Probe: Politics Behind U.S. Attorney Firings
Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey today appointed a special prosecutor to continue investigating the Department of Justice's controversial firings of nine U.S. attorneys, after releasing a report that portrays through e-mails and memos how some officials worked to oust attorneys viewed as politically uncooperative.
After the 358-page report (PDF) was released, Mukasey appointed a career prosecutor, acting Connecticut U.S. Attorney Nora R. Dannehy, to pursue possible criminal charges against Republicans who were involved in the firings.
"The report makes plain that, at a minimum, the process by which nine U.S. Attorneys were removed in 2006 was haphazard, arbitrary and unprofessional, and that the way in which the Justice Department handled those removals and the resulting public controversy was profoundly lacking," Mukasey said in a statement.
Much of the report's most "troubling" allegations focuses on the firing of former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David C. Iglesias, who apparently angered Republican lawmakers in his home state after launching a criminal task force to investigate allegations of voter fraud. His departure was "engineered," investigators say, by the offices of Sen. Pete V. Domenici and Rep. Heather A. Wilson.
The report also alleges that other Republican lawmakers, including Missouri Sen. Christopher S. "Kit" Bond, played a part in the firings of their home-state attorneys.
"Our investigation found significant evidence that political partisan considerations were an important factor in the removal of several of the U.S. Attorneys," the report said.
Former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales "bears primary responsibility" for how the attorneys were fired, the report said, adding that he was "remarkably unengaged." But the Justice Department will not recommend a grand jury to investigate possible criminal charges against Gonzales, The Post's Carrie Johnson reports.
Instead, the report found that Gonzales' chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, was the architect of the firing process and that his comments under oath to Congress and to other White House aides were "misleading."
Two of the attorneys, Margaret Chiara of Michigan and Kevin Ryan of California, were found to have erred in managing their offices, which, in part, prompted their removals (Ryan's firing was deemed appropriate).
The criminal probe into the firings will now be handled by Dannehy, who will try and speak to several lawmakers, their staffers and former White House aides who refused to speak to the Department of Justice inspector general's investigators.
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