It took little more than 12 hours after Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty announced that he will resign for Alberto "I accept responsibility
" Gonzales to lay the U.S. attorney firings at his feet. As many
out, Gonzales barely gave McNulty any time to turn around before he stabbed him in the back.
Actually, it was a clever double stab by Gonzales -- his resigned chief of staff Kyle Sampson (who's been stabbed before
) collected the recommendations and it was McNulty's job to vet those recommendations. What's left for an attorney general to do?
But there is an important point to be made here. Everything that Gonzales said about the duties of the deputy attorney general is true. For instance:
The Deputy Attorney General has a unique position at the DOJ. Most of the operational authority and decisions are made by the Deputy Attorney General. He is the chief operating officer â thatâs the way Iâve structured the Department. And so he occupies a very central place in the work of the Department....
Mr. Sampson provided the recommendations. The one person I would care about would be the views of the Deputy Attorney General because the Deputy Attorney General as a direct supervisor of the United States Attorneys...
Gonzales' appalling dereliction of duty has tended to obscure McNulty's appalling dereliction of duty. It shouldn't. There's plenty of blame to go around.
Here, for instance, is how McNulty's predecessor, James Comey, described the duties of the deputy attorney general:
"I was the direct supervisor of all the U.S. attorneys, and so dealt with them quite frequently on a variety of matters: resolving disputes, talking with them about resources, trying to support them in any way that I could."
"Trying to support them in any way that I could."
By contrast, we have a deputy attorney general who allowed himself to be steamrolled by his inferiors to fire eight U.S. attorneys for, in most cases, no apparent reason. And then after that was done, he helped smear their reputations in order to cover for the Department and the administration.
You need look no further than the case of U.S. Attorney for Nevada Daniel Bogden as a vivid example of this. Here's
McNulty meekly writing to Sampson two days before the firings that he was "a little skittish about [firing] Bogden... I'll admit I haven't looked at his district's performance." Later, he would tell
congressional investigators that "he had hoped for some explanation for Bogden's inclusion on the list because he saw no apparent reason to fire him." Nevertheless, he testified to Congress that Bogden had been fired for "performance" reasons. He now says that he regrets the firing.
Maybe this was Gonzales' strategy -- to surround himself with such an eminently blameworthy staff?