A scathing report released today by the Justice Department’s watchdogs said top officials there fired several U.S. attorneys using a “fundamentally flawed process” that improperly considered political and partisan factors. Attorney General Michael Mukasey promptly adopted the author's recommendations that he tap a prosecutor with subpoena power to answer questions the investigators could not.
The report places much of the blame on former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his deputy at the time, Paul McNulty, who investigators said “were remarkably unengaged” from the process and gave inconsistent, misleading, or inaccurate testimony about the reasons behind the firings after they became public.
The report’s authors, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine and Office of Professional Responsibility Director H. Marshall Jarrett, recommended that Attorney General Michael Mukasey appoint a prosecutor to investigate whether any criminal offense was committed in the removal of the U.S. attorneys; whether Justice Department officials made false statements to Congress or to investigators about the reasons for the removal; and whether other federal criminal statutes, including the obstruction of justice or wire fraud statutes, were violated. Investigators said they were stymied by the lack of cooperation of certain key witnesses, including former White House officials Karl Rove and Harriet Miersall the more reason to appoint a prosecutor with the ability to compel testimony
Timed with the release of the report, Attorney General Michael Mukasey announced that he had appointed a career prosecutor, Nora Dannehy, to serve as acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia for purposes of this investigation. Jeffrey Taylor, the District’s interim U.S. attorney, recused himself in the matter. Dannehy will report directly to Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip.
In April, Dannehy became acting U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut—the first woman to hold the job—following the resignation of U.S. Attorney Kevin O’Connor, according to a Justice Department biography. Dannehy, who supervises a staff of 60 attorneys, had been an assistant U.S. attorney for 17 years—specializing in white collar crime and public corruption. She served as the professional responsibility officer—part of a Justice Department program to resolve responsibility issues among department lawyers—for the District. A 1986 graduate of Harvard Law School, Dannehy is a former associate with Day, Berry & Howard—now Day Pitney—where she worked from 1988 to 1991.
Check back with the BLT later today for more on the report.