The letter in full:
March 8, 2007
The Honorable Alberto Gonzales
Attorney General of the United States
United States Justice Department
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Attorney General Gonzales:
This letter is to express our strong disappointment with how your Department has handled the cases of eight U.S. Attorneys who have been asked to resign over the past few months, and to take issue with a number of assertions you made in an op-ed in yesterdayâs USA Today.
We have come to believe that this was a clumsy effort to force these U.S. Attorneys out for reasons that have little or nothing to do with their performance as prosecutors. The U.S. Attorneys who testified before the House and Senate had solid records as independent prosecutors. They are good people. And they didnât deserve to be treated this way.
Now you write that these forced-resignations were based on âpolicy, priorities and management.â You also stated unequivocally before the Judiciary Committee that you âwould never, ever make a change in the United States attorney position for political reasons.â
But these assertions donât hold up. There is evidence suggesting that the intent was to replace some of these U.S. Attorneys with others who might be more politically-connected. This was the case with Mr. Cummins, who was replaced with a protÃ©gÃ© of Karl Rove. And your Deputy, Paul McNulty, has acknowledged as much before the Judiciary Committee. There are suggestions that this may be the case with others as well.
The fact is that the U.S. Attorneys in question received favorable performance evaluations. This was done by several dozen independent reviewers who were asked to evaluate each U.S. Attorneyâs priorities and policy decisions, as well as their prosecution statistics. When we reviewed the reports your office provided, it was clear that each of the U.S. Attorneys were individually evaluated to have a strategic plan and appropriate priorities to meet the needs of the Department and their districts.
Given these evaluations, it is difficult to now accept that the reason these U.S. Attorneys were fired was because they failed to meet the Departmentâs priorities. It is even harder to accept the answer, given each of the U.S. Attorneys was a rising star. It is also hard to accept that 7 U.S. Attorneys lost your confidence simultaneously, especially since all were âsurprisedâ by the call requesting their resignation.
U.S. Attorneys are at the forefront of many of this countryâs most important cases, and as each of them testified yesterday, U.S. Attorneys must have some level of independence given the seriousness of their job.
While the President has the right to fire U.S. Attorneys, we do not believe the American people are best served if the President chooses to fire U.S. Attorneys for political reasons â whether to put in place young ideologues or because he is displeased with the cases the U.S. Attorney is pursuing.
We strongly believe that if a President chooses to fire U.S. Attorneys for any reason, but especially for political reasons, he should explain and justify his decision.
However, the change to the law last March has wiped out Congressâs role to hold the Administration accountable for its actions.
If the Department of Justice is comfortable justifying its reasons and is committed to going through the Senate confirmation process, then the Department should also support our efforts to pass legislation requiring Senate confirmation of U.S. Attorneys.
We ask that you support this legislation and restore the independence of U.S. Attorneys.
United States Senator
United States Senator