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DAG IV: McNulty Returns

Paul McNulty, take four.

Like most Hollywood sequels, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty's return to Capitol Hill today was not quite the blockbuster its producers (the House Judiciary Committee) had hoped it would be.

Appearing in the committee room he once ruled as a top staffer in the 1990s, McNulty spent more than two hours explaining how little he knew about the firings of nine U.S. attorneys last year.

Referred to as the "caboose" by one panel member, McNulty said that he never even spoke directly to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about the pending mass firings until a Nov. 27, 2006 meeting at which the plan was finalized. "I was consulted in this process at the end of what we now know to be the process," he explained.

McNulty said he knew nothing of an order that placed much hiring and firing authority inside the attorney general's office, including a notation not to let the "DAG" see the order, until he saw a report on it in National Journal. "I still don't know to this day why that was the case," he said.

Other highlights from McNulty's testimony included:

• The revelation that an Oct. 4 phone call from Sen. Pete Domenicii (D-N.M.) complaining about David C. Iglesias, then U.S. attorney for New Mexico, played a key role in Iglesias's dismissal. While McNulty doesn't know how Iglesias got on the firing list, McNulty didn't object to the dismissal. "That (Domenici call) certainly was a factor in my mind when I saw the name on the list. And just as the attorney general said, it affected his judgment," he said.

• An admission that Daniel Bogden, former U.S. attorney for Nevada, lost his job, in part, because he was single. McNulty had raised objections about firing Bogden to Gonzales's chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, questioning the impact it would have on the family of a career prosecutor. "So when Kyle told me he was single, I think that just tipped the scale in my mind as saying, all right, I won't voice an objection and insist that he comes off the list. Do I regret that to this day? That still weighs heavy on my heart," McNulty told staff this spring, according to transcripts released today.

• Asked if a resignation by the attorney general would boost morale, McNulty responded: "I don't know how to gauge that. I think the morale at the department is generally good. I think people, again, love what they're doing and are fulfilling their responsibilities in a very excellent way."

Today's hearing will not have the fallout of the deputy attorney general's other appearances on Capitol Hill this year. On Feb. 6, McNulty essentially started the entire U.S. attorney scandal with his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. McNulty said then that seven prosecutors were dismissed for "performance" reasons.

The dismissed prosecutors were outraged and a month later six of them testified before the Judiciary committee to defend their professional reputations, with some accusing congressional Republicans of pressuring the administration because they wouldn't bring charges against Democrats -- or wouldn't do it before Election Day.

McNulty's Feb. 6 testimony also set off an internal civil war within the Justice Department and with the White House political affairs office over what he said about the eighth U.S. attorney: Bud Cummins of Little Rock. According to McNulty, Cummins was pushed out for political reasons so that Tim Griffin, a former deputy to senior presidential adviser Karl Rove, could be given a chance to run that prosecutor's office.

Dozens of e-mails and internal documents show that Gonzales was furious with McNulty for this admission, as was Sara M. Taylor, the White House political director, who said Griffin was "hung out" to dry by that admission.

Almost a week after the Feb. 6 testimony, McNulty appeared again before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a closed-door setting to discuss personnel records of the fired prosecutors. And then McNulty also did a private interview this spring with House and Senate Judiciary staff as part of their ongoing investigations into the firings, what McNulty today referred ruefully to his "daylong" interview.

Today's appearance, his fourth in less than five months on this issue, was prompted by the public testimony four weeks ago of Monica Goodling, former counsel to and White House liaison for Gonzales. She accused McNulty of not being "fully candid" with the Senate panel in his knowledge about White House involvement in the process and of leaving Goodling outside the Feb. 14 private briefing for senators out of fear that her appearance would raise questions about the political nature of the firings.

Democrats afterward accused McNulty of intentionally trying not to antagonize Goodling, who McNulty has previously blamed for misstatements he had made in his Feb. 6 Senate testimony. Today, McNulty said that he is not accusing Goodling or any other Justice official of "purposefully withholding that information".

"I had a very good relationship with her," McNulty said of Goodling.

By Paul Kane  |  June 21, 2007; 5:38 PM ET
Categories:  Hearing Watch  
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Comments

So Pete Dominici's phone call DID play a big role in firing Iglesias? Well, in that case, I'd say McNulty was a little bit disingenuous when, in his first testimony, he dramatically claimed that any allegations of political pressure in the firing decisions was "like a dagger in his heart." Seems like he knew all along that he was doing Dominici's bidding. Wow, has my respect for McNulty diminished!

Posted by: Gasmonkey | June 21, 2007 6:01 PM | Report abuse

When did Dominici become a Democrat??? Please fix your story.

Posted by: Andy | June 21, 2007 6:09 PM | Report abuse

From the article: "McNulty's Feb. 6 testimony also set off an internal civil war within the Justice Department and with the White House political affairs office over what he said about the eighth U.S. attorney: Bud Cummins of Little Rock. According to McNulty, Cummins was pushed out for political reasons so that Tim Griffin, a former deputy to senior presidential adviser Karl Rove, could be given a chance to run that prosecutor's office.

Dozens of e-mails and internal documents show that Gonzales was furious with McNulty for this admission, as was Sara M. Taylor, the White House political director, who said Griffin was "hung out" to dry by that admission." --- Soo, telling the truth is a bad thing, eh? Looks like Fredo couldn't handle the truth.

Just the same, it seems to be one of the rare moments that McNulty was forthcoming. It's just incredibly amazing that we have had Fredo and the three DOJ deputies who should have known all about the frings, and we still do not know the complete genesis of that list. It's almost uncanny.

Posted by: odin966 | June 21, 2007 6:30 PM | Report abuse

gumming it to death was the first directive for every response, in good (choke) faith, of course

Posted by: pre-Amerikkkan | June 21, 2007 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Gasmonkey! Gasmonkey! PAUL MCNULTY? DISINGENUOUS? SURELY you JEST?

The whole freakin' lot of them, INCLUDING the DOJ-IG, Glenn Fine, are DISINGENUOUS TO A FAULT-that's the DOJ calling card!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2007 7:30 PM | Report abuse

I guess I'll have to watch C-SPAN to discover for myself if the House Committee was really as inept as Mr. Kane implicitly reports here. Knowing the Post's general slant on these political matters, I am sceptical that even the House Committee members could have avoided directing at least one or two penetrating questions to this obviously dissembling witness. But then again . . . .

Posted by: richard young | June 21, 2007 7:30 PM | Report abuse

What do you all know about McNulty or anyone involved in this affair? I guess we don't need judges and juries anymore. We can just have Washington Post online readers determine guilt or innocence of any party, based on selective media reports and unsupported conclusions.

Posted by: Prince Caspian | June 21, 2007 9:26 PM | Report abuse

"I don't know how to gauge that. I think the morale at the department is generally good. I think people, again, love what they're doing and are fulfilling their responsibilities in a very excellent way."

How about, "Absolutely embarrassed to tell anybody that I work at DOJ!"

Posted by: DOJ Employee | June 21, 2007 10:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm not going to pretend I know all about what going on and follow up on every issue, but one things right. When fish is left out it smell, and this smells so bad It penetrates across the country. We are only embarassing ourselves when nobody has trust in these guys. I love America, but I'm embarassed at the state of our country. I guess there are ups and down and hopefully the next administration has better luck. We are at the bottom of the bucket scraping. Im so embarassed to be a Republican (small government, no creeping into personal lives, free market, no socialism), where is Regan when we need him most. At least I didn't vote the last 2 elections, I can sleep at night.

Posted by: Zeuslightning | June 21, 2007 11:49 PM | Report abuse

So what if Domenici got Iglesias fired? It was him after all, who entered his name for consideration. He got him that position. All of you liberals who are jumping and screaming need to read the law and rules on the book, and realize that a US Attorney position is a PATRONAGE POSITION. How many other positions do you know of have almost 100% turnover whenever there is a new president. Think about it. Everytime you listen to these stupid hearings, you never hear the Democrats accuse the Administration of breaking the law. They broke no law. What they did might've been messed up, but the Democratic Majority is just whining in an effort to (and successfully) bring down the President's numbers. If the Democrat's don't chill out with these 5, 6, 20 investigations every week, they are going to lose the House. They will prob keep the Senate, but there are enough 1st term Democrats representing districts in Indiana, Penn, NY and other places who would have a hell of a time explaining to their constituents why instead of legislating on HEalth Care Reform, Global Warming, the War in Iraq, Taxes, Trade, and most importantly Immigration among other issues, they are wasting time with these stupid hearings and putting forth "No-Confidence" Resolutions as if we were the British Parliament

That was probably the biggest joke. Senator Reid scrapping the Immigration bill in order to have a "symbolic" vote of confidence on AG. There's a damn good reason why the US Congress has an approval rating of 11%. You know something is wrong when a person or institution has an approval rating less than 1/3 of President Bush's

Posted by: D | June 22, 2007 12:37 AM | Report abuse

I don't know why the mainsteam media isn't talking about the voter supression of African American voters done by Tim Griffin out of Karl Roves office; and that this person just happened to get the post that Bud Cummings occupied. When are you guys in the media going to pursue this story. The caging list story needs to be further investigated please.

Posted by: Concerned Citizen | June 22, 2007 4:31 AM | Report abuse

Hey!D,

They weren't breaking the law. They were rigging the system.

Posted by: Bill MacLeod | June 22, 2007 6:19 AM | Report abuse

Pete Domenici is a Republican, not a Democrat, as you stated in your article about Paul McNulty.

Posted by: Nancy Osborne | June 22, 2007 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Well, the unrelenting mismanagement and arrogance by the bush (small b) administration is sad to see. I'm reminded of the HUAC hearings in the fifties:
Have you no shame, sir? That's the overlying theme here. THESE GUYS HAVE NO SHAME. I am beyond chagrin. I am sick to death of them.
God save our country.

Posted by: Jim Graham | June 22, 2007 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Some very Republican commenters seem to think the doj works for the President. They work for the American people as does the President. We pays them better then fair wages with our tax dollars. Politics aside we should be able to expect fair and just action from our legals system. The Republicans would do good to remember the next President maybe a be Democrat. Let us hope they will know that American people are not going to except what has been going on in the last eight years just because of no oversight in our legal system.

Posted by: A.Sorrells | June 22, 2007 10:22 AM | Report abuse

The failure to even mention that questions about "caging" and Mr. Mc Nulty's knowledge about it is a refelection of the bias in this article. The practice of "caging" appears to have been a serious criminal offense and the need to have current and former Justice Ddepartment officials is essential if the integrity of our voting process is to be restored. The existence of E-mails inavertently sent to
the wrong web, makes the follow-up of this issue imperative - even if the mainstream press continues to bury the story.
sight b

Posted by: Murray J. Friedman | June 22, 2007 11:42 AM | Report abuse

D at 12:37 AM - Note the problem is not with a Senator or Representative making a recommendation about an appointee. The problem is the reason for desiring to make the recommendation.

In Sen. Domenici's and Rep. Wilson's case, they desired to affect an election - and that is illegal.

"Are these going to be filed before November?" Domenici asked

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/06/AR2007030600606_pf.html

Posted by: mo2 | June 22, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

House Kills Abstinence-Only Measure

By a vote of 206-226 the House of Representatives defeated an amendment offered by Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Penn.) to reinstate the "33 percent" abstinence-until-marriage earmark in the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

http://onthehillblog.blogspot.com/2007/06/house-kills-abstinence-only-measure.html

Posted by: Anonymous | June 22, 2007 3:36 PM | Report abuse

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