Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Prosecutor Is Named in Dismissal of Attorneys

WASHINGTONAttorney General Michael B. Mukasey on Monday appointed a federal prosecutor to continue an investigation into the dismissals of nine federal prosecutors in 2006 as an internal Justice Department inquiry concluded that political pressure drove the action against at least three of them.

The internal investigators said that the White House’s refusal to cooperate in the high-profile investigation produced significant “gaps” in the understanding of who was to blame and that they did not have enough evidence to justify recommending criminal charges in the affair. Now the task of determining if anyone should be prosecuted will fall to Nora Dannehy, the federal prosecutor in Connecticut.

The 356-page report, prepared by the department’s inspector general and its Office of Professional Responsibility, provides the fullest account to date of a scandal that dogged the Bush administration for months last year over accusations that it had politicized the federal justice system by ousting prosecutors seen as disloyal.

It provided particular detail in the dismissal of David C. Iglesias, a former New Mexico prosecutor who was let go at the prodding of Republican leaders in Washington and New Mexico who were dissatisfied with his work in investigating accusations against Democrats. Despite the denials of the Bush administration, the political pressure was “the real reason” for Mr. Iglesias’s dismissal, the report said.

The investigators acknowledged, however, that they could not answer some critical questions because the White House refused to turn over internal documents and to allow interviews with some crucial figures.

Investigators interviewed about 90 people in the last year and a half, but three senior administration officials who played a part in crucial phases of the dismissals — Karl Rove, the former political adviser to President Bush; Harriet E. Miers, a former White House counsel; and Monica M. Goodling, a former Justice Department liaison to the White House — refused to be interviewed.

But at the same time, the inquiry rejected accusations that the dismissals of two other prosecutors, in Phoenix and San Diego, were designed to thwart political investigations involving Republicans.

The controversy over the dismissals of nine federal prosecutors led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales last September, and the report saves some of its harshest criticism for him. It concludes that Mr. Gonzales was “remarkably unengaged” in an unprecedented process to fire a large number of prosecutors at once, and it says that he, along with his deputy at the time, Paul J. McNulty, “abdicated their responsibility” to ensure the integrity of the process and left it mainly to Mr. Gonzales’s chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson.

The report also faulted Mr. Gonzales’s misstatements to Congress and the news media about the true reasons for the dismissals and his “extraordinary lack of recollection about the entire removal process.”..............

No comments: