Saturday, June 23, 2007
The congressional investigation into the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys is attracting much less attention these days, but the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative and Commercial Law presses on, with testimony from outgoing Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty on June 21. In May, Monica Goodling, former White House liaison for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, told the Subcommittee (here) that when McNulty first testified about the firings in February 2007, "I believe that the Deputy [Attorney General] was not fully candid about his knowledge of White House involvement in the replacement decision . . . ." As recounted in a Bloomberg story (here), McNulty responded by asserting that his testimony was "very accurate" based on his limited knowledge at the time and minimal role in the decision. Of course, Gonzales testified that he relied on McNulty as his primary adviser on the terminations. But in a private interview with the Judiciary Committee staff in April, McNulty stated (here) he first heard about the planned firings in October or November from Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson.
It seems that no one was really responsible for the decision, or is at least willing to accept responsibility for it beyond pro forma assertions about where the buck stops and all that. Will we ever get an answer as to who provided the impetus for the firings? It may be a situation in which the decision took on a life of its own, as happens in a bureaucracy when different players believe their superiors want something accomplished but there is no paper-trail showing who was actually responsible. Then again, with much of the White House e-mail traffic missing from the Republican National Committee accounts or unavailable because of Executive Privilege claims, there is a chance that at least a partial answer is out there somewhere but will not emerge for at least quite a while, if ever. Many top level DOJ staffers have resigned since the U.S. Attorney firings controversy flared up in February, and while it has largely abated it looks like Gonzales may be the last one left standing. (ph)