U.S. Attorneys Scandal

Bush “Stood By” Gonzales During Attorney Firing Scandal. According to the New York Times, “Mr. Bush repeatedly stood by Mr. Gonzales, an old friend and colleague from Texas, even as Mr. Gonzales faced increasing scrutiny for his leadership of the Justice Department over issues including his role in the dismissals of nine United States attorneys late last year and whether he testified truthfully about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.” [New York Times, 8/27/07]

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President Bush nominating Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General (November 10, 2004)
White House photo by Paul Morse

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President Bush making a statement on the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (August 27, 2007)
White House photo by Chris Greenberg

Justice Department Considered Firing A Third Of U.S. Attorneys. According to the Washington Post, “Sources yesterday identified four additional prosecutors who were considered for termination, bringing to 30 the number of prosecutors who were placed on Justice Department firing lists between February 2005 and December 2006. That accounts for about a third of the nation’s 93 U.S. attorney positions. Nine were fired last year.” [Washington Post, 5/18/07]

Inspector General: Process Used To Remove Attorneys Was “Unsystematic And Arbitrary.” According to a report from the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility, “In sum, we believe that the process used to remove the nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006 was fundamentally flawed. While Presidential appointees can be removed for any reason or for no reason, as long as it is not an illegal or improper reason, Department officials publicly justified the removals as the result of an evaluation that sought to replace underperforming U.S. Attorneys. In fact, we determined that the process implemented largely by Kyle Sampson, Chief of Staff to the Attorney General, was unsystematic and arbitrary, with little oversight by the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, or any other senior Department official. In choosing which U.S. Attorneys to remove, Sampson did not adequately consult with the Department officials most knowledgeable about their performance, or even examine formal evaluations of each U.S. Attorney’s Office, despite his representations to the contrary.” [Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility Report, September 2008]

Inspector General: Justice Department “Considered Political And Ideological Affiliations” When Hiring Attorneys. According to a report from the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility, “In sum, our report found that [Civil Rights Division Deputy Assisstant Attorney General Bradley] Schlozman considered political and ideological affiliations when hiring and taking other personnel actions relating to career attorneys, in violation of Department policy and federal law, and his actions also constitute misconduct. We also believe he made false statements to Congress about his actions.” [Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility Report, July 2008]

Bush White House Denied Involvement In Scandal, But Report Showed Bush Aides Were “Closely Involved.” According to the Los Angeles Times, “When the unusual midterm firings of the U.S. attorneys came to light early in 2007, the Bush administration denied that the White House played a role. Then-Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales initially referred to the dismissals as a routine personnel matter. But several congressional hearings and a lengthy report by the Justice Department’s inspector general released last year showed that Bush aides in both the White House and the Justice Department were closely involved in the firings.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/12/09]

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Resigned After Giving “Tangled Account” Of Attorney Firings. According to the Washington Post, “Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, one of President Bush’s closest confidants and a key architect of his controversial counterterrorism policies, announced yesterday that he is quitting after seven months of bitter confrontation with Congress over his honesty and his competence to run the Justice Department. […] But his political undoing stemmed from his tangled account of having approved the dismissals of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006 while denying detailed knowledge of the circumstances or reasons. The events that led to his resignation began with a Democratic-led inquiry into those firings, and they included accusations that Gonzales had lied to lawmakers.” [Washington Post, 8/27/07]

Many Fired Attorneys Were Subject To GOP Complaints They Were “Lax On Voter Fraud.” According to the Washington Post, “Nearly half the U.S. attorneys slated for removal by the administration last year were targets of Republican complaints that they were lax on voter fraud, including efforts by presidential adviser Karl Rove to encourage more prosecutions of election- law violations, according to new documents and interviews. Of the 12 U.S. attorneys known to have been dismissed or considered for removal last year, five were identified by Rove or other administration officials as working in districts that were trouble spots for voter fraud — Kansas City, Mo.; Milwaukee; New Mexico; Nevada; and Washington state. Four of the five prosecutors in those districts were dismissed. It has been clear for months that the administration’s eagerness to launch voter-fraud prosecutions played a role in some of the firings, but recent testimony, documents and interviews show the issue was more central than previously known.” [Washington Post, 5/14/07]