Friday, May 4, 2007

Former Deputy AG Comey Testifies in U.S. Attorneys Firing Investigation

Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who left the Department of Justice in 2005 to become general counsel at Lockheed Martin, testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law as part of the continuing investigation of the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys.  Comey stated that he spoke briefly with Kyle Sampson in 2005 about U.S. Attorney's with weak management, but noted that only one of the fired prosecutors -- San Francisco's Kevin Ryan -- was among those he mentioned.  Comey testified he was unaware that there was a process being developed to remove U.S. Attorneys, although he left the Department well before the terminations.  Comey did state his high regard for former U.S. Attorneys David Iglesias, Carol Lam, John McKay, Paul Charlton, Daniel Bogden, and Bud Cummins; he did not mention Margaret Chiarra.  An article from The Hill (here) discusses Comey's testimony.

Meanwhile, on another front, McKay, from the Western District of Washington, and Charlton, from Arizona, provided written submissions (here and here) to the Committee responding to additional questions identifying conversations with Michael Elston, the chief of staff to current Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, that they found troubling.  McKay wrote about a January 17, 2007, call initiated by Elston:

I greatly resented what I felt Mr. Elston was trying to do: buy my silence by promising that the Attorney General would not demean me in his Senate testimony. I clearly and slowly told Mr. Elston that his description of what the Attorney General would be saying would have NOTHING to do with what I said or didn’t say publicly. I told him that my silence thus far was because I believed it was my duty to resign quietly because I served at the pleasure of the President, and that I did not want to reflect poorly on him or the Department of Justice. I told him that nothing he could say in Washington D.C. could demean me in Seattle, and made clear that I did not appreciate his offer. My handwritten and dated notes of this call reflect that I believed Mr. Elston’s tone was sinister and that he was prepared to threaten me further if he concluded I did not intend to continue to remain silent about my dismissal.

Charlton wrote:

After December 7, 2006, but prior to the Attorney General's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee [in January 2007], I received a call from Mike Elston, Chief of Staff to the DAG. In that conversation I believe that Elston was offering me a quid pro quo agreement: my silence in exchange for the Attorney General's.

Cummins, from the Eastern District of Arkansas, testified at an earlier Subcommittee hearing that he spoke with Elston four times, and in their final conversation "[h]e essentially said that if the controversy continued, then some of the USA’s would have to be 'thrown under the bus.'" (see here)  Things just keep getting more interesting. (ph)

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Thanks very much for blogging that story. It's my opinion that John McKay was/is much more qualified than Paul McNulty. It's my opinion that Paul McNulty should do the honorable thing and resign. It's also my opinion, that should he do so and Alberto Gonzales manages to somehow not get fired or sent to prison for perjury, that he should replace McNulty with McKay.

McKay can restore dignity to the DOJ. Morale is at an all time low and every single member of the Senate Judiciary Committee is well aware of that fact.

Posted by: SEC/NASD Enforcement Bull | May 6, 2007 4:57:06 AM

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