Updated 5:15 p.m.
Nora Dannehy, the special prosecutor tapped to investigate potential criminal violations tied to the removal of nine U.S. attorneys, has wrapped up the probe with a finding that no criminal charges be filed, the Justice Department announced today in a letter to Congress.
The letter, written by Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich, said the Dannehy investigation, which began in September 2008, found that the evidence “did not demonstrate any prosecutable criminal offense” was committed with regard to the removal of U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico. Dannehy found the evidence did not justify broadening the scope of the investigation beyond the removal of Iglesias.
Dannehy and a team of FBI agents interviewed 60 individuals and had the full cooperation of the White House, Weich said in the six-page letter (.pdf) to House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) The investigators reviewed documents that a DOJ internal investigative report said were relevant for follow-up review.
That investigative report, prepared by the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Office of the Inspector General, concluded that then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, made misleading statements. Then Attorney General Michael Mukasey asked Dannehy to look into the possibility of false statement charges.
“Based on a consideration of all the evidence and the legal standards, Ms. Dannehy concluded that there was insufficient evidence to establish that persons knowingly made material false statements to OIG/OPR or Congress or corruptly endeavored to obstruct justice,” Weich wrote in the letter.
Weich, who heads the Office of Legislative Affairs, also said that DOJ leadership did not determine whether the complaints about Iglesias were “legitimate.” The fact DOJ officials did not investigate complaints of Iglesias’s performance “bespeaks undue sensitivity to politics on the part of DOJ officials who should answer not to partisan politics but to principles of fairness and justice.”
“While the actions of DOJ leadership were contrary to DOJ principles, they were not intended to and did not influence or in any way impede voter fraud prosecutions or a particular public corruption case,” Weich wrote.
Weich said Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. “remains deeply dismayed by the OIG/OPR findings related to politicization of the Department's actions, and has taken steps to ensure those mistakes will not be repeated.”
Conyers issued a statement (.pdf) Wednesday evening that said Dannehy's determination does not exonerate Bush administration DOJ officials.
"[T]he letter does not conclude that Administration officials testified truthfully to Congress on this subject," Conyers said in the statement. "Indeed, the letter reaffirms DOJ’s prior finding that Alberto Gonzales and Kyle Sampson made ‘inaccurate and misleading’ statements. Despite coming to this conclusion, however, it concludes only that there was insufficient evidence to make the legal showing needed for a criminal case."