For Gonzales, a Familiar Cast at the Table

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 5, 2005

For Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, some meetings at the Justice Department must feel similar to those he held when he was President Bush's chief lawyer. After all, at least half a dozen of his senior aides also worked under him when he ran the White House counsel's office.

Former colleagues now at Justice include his chief of staff, his deputy chief of staff, two senior counselors and the head of the legal policy office. In addition, the Bush administration's nominee to be Gonzales's second-in-command, Timothy E. Flanigan, also served as his White House deputy.

But Justice officials are quick to stress that this group of alumni is part of a broader circle of advisers that Gonzales relies upon, including holdovers from John D. Ashcroft's tenure and new hires who have not worked closely with him in the past.

D. Kyle Sampson, his deputy chief of staff, said that "talking about a White House mafia or something like that would not accurately characterize his openness and inclusiveness."

"I like to think he just did a dang good job of hiring us all in the first place," said Sampson, who worked for Gonzales before coming to Justice in 2003 under Ashcroft. "I just think it's a matter of good lawyers he happens to know and be comfortable with."

Even as Gonzales is still cementing his team in place, of course, he is widely reported to be on the short list as a potential Supreme Court nominee. His chances are enhanced by his close relationship with Bush, who has been his boss since Bush was Texas governor. But Gonzales is viewed with suspicion by many within the Republican Party's conservative base, who disagree with moderate legal positions he has taken on issues such as abortion and affirmative action.

Many of his closest aides, by contrast, have extensive and deeply conservative credentials. Many are young lawyers with impressive résumés and fast-rising careers. Justice officials declined to speculate on what might happen to them if Gonzales moves on to the high court.

The key members of Gonzales's inner circle at Justice include:

· Theodore W. Ullyot , 38, chief of staff, had been a deputy assistant and deputy staff secretary for Bush at the White House. From 2003 to 2004, he worked in the counsel's office under Gonzales. Earlier, he was senior vice president and general counsel at AOL Time Warner Europe and a partner at Kirkland & Ellis.

Ullyot is one of the many "Luttigators" who work in the senior ranks of Justice, having clerked for federal appellate judge J. Michael Luttig, the prominent conservative frequently mentioned as a potential Supreme Court nominee. Ullyot also clerked for another hero in GOP legal circles, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

"His leadership style is to listen and engage," Ullyot said of Gonzales. "Our job on the staff is to make sure that he's hearing from all the people that he needs to be hearing from."

· D. Kyle Sampson , 35, deputy chief of staff, came to Justice in 2003 from Gonzales's shop at the White House, and was a counselor to Ashcroft. He learned the ropes on the Hill by working as counsel to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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