Today’s Must Read

February 16, 2007 7:44 a.m.

Ousted! Tim Griffin, the former aide to Karl Rove whom the administration installed as a U.S. Attorney in Arkansas, is out, reports the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

“I have made the decision not to let my name go forward to the Senate,” Griffin said Thursday evening….

Griffin on Thursday blamed “the partisanship that has been exhibited by Sen. [Mark ] Pryor [D-Ark. ] and other senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the recent hearing” for his decision to bow out….

Griffin said Thursday that if he were to go through the confirmation process, “I don’t think there is any way I could get fair treatment by Sen. Pryor or others on the judiciary committee.”

He said he will continue to serve in the top law enforcement position in the state’s eastern district as long as the White House keeps him there under the interim title or “gets someone else that I can help transition into this job.

“But to submit my name to the Senate would be like volunteering to stand in front of a firing squad in the middle of a three-ring circus.”

It’s been a rough couple weeks for Griffin, who was the most egregious case among the seven prosecutors purged in December. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty admitted to the Senate last week that Griffin’s predecessor had been forced out for no other reason than to make room for Griffin. And this morning, The New York Times revealed that Griffin had been installed as per the wish of White House counsel Harriet Miers.

There does seem to be some question, though, as to why Griffin is bowing out…

Pryor’s spokesman, Michael Teague, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Thursday, after Griffin said he was withdrawing his name from consideration, that [Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales himself had called Pryor earlier Thursday “and told the senator he was not going to submit Tim Griffin’s name.”

It seems clear that the threat of Senate confirmation ended Griffin’s tenure — but who it spooked more, the administration or Griffin himself, is not so clear.

But remember: it’s probable that the only reason that Griffin was facing Senate confirmation at all is because of pressure from the press, public and the Senate. Otherwise, thanks to that law slipped into the PATRIOT Act last year, Griffin might have stayed in place for as long as he, and the administration, wished.

Update: A couple commenters have made a good point — that Griffin says that he’ll stick around until the White House names a replacement, which could be… forever, under current law (thanks to Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)). The Justice Department has declared that the administration will put forth nominees for all of the spots cleared in December’s purge, and the ADG reports that Gonzales says that he’s already working with Rep. John Boozman (R-AR) to find a replacement for Griffin. But it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.

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