Pros­e­cu­tor Posts Go To Bush In­sid­ers

Less Pref­er­ence Shown for Lo­cals, Sen­a­tors’ Choices

The Washington Post Sunday - - Front Page - By Amy Gold­stein and Dan Eggen

About one-third of the nearly four dozen U.S. at­tor­ney’s jobs that have changed hands since Pres­i­dent Bush be­gan his sec­ond term have been filled by the White House and the Jus­tice De­part­ment with trusted ad­min­is­tra­tion in­sid­ers.

The peo­ple cho­sen as chief fed­eral prose­cu­tors on a tem­po­rary or per­ma­nent ba­sis since early 2005 in­clude 10 se­nior aides to At­tor­ney Gen­eral Al­berto R. Gon­za­les, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis of gov­ern­ment records. Sev­eral came from the White House or other gov­ern­ment agen­cies. Some lacked ex­pe­ri­ence as prose­cu­tors or had no con­nec­tion to the dis­tricts in which they were sent to work, the records and bi­o­graph­i­cal in­for­ma­tion show.

The new U.S. at­tor­neys filled va­can­cies cre­ated through nat­u­ral turnover in ad­di­tion to the fir­ings of eight prose­cu­tors last year that have prompted a po­lit­i­cal up­roar and con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

No other ad­min­is­tra­tion in con­tem­po­rary times has had such a clear pat­tern of fill­ing chief prose­cu­tors’ jobs with its own staff mem­bers, said ex­perts on U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fices. Those ex­perts said the em­pha­sis in ap­point­ments tra­di­tion­ally has been on lo­cal roots and deference to home-state sen­a­tors, whose sup­port has been cru­cial to win con­fir­ma­tion of the nom­i­nees.

The pat­tern from Bush’s sec­ond term sug­gests that the dis­missals were half of a two-pronged approach: While get­ting rid of prose-

cu­tors who did not ad­here closely to ad­min­is­tra­tion pri­or­i­ties, such as rig­or­ous pur­suit of im­mi­gra­tion vi­o­la­tions and GOP al­le­ga­tions of voter fraud, White House and Jus­tice of­fi­cials have seeded fed­eral prose­cu­tors’ of­fices with peo­ple on whom they can de­pend to carry out the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s agenda.

The in­terim U.S. at­tor­ney in Kansas City, Mo., Bradley J. Schloz­man, for ex­am­ple, was a deputy in Jus­tice’s civil rights di­vi­sion who helped over­rule ca­reer gov­ern­ment lawyers in ap­prov­ing a Texas re­dis­trict­ing plan pushed by Tom De­Lay (R-Tex.), then House ma­jor­ity leader. In Jan­uary, the White House nom­i­nated a per­ma­nent re­place­ment, John Wood, who is coun­selor to Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Paul J. McNulty. Nei­ther Schloz­man nor Wood has been a pros­e­cu­tor be­fore.

Jus­tice of­fi­cials de­fend their record of U.S. at­tor­ney se­lec­tions, say­ing that among Bush’s choices since the start of his first term, a larger share have had ex­pe­ri­ence as fed­eral prose­cu­tors than those of Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton. One Jus­tice of­fi­cial ac­knowl­edged that a num­ber of ad­min­is­tra­tion in­sid­ers have been cho­sen but said there was no con­certed ef­fort to do so.

As Congress pur­sues its in­ves­ti­ga­tion, some Democrats have in­di­cated they want to ex­plore who has been hired, in ad­di­tion to the fir­ings that have been the fo­cal point of hear­ings on Capi­tol Hill — and of calls from both par­ties for Gon­za­les to re­sign.

“If we have eight U.S. at­tor­neys dis­missed be­cause they were not ‘loyal Bushies,’ then how many of the re­main­ing U.S. at­tor­neys are?” asked Sen. Richard J. Durbin (DIll.), bor­row­ing a phrase that Gon­za­les’s for­mer chief of staff, D. Kyle Samp­son, used in an in­ter­nal email to de­scribe cri­te­ria by which prose­cu­tors were cho­sen to be fired.

“A U.S. at­tor­ney’s po­si­tion is a strong line on your ré­sumé. If the ad­min­is­tra­tion re­wards you with that po­si­tion and you come straight from Wash­ing­ton, it’s hard not to be grate­ful,” Durbin, the ma­jor­ity whip, said in an in­ter­view. “That grat­i­tude can trans­late into loy­alty to Wash­ing­ton rather than loy­alty to the job.”

Choos­ing in­sid­ers as U.S. at­tor­neys is not im­proper, given the wide lat­i­tude the law pro­vides pres­i­dents in se­lect­ing fed­eral prose­cu­tors, and all ad­min­is­tra­tions tend to choose those who share their ba­sic le­gal out­look and party af­fil­i­a­tion.

Still, aca­demics and other ex­perts say, the ap­point­ments ap­pear to al­ter a long-stand­ing cul­ture of au­ton­omy for the na­tion’s chief prose­cu­tors. James Eisen­stein, a Penn­syl­va­nia State Univer­sity po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist who has writ­ten a book on U.S. at­tor­neys, said that his­tor­i­cally, fed­eral prose­cu­tors have re­garded op­er­at­ing “in a po­lit­i­cally neu­tral, non­par­ti­san man­ner” as a cor­ner­stone of their roles. Hir­ing peo­ple from Jus­tice, Eisen­stein said, “was very un­usual.”

Jamie S. Gore­lick, deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral in the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion, said it was un­com­mon dur­ing her ten­ure to dis­patch aides from Jus­tice to be­come U.S. at­tor­neys, ex­cept in ur­gent cir­cum­stances, such as when Robert S. Mueller III, now the FBI di­rec­tor, was named U.S. at­tor­ney in San Fran­cisco to shore up that trou­bled of­fice. “Th­ese jobs are se­ri­ous pros­e­cu­to­rial jobs that re­quire judg­ment and an un­der­stand­ing of the laws that are to be en­forced,” she said. “They are not meant to be step­ping­stones, or to give peo­ple turns at po­lit­i­cal jobs.”

Jus­tice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said it is not sur­pris­ing that the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion fre­quently has sent Jus­tice of­fi­cials to run U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fices. “Like many or­ga­ni­za­tions, it is com­mon for Jus­tice De­part­ment em­ploy­ees, ap­pointees and even U.S. at­tor­neys to ac­cept new po­si­tions or as­sign­ments within the de­part­ment,” he said. It “can be tremen­dously ben­e­fi­cial for a U.S. at­tor­ney to have ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing else­where in the de­part­ment,” he added.

Roehrkasse pointed to re­spected ex­am­ples, such as U.S. At­tor­ney Pa­trick J. Fitzger­ald of Chicago and Ru­dolph W. Gi­u­liani, the GOP pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and for­mer New York mayor who was once a fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor.

To be sure, the ma­jor­ity of the U.S. at­tor­neys named since 2005 have been rel­a­tively tra­di­tional choices, such as ca­reer prose­cu­tors who moved up to the top job in the dis­trict in which they worked.

But not all. Re­cent U.S. at­tor­ney ap­pointees in­clude an as­sis­tant at­tor­ney gen­eral for civil rights, a chief of staff to the deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral and a chief of staff to the head of the crim­i­nal di­vi­sion. One ap­pointee, Scott Schools, was gen­eral coun­sel for the Jus­tice of­fice that over­sees U.S. at­tor­neys and led the in­ter­nal probe of the of­fice of the fired pros­e­cu­tor he is re­plac­ing, Kevin V. Ryan in San Fran­cisco.

Three of the clos­est ad­vis­ers to for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral John D. Ashcroft also have be­come U.S. at­tor­neys in the past two years.

A fourth ad­viser — Samp­son — had an even more in­flu­en­tial po­si­tion. He was in charge of U.S. at­tor­ney se­lec­tions in the White House coun­sel’s of­fice and later at Jus­tice, where he even­tu­ally be­came Gon­za­les’s chief of staff. Samp­son also co­or­di­nated the fir­ings, and last month he re­signed as the con­tro­versy swelled.

Samp­son sought to be a U.S. at­tor­ney, too, and he was the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pre­ferred choice last year to be chief pros­e­cu­tor in his na­tive Utah. But he was nudged aside for an­other GOP lawyer, Brett L. Tol­man, who was fa­vored by Sen. Or­rin G. Hatch (R-Utah). Tol­man was coun­sel to the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee in late 2005 when, at Jus­tice’s re­quest, he had lan­guage in­serted into USA Pa­triot Act leg­is­la­tion that al­lowed Gon­za­les to cir­cum­vent Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion by ap­point­ing in­terim U.S. at­tor­neys in­def­i­nitely. Congress is in the process of re­peal­ing the pro­vi­sion.

Of the nearly four dozen re­gional chief prose­cu­tors named in Bush’s sec­ond term, 20 have been in­terim ap­point­ments. The pro­por­tion who have by­passed the Se­nate has been roughly the same for ad­min­is­tra­tion in­sid­ers as for the oth­ers.

Some of the in­sid­ers who had no D. Kyle Samp­son, once Gon­za­les’s chief of staff, was in charge of se­lect­ing prose­cu­tors — and co­or­di­nated the fir­ings of eight. ties to their new com­mu­ni­ties have been well re­ceived.

When Gon­za­les was pre­par­ing to ap­point Deb­o­rah Rhodes, coun­selor in the de­part­ment’s crim­i­nal di­vi­sion, she stopped by to visit with Alabama’s two Repub­li­can sen­a­tors. “I don’t think I’d ever met her, or heard of her for that mat­ter,” re­called Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, a for­mer U.S. at­tor­ney in the south­ern Alabama dis­trict in which Rhodes was to work. Ses­sions said he and Sen. Richard C. Shelby had in­tended to rec­om­mend some­one lo­cal for the job per­ma­nently but ended up urg­ing Bush to nom­i­nate Rhodes, be­cause she ap­peared to be turn­ing around an of­fice be­set by low morale and a probe of her pre­de­ces­sor.

Other in­sid­ers who have been made U.S. at­tor­neys have drawn com­plaints that they are po­lit­i­cal or in­ex­pe­ri­enced.

Mis­souri had for years been a hub of GOP al­le­ga­tions of elec­tion fraud — long dis­puted by Democrats — when Schloz­man ar­rived a year ago from Jus­tice’s civil rights di­vi­sion. Six days be­fore the Novem­ber elec­tions, he an­nounced in­dict­ments of four voter-reg­is­tra­tion re­cruiters for a left-lean­ing group, As­so­ci­a­tion of Com­mu­nity Or­ga­ni­za­tions for Re­form Now, or ACORN, for al­legedly sub­mit­ting fraud­u­lent reg­is­tra­tions to the elec­tion board in Kansas City, Mo. Democrats have protested.

In Min­nesota, Rachel K. Paulose was named in­terim U.S. at­tor­ney 13 months ago and nom­i­nated for the per­ma­nent job in De­cem­ber. As se­nior coun­sel to McNulty, she helped draft an ini­tia­tive to crack down on child pornog­ra­phy through long prison sen­tences. Since ar­riv­ing in Min­neapo­lis, she has ex­panded in­ves­ti­ga­tions of such crimes, which have been a high pri­or­ity for Gon­za­les, and pushed for sen­tences she has called “righ­teous.”

Paulose re­placed Thomas B. Hef­felfin­ger, who spent nearly 20 years as a state and fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor and re­cently left for private prac­tice to in­crease his in­come. Hef­felfin­ger su­per­vised Paulose when she was a young as­sis­tant pros­e­cu­tor in the of­fice. He would not com­ment on her qual­i­fi­ca­tions. “I was 58 when I left. She was 32 when she started,” he said. “I brought sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent things to the job than she brings to the job — with­out valu­ing them one way or the other.” Staff writer Peter Slevin in Chicago con­trib­uted to this re­port.


Ten se­nior aides to At­tor­ney Gen­eral Al­berto R. Gon­za­les have been cho­sen as tem­po­rary or per­ma­nent U.S. at­tor­neys since 2005.


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