Justice aide resigns over prosecutor firings
By James Vicini 43 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top aide to U.S. Attorney
General Alberto Gonzales has resigned, the Justice
Department said on Tuesday, the latest fallout from
the firing of federal prosecutors that has embarrassed
the Bush administration and prompted calls for
Gonzales to step down.
Lawmakers are investigating whether the dismissal last
year of eight prosecutors, some of whom had been
criticized by Republicans, was a politically motivated
interference in federal prosecutions by the White
The Justice Department said Kyle Sampson, chief of
staff to Gonzales, had resigned, effective
immediately. A department official said Sampson had
stepped down because of his role in the firings.
Major U.S. newspapers reported on Tuesday that the
White House had suggested two years ago that the
Justice Department fire all of the nation's 93 U.S.
attorneys, but approved the idea of dismissing a
The eight prosecutors were fired after
President George W. Bush spoke to Gonzales about
complaints that some of them were not energetically
pursuing voter-fraud investigations, White House
spokeswoman Dana Perino told The Washington Post and
The New York Times.
The Washington Post said Sampson resigned after
acknowledging he did not tell other Justice Department
officials about the extent of his communications with
the White House. His omission led Justice officials to
provide incomplete information to Congress, it said.
Democrats in Congress expressed outrage.
"The White House and the attorney general have dodged
Congress's questions and ducked accountability," said
Sen. Patrick Leahy (news, bio, voting record), the
Judiciary Committee chairman.
"I am outraged that the attorney general was less than
forthcoming with the Senate while under oath," the
Vermont Democrat said.
Gonzales appeared before Leahy's panel earlier this
year and said politics was not a factor in the
E-mails and internal documents indicated that
then-White House counsel Harriet Miers suggested to
Sampson in February 2005 that all prosecutors be
dismissed and replaced, the Post said.
White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters in
Merida, Mexico, that Bush made "no recommendations on
"THAT WAS HER IDEA"
Snow said it was Miers who questioned whether to bring
in "fresh blood" after four years in office.
Although most of the ousted prosecutors had received
positive job reviews, the Justice Department said they
were largely dismissed because of employment-related
matters or policy differences.
Republicans in several states, including some where
the party suffered narrow losses to Democrats, had
complained about alleged voter registration fraud in
the 2004 elections.
Gonzales was appointed attorney-general in early 2005
after serving as White House counsel by Bush, with
whom he had worked closely for many years in their
home state of Texas. Sampson had also worked for the
White House after Bush's 2000 election, overseeing
legal appointments in the administration.
Over the weekend, top Democrats said Gonzales should
Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record) of New
York, a member of the Senate Democratic leadership,
renewed his call for Gonzales to step down and urged
Bush to step up and "clarify his role in this whole
"The cloud over Justice Department is getting darker
and darker, and only the president can dispel it,"
"Today's resignations by his chief of staff does not
take the heat off the attorney general, it raises the
temperature," he added.
Gonzales, who was White House counsel during Bush's
first four years in office, did not mention the firing
of the prosecutors in a statement.
"Kyle Sampson has served as a key member of my team,"
Gonzales said. "I am very appreciative for his
service, counsel and friendship during the last six
(Additional reporting by Tom Ferraro and Matt Spetalnick)