Interim Ark. U.S. Attorney Won't Seek Job

Tim Griffin, 38, was the Justice Department's choice for chief federal prosecutor in Little Rock.
Tim Griffin, 38, was the Justice Department's choice for chief federal prosecutor in Little Rock. (Susan Biddle - Twp)
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 17, 2007

Tim Griffin, the former White House aide who has been at the center of a political storm over U.S. attorneys' firings, said yesterday that he will not seek the nomination to be chief federal prosecutor in Little Rock.

Griffin, 38, a military lawyer who previously worked for presidential adviser Karl Rove and for the Republican National Committee, was appointed interim U.S. attorney in Little Rock in December on the White House's recommendation. The Justice Department said it intended to nominate Griffin for the job permanently.

But Griffin said yesterday that he would be unlikely to be confirmed for the job because of opposition from key Democratic senators, including Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.).

"I'm not going to get fair consideration from Senator Pryor, my home-state senator, or the Judiciary Committee, particularly under Leahy," Griffin said in an interview. "I decided that there was nothing to gain by submitting myself to that circus."

Griffin's decision, which was reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is the latest development in the controversy over the abrupt firings of seven U.S. attorneys. The dismissals angered lawmakers of both parties and have prompted a battle over the attorney general's power to name replacements.

Under a little-noticed provision of the USA Patriot Act reauthorization law approved last year, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales may appoint interim prosecutors indefinitely.

Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee to return to the previous system, which allows district courts to name an interim prosecutor if a permanent U.S. attorney is not chosen within 120 days of a vacancy.

Griffin said he will remain in the job for "as long as they need me."

Justice spokeswoman Gina Talamona said in a statement that "the attorney general is disappointed that Senator Pryor would not support Tim's confirmation. We are pleased that he is willing to serve as interim United States Attorney until a candidate is nominated and confirmed."

The Little Rock job has been a focus of the debate over the fired prosecutors because Griffin's predecessor, Bud Cummins, was specifically asked to resign to make way for Griffin.

Congressional aides who were briefed on the issue this week said that Griffin was recommended for the job by Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel, who called a Gonzales aide to push for his appointment. Miers told Pryor in December that Griffin was "our person" for the Little Rock job, said Michael Teague, a Pryor spokesman.

Teague said Griffin's sharp comments about Pryor and other Democrats underscore the need for a confirmation process to ensure U.S. attorneys are not overly partisan.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a Judiciary Committee member, said in an interview that "Mr. Griffin is proving to be the partisan he always seemed to be."

Griffin said it is "ridiculous" for senators to complain about White House involvement in his hiring and that complaints about his experience are unfair, after 10 years in the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General Corps and a short stint at the Justice Department.

Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty and other Justice officials have sought to distance the Arkansas dismissal from the other prosecutors' firings, which they have said were prompted by "performance-related" problems. Those six were all asked to resign in telephone calls Dec. 7.

Gonzales told senators in January that he "would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney for political reasons."

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