No. 2 Jus­tice of­fi­cial McNulty quits over U.S. at­tor­ney fir­ings

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jerry Seper

Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Paul J. McNulty on May 14 be­came the high­est-rank­ing ca­su­alty of the on­go­ing de­bate on Capi­tol Hill over the fir­ing of eight U.S. at­tor­neys, telling At­tor­ney Gen­eral Al­berto R. Gon­za­les in a let­ter he plans to re­sign as the Jus­tice De­part­ment’s No. 2 of­fi­cial.

Mr. McNulty, ac­cord­ing to de­part­ment of­fi­cials who asked not to be named, said in the let­ter that he will re­turn to private law prac­tice to help meet fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions in send­ing his chil­dren to col­lege, adding that he would leave the post he has held for 18 months this fall or sooner if a re­place­ment is named.

The res­ig­na­tion, first re­ported by the As­so­ci­ated Press, also was re­lated by Mr. McNulty to fed­eral prose­cu­tors in a closed-door meet­ing in San An­to­nio. De­part­ment of­fi­cials said Mr. McNulty has told top aides that he had planned to leave the Jus­tice De­part­ment post af­ter two years but moved the date up in the wake of the con­gres­sional probe.

Two top Jus­tice De­part­ment of­fi­cials also con­firmed that Mr. McNulty was an­gry over ac­cu­sa­tions by law­mak­ers on Capi­tol Hill that tied him to the fir­ings, link­ing him di­rectly to what has been de­scribed by law­mak­ers — but not proven — as a purge for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons.

Mr. McNulty — a for­mer U.S. at­tor­ney in Vir­ginia whose four-year ten­ure in­volved sev­eral high-profile ter­ror­ism cases, in­clud­ing the con­vic­tion of Septem­ber 11 co-con­spir­a­tor Zacarias Mous­saoui — also an­gered Mr. Gon­za­les in Fe­bru­ary when he told the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee that H.E. “Bud” Cum­mins III, U.S. at­tor­ney for the East­ern Dis­trict of Arkansas, had been ter­mi­nated to make room for an aide to White House ad­viser Karl Rove.

Mr. Cum­mins was fired de­spite hav­ing re­ceived a pos­i­tive job re­view and, Mr. McNulty tes­ti­fied, was re­moved solely to give the post to Ti­mothy Grif­fin, also a for­mer Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee op­po­si­tion-re­search di­rec­tor.

Ac­cord­ing to an e-mail by his spokesman, Brian Roehrkasse, which was sur­ren­dered to con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors, Mr. Gon­za­les was “ex­tremely up­set” over the tes­ti­mony of his top deputy. Dur­ing a private in­ter­view with Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee staffers, Mr. Gon­za­les’ for­mer chief of staff, Kyle Samp­son, also said the at­tor­ney gen­eral was an­gered by Mr. McNulty’s tes­ti­mony be­cause he had put the White House’s in­volve­ment in the fir­ings “in the pub­lic sphere.”

Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Sen. Pa­trick J. Leahy, Ver­mont Demo­crat, called the res­ig­na­tion the latest ex­am­ple of how scan­dal-plagued the Jus­tice De­part­ment lead­er­ship has be­come and said “the Amer­i­can peo­ple de­serve a strong and in­de­pen­dent De­part­ment of Jus­tice with lead­ers who en­force the law with­out fear or fa­vor.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the New York Demo­crat who has led the Jus­tice De­part­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion and has pub­licly de­manded Mr. Gon­za­les’ res­ig­na­tion, said it “seems ironic that Paul McNulty, who at least tried to level with the com­mit­tee, goes, while Gon­za­les, who stonewalled the com­mit­tee, is still in charge.”

“This ad­min­is­tra­tion owes us a lot bet­ter,” he said.

Mr. Gon­za­les has ac­knowl­edged that he mis­han­dled the fir­ings and his pub­lic ex­pla­na­tion of them, but main­tained that noth­ing im­proper or il­le­gal oc­curred. White House spokes­woman Dana Perino said Pres­i­dent Bush “was pleased with the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s tes­ti­mony” and con­tin­ues to have “full con­fi­dence” in Mr. Gon­za­les.

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