least my first legal job, at the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, working for Sen. McCain.

Ariz. U.S. attorney denies Renzi probe pressure

Q: What kind of work did you do for the committee?

A: It's legal policy. Like other committees in the Senate, you have folks who are interested in amending certain laws, introducing bills. Basically you have to do the legal analysis about the impact of that legislation on existing law or the community it's aimed at ... It was just a whole myriad of issues that were involved in that daily work.

Q: What was your relationship to John McCain?

A: Frankly, it's not a question that many people ask me. But, I got to say, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him ... I think for a lot of us folks who, I guess, are McCain alumni, that it becomes a family of sorts. So it doesn't matter if you're gone from the staff three years, five years or 10 years, you're going to run into the staff and you have that sort of common bond, and that's sort of how our relationship is. I can go without seeing him (McCain) for many, many months and then, if we happen to be at an event or you happen to see him somewhere, it's like you haven't missed a day.

Q: And he was the one who called you and asked you if you would be interested in the U.S. attorney's job, is that correct? Tell me about that conversation.

A: You know, I was at my desk. The phone rang. A gentleman said hold for John McCain. And he asked if I would be interested in the United States attorney position, clearly reiterated that it is a public service duty that came with high responsibility. And if I thought that I was up to the task, he certainly would support me in that. It's pretty much as simple as that.

Q: From the time that your name was put forward to the time that you got the job, there was a delay of a little more than a year. What was your impression of what was taking place during that time?

A: I don't know. I really don't know what the delay was, or quite frankly if there was a delay. I realize that from the point that my name was recommended to the point that I was confirmed, it was just over a year. But I suspect - well, I shouldn't even speculate - but I suspect at the time the Justice Department had a lot of other issues that they were addressing.

Q: Do you think the delay had to do with the shake-up at the Justice Department?

A: You know, I don't want to speculate about that. I don't know.

Q: You got a letter last year from the head of the Arizona Democratic Party asking if you had any kind of pressure from the Bush administration to halt the investigation of Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz. There was no official response. So, the question is, did you have pressure from the Bush administration over that case at all?

A: Let me back up. You characterized the letter was asking whether or not this had occurred. I think it was a little bit stronger than that. I think it was sort of inferring that that had occurred.

Q: And it was publicly released, put on their Web site, etc.

A: Certainly. You know, I thought it was a very harsh letter. I didn't feel I needed to respond to it.

Q: Did you have any pressure from the Bush administration?

A: No.

Q: Did you have communication with anyone in the White House over the case?

A: No.

Q: How about Sen. McCain?

A: No.

Q: One of the things critics say is that the federal government is not doing enough about illegal immigration and is not handling the matter properly. How do you respond to that?

A: You know, for me, I try not to pay too much attention to the broad-stroke criticisms that are out there about the federal government. What I will respond to are criticisms that the men and women who are charged with prosecuting these crimes in this office are not doing their best. Because I know that they are. And I think what a lot of folks don't recognize is that, sure, there are instances where we are involved actively in the investigative stages of the case, but the majority of the cases that come to us are referrals from federal law enforcement, like the Border Patrol or ICE, with respect to border-related crimes. We believe that we're responding to those referrals ... I know that certainly on all levels of the federal government, I'm sure that everyone can say that we need more resources. But certainly, the men and women that we have working in this office as prosecutors and support staff are working hard.

Q: Are we seeing a shift in border crime toward human smuggling? Is that industry becoming more akin to drug cartels?

A: You know, I don't have the data to support that question, but what I've observed and what the prosecutors and the law enforcement community have shared with me is that because we are having more enforcement on the border, what is happening is that it's getting more and more difficult for individuals to come across. And therefore they're more inclined to then go to a coyote and so it's getting more dangerous. They're very desperate to get those individuals across here. And so I think there's certainly an escalation in violence. And we are seeing an increase in assaults on federal officers along the border. We are seeing drop houses here and we are hearing from witnesses about the increasing use of physical violence against these individuals. We are seeing more and more guns in both human and drug trafficking. So I think because there's more of a risk involved in terms of coming across the border with this illegal activity that there is certainly a shift, an increase in violence.

Q: Some Valley officials have asked the Justice Department to get involved with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the immigration sweeps that he's been doing. As far as you know, has the Justice Department, be it the FBI or the U.S. Attorney's Office, started looking at allegations of racial profiling?

A: Those requests have been directly, as (Deputy Attorney General) Mark Filip mentioned a couple months ago, been directly sent to our Civil Rights (Division at the) Department of Justice ...

Q: In Washington?

A: Yes. So I don't know where it is.

Q: Has this office been contacted about that by Washington, then?

A: No, they have not contacted me about it.

Q: Does this office do those types of civil rights prosecutions?

A: We do have one attorney that does some civil rights prosecutions, but oftentimes we will refer civil rights matters that we think there is a level of expertise in the Justice Department that they may be able to handle or commit the resources to looking into it, but I don't know that we've had any of those referrals lately.

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