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Justice aide resigns over prosecutor firings

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070313/pl_nm/usa_congress_prosecutors_dc;_ylt=Ag9fYPlSe1IxGUqNKmnttn2s0NUE Justice aide resigns over prosecutor firings By James
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 13, 2007
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070313/pl_nm/usa_congress_prosecutors_dc;_ylt=Ag9fYPlSe1IxGUqNKmnttn2s0NUE

      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
      House.

      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
      smaller group.

      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
      dismissals.

      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
      specific individuals."

      "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
      resign.

      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
      matter."

      "The cloud over Justice Department is getting darker
      and darker, and only the president can dispel it,"
      Schumer said.

      "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
      years."

      (Additional reporting by Tom Ferraro and Matt Spetalnick)
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