Blog, Then Mainstream Press, Find 9th Fired U.S. Attorney

By: E&P Staff It made the front page of The Washington Post today, but only after bubbling up from the popular blog Talking Points Memo and later McClatchy Newspapers.

A former U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo., Todd P. Graves, said Wednesday that he was asked to resign by a senior Justice Department official in January 2006, months before eight other federal prosecutors would be fired by the Bush administration. Attorney General Gonzales had said that the firings were limited to eight and he is being asked about the latest disclosure in another hearing before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Capitol Hill today.

In his opening statement today, Gonzales suggested it was time to move on from this controversy. He said the Graves firing was outside the process that led to the departure of the other eight.

Graves "said he did not oppose the department's request, because he had already been planning to return to private practice. He did appeal to Missouri's senior senator to try to persuade the White House to allow him to remain long enough to prosecute a final, important case -- involving the slaying of a pregnant woman and kidnapping of her 8-month fetus. Justice officials rejected the request."

In the early questioning, Gonzales was asked about the resignation of another U.S. attorney, Debra Wong Yang, in Los Angeles, who left after accepting a $1.5 million bonus from a law firm that was representing Rep. Jerry Lewis -- a congressman Yang's office was still probing.

Excerpts from a New York Times editorial today follows.

As the United States attorney scandal grows, so does the number of prosecutors who seem to have been pushed out for partisan political reasons. Another highly suspicious case has emerged in the appointment of Bradley Schlozman, a controversial elections lawyer, to replace a respected United States attorney in Missouri. From the facts available, it looks like a main reason for installing Mr. Schlozman was to help Republicans win a pivotal Missouri Senate race.

Jim Talent, the Republican incumbent, was facing a strong challenge from Claire McCaskill last year when the United States attorney, Todd Graves, resigned suddenly. Mr. Graves suspects that he may have been pushed out in part because he refused to support a baseless lawsuit against the state of Missouri that could have led to voters? being wrongly removed from the rolls.

Mr. Graves was replaced by Mr. Schlozman, a high-level Justice Department lawyer who had made his name in the Bush administration by helping to turn the department away from its historic commitment to protecting the voting rights of minorities. Mr. Schlozman was one of the political appointees who approved Tom DeLay?s Texas redistricting plan and Georgia?s voter ID law, over the objection of career lawyers on the staff, who insisted that both violated the Voting Rights Act. McClatchy Newspapers reported that Mr. Schlozman also has been accused of hiring Justice Department lawyers based on their political party.

Mr. Schlozman injected the United States attorney?s office directly into the Talent-McCaskill race. Days before the election, he announced indictments of four people who were registering voters for the liberal group Acorn on charges of submitting false registration forms. The Republicans turned the indictments into an issue in the campaign, although Ms. McCaskill won the election anyway. Congress should investigate whether the indictments violated Justice Department guidelines, which say that election crime investigations should not be conducted right before an election, because they can themselves become a campaign issue.

Mr. Schlozman?s short stint in Missouri ? he left after about a year ? appears to be another case of the Bush administration?s politicizing federal prosecutors? offices. Mr. Graves was reportedly on a list to be fired, and clues are emerging about why. He said this week that when he interviewed for the job, he was asked to name one attribute that describes him. ?I said independent,? he said. ?Apparently, that was the wrong attribute.?


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