Correction to This Article
A March 20 article incorrectly said that then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft appointed Patrick J. Fitzgerald as special prosecutor in the CIA leak case. Fitzgerald was appointed by then-Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey after Ashcroft recused himself.
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Fitzgerald Ranked During Leak Case

The thousands of pages of documents released last night highlight the tension among the highest officials at the Justice Department as they struggle to cope with the firings and the resulting public outcry.

In the wake of McNulty's Feb. 6 appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales was furious with how the deputy attorney general characterized the departure of Little Rock U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins It was explained as a move to insert Tim Griffin, a former White House political aide, into the slot.

In an e-mail, Justice's deputy communications director, Brian Roehrkasse, wrote to Sampson and another aide: "The attorney general is extremely upset with the stories on US attys this morning. He also thought some of the DAG's statements were inaccurate. . . . I think from a straight news perspective we just want the stories to die."

Roehrkasse said in a statement last night: "The Attorney General was upset because he believed Bud Cummins' removal involved performance considerations and it was that aspect of [McNulty's] testimony the Attorney General was questioning."

Another e-mail exchange shows that Sampson and McNulty aide Michael Elston did not want the fired federal prosecutors to testify before the Senate committee, a position that seems to support an allegation by Cummins that Elston threatened to retaliate against the former U.S. attorneys if they continued speaking out. Justice officials said last night that McNulty later verbally told Elston he should not take a position on testimony.

On Dec. 5, two days before seven U.S. attorneys were fired, McNulty admitted in an e-mail to Sampson that he was having second thoughts about firing Bogden, the U.S. attorney for Nevada, whose record provided no obvious performance issues or policy differences. McNulty also said he had not reviewed Bogden's performance before including him in the dismissal group.

"I'm a little skittish about Bogden," McNulty wrote. "He has been with DOJ since 1990 and, at age 50, has never had a job outside of government. My guess is he was hoping to ride this out well into '09 or beyond. I'll admit [I] have not looked at his district's performance."

The e-mails detail some of the personal and financial hardships the fired prosecutors have been going through -- particularly Margaret Chiara of Grand Rapids, Mich., who begged for help finding another job.

Staff writer Michael Abramowitz and staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.

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