Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty announced today that he was resigning his position as the Justice Department's No. 2 official. McNulty's departure comes amidst a scandal over the Justice Department's firing of at least eight U.S. attorneys—some of whom appear to have been terminated for not pursuing voter fraud prosecutions vigorously enough for the White House.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales issued a statement praising McNulty's work at DOJ, which included five years as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. But in recent months, there has been evidence of a growing rift between McNulty and the White House. In February, McNulty testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the White House played a role in the firings of the U.S. attorneys, an admission that reportedly angered Gonzales and the White House. Additionally, McNulty's chief of staff Michael Elston made a series of phone calls to the fired U.S. attorneys warning them not to speak publicly about their departures. Elston reportedly told Senate investigators he did so at McNulty's behest.
McNulty's resignation comes just a day before his predecessor, James Comey, was to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In February, McNulty told Congress that nearly all of the U.S. attorneys were dismissed for "performance-related" reasons. Comey offered a robust defense of those prosecutors at a House Judiciary hearing earlier this month, and was expected to do so again tomorrow.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) issued a statement soon after McNulty's announcement saying: "Mr. McNulty's resignation is a sign that top level administration at the Justice Department may be crumbling under the pressure of ongoing revelations, and what is yet to be disclosed. With this news and as we press on with our investigation, we look forward to his cooperation."
In his resignation letter, released this evening by the Justice Department, McNulty made no mention of the scandal, instead citing the financial realities of "college-age children and two decades of public service."
McNulty's financial statements released before his confirmation as Deputy Attorney General in 2006 show he's not a wealthy man. According to the statements, McNulty had less than $60,000 in savings and owed $580,000 on his family's home in Northern Virginia.
The rumor mill is already churning about possible replacements for McNulty. Among those mentioned: Michael Garcia, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York; Stuart Levey, a former Justice official who is now the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury Department; and Kevin O'Connor, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut who recently came to Washington to become chief of staff to Gonzales.