MO Senator and White House Played Role in Firing of U.S. Attorney

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New details provided by the IG report released yesterday, gives definition to former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves’ termination and paints a clear case for a politicized firing orchestrated by the office of Missouri Sen. Kit Bond (R).

Graves was the last U.S. attorney to be counted among those fired through the work of Kyle Sampson, chief of staff to Alberto Gonzales and Michael Battle, director of the Executive Office of the United States Attorney. His case differed from the others in many ways — he was fired in January 2006, almost 11 months earlier than the other removed attorneys, and the circumstances around his dismissal were unclear.

But according to the report, Graves’ removal was a result of multiple calls and emails from Bonds’ legal counsel Jack Bartling, to members of White House Counsel — who “kicked over” the complaints to the Justice Department.

Bond’s problems with Graves’ began in late fall of 2004. Bond’s office had been having problems with another Missouri Congressman — Rep. Sam Graves (R), U.S. Attorney Graves’ brother. Between October and December 2004, a staffer from Bond’s office reportedly called former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves to ask for his help in convincing his brother to fire his chief of staff. When Graves refused to intervene, the staffer told him “they could no longer protect [his] job,” and hung up, according to the report.

Shortly after, in February 2005, Bartling began placing calls to the White House Counsel’s office about Graves, pushing for a replacement. By the fall of 2005, the complaints had been passed to the Justice Department. In December, Bartling reached out again to Michael Elston, chief of staff to the deputy attorney general, who had interviewed Bartling when he had been applying for a position in that department.

In a call shortly before Graves’ firing, Bartling asked Elston to, “‘keep his ear to the
ground’ to ensure that the Senator’s role in requesting White House action on
Graves was not being disseminated within the Department,” and make sure that Bonds name was never linked to Graves’ ouster, the report states.

A little over a month later, Battle called Graves on January 24, 2006 to ask Graves for his resignation, acting on instructions from White House Liason Monica Goodling and using a speech similar to the one he would use with the other fired U.S. attorneys less than 11 months later.

While the IG report states that its investigation was significantly hindered by a number of witnesses refusal to cooperate and/or recall events, including that of Sampson, Goodling, members of the White House Counsel staff and Sen. Bond, it clearly states that they found Graves’ firing to be directly a result of Bond’s requests.

Acting on the report’s findings, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed an ethics complaint this afternoon against Bond, stating that Sen. Bond and his staff violated Senate rules prohibiting “improper conduct which may reflect upon the Senate.”