Gonzales defends firings

WASHINGTON – Attorney General Alberto Gonzales rejected growing calls for his resignation Tuesday as scores of newly released documents detailed a two-year campaign by the Justice Department and White House to purge federal prosecutors.

Gonzales acknowledged his department mishandled the dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys and misled Congress about how they were fired. He said he was ultimately to blame for those “mistakes” but stood by the firings.

“I acknowledge that mistakes were made here,” Gonzales told reporters at a news briefing. “I accept that responsibility.”

“…I believe very strongly in our obligation to ensure that when I provide information to the Congress that it’s accurate and that it’s complete. And I am very dismayed that that may not have occurred here,” he said.

Gonzales also accepted the resignation of his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. The aide, along with then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers, had begun discussing possible firings of U.S. attorneys in early 2005, according to e-mails released Tuesday.

Democrats clamored for Gonzales to resign. Republicans also said they were outraged at being misled over the circumstances of the firings. GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Judiciary Committee member, said the situation could cause Gonzales to “die by a thousand cuts.”

For nearly two months, Democrats have accused the Justice Department of playing politics with the prosecutors’ jobs. Top Justice officials, including Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, have maintained in congressional testimony the dismissals were based on the prosecutors’ performance, not politics.

The e-mails released Tuesday revealed that the firings were considered and discussed for two years by Justice Department and White House officials. The issue first arose in a February 2005 discussion between Sampson and Miers, officials said.

At the time, Miers suggested the possibility of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys. Such purges of the political appointees often come at the beginning of a new president’s administration, not midway through.

The e-mails show Sampson discouraged the across-the-board housecleaning but began a review to weed out prosecutors whom the administration deemed to be performing poorly.

Sampson then drew up an elaborate five-step plan to replace the targeted prosecutors with as little political fallout as possible, which he sent in a Nov. 15, 2006, e-mail to Miers, deputy White House counsel William Kelley and McNulty.

White House approval came a month later.

John McKay of Seattle was one of the eight U.S. attorneys whose dismissal has raised a firestorm in Congress; he was dismissed in December.

The other seven fired prosecutors headed the U.S. attorneys’ offices in Albuquerque, N.M.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Las Vegas; Little Rock, Ark.; Phoenix; San Diego; and San Francisco.

Talk to us

More in Local News

An example of the Malicious Women Co. products (left) vs. the Malicious Mermaid's products (right). (U.S. District Court in Florida)
Judge: Cheeky candle copycat must pay Snohomish company over $800K

The owner of the Malicious Women Co. doesn’t expect to receive any money from the Malicious Mermaid, a Florida-based copycat.

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

A fatal accident the afternoon of Dec. 18 near Clinton ended with one of the cars involved bursting into flames. The driver of the fully engulfed car was outside of the vehicle by the time first responders arrived at the scene. (Whidbey News-Times/Submitted photo)
Driver sentenced in 2021 crash that killed Everett couple

Danielle Cruz, formerly of Lynnwood, gets 17½ years in prison. She was impaired by drugs when she caused the crash that killed Sharon Gamble and Kenneth Weikle.

A person walks out of the Everett Clinic on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The Everett Clinic changing name to parent company Optum in 2024

The parent company says the name change will not affect quality of care for patients in Snohomish County.

Tirhas Tesfatsion (GoFundMe) 20210727
Lynnwood settles for $1.7 million after 2021 suicide at city jail

Jail staff reportedly committed 16 safety check violations before they found Tirhas Tesfatsion, 47, unresponsive in her cell.

A semi-truck rolled over blocking all traffic lanes Thursday morning on I-5 north just south of Arlington on Sept. 21, 2023. (Washington State Patrol)
Overturned trailer spills fish onto I-5 near Arlington, closing lanes

The crash blocked all lanes, forcing drivers going north during rush hour to use the left shoulder.

The Marysville Municipal Jail is pictured Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Marysville weighs mandatory jail time for repeated ‘public disorder’

The “three strikes” proposal sets a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail for crimes like public drug use and trespassing.

Everett police on patrol heard gunshots near 26th Street and Lombard Avenue and closed off multiple roads as they investigated on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Everett Police Department)
3 teens arrested after gunfire in downtown Everett

No one was injured. Police heard gunfire in the area of 26th Street and Lombard Avenue.

It’s time to celebrate and say thanks

Local journalism — and community support — will be the stars of Behind the News Stories on Oct. 24 in Edmonds.

Most Read