Correction to This Article
A March 23 article about the dismissal of the U.S. attorney in Little Rock incorrectly said that D. Kyle Sampson, then chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, wrote in a June 13, 2006, e-mail to Gonzales's senior counsel, Monica Goodling, that "we are now executing this plan." In fact, Goodling wrote the e-mail to Sampson.
Page 2 of 3   <       >

E-Mails Show Machinations to Replace Prosecutor

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), right, and the panel's ranking Republican, Arlen Specter (Pa.), before the committee approved subpoenas for White House officials. The panel, following similar action in the House, agreed to question Karl Rove and Harriet Miers about dismissals of U.S. attorneys. Story, A4.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), right, and the panel's ranking Republican, Arlen Specter (Pa.), before the committee approved subpoenas for White House officials. The panel, following similar action in the House, agreed to question Karl Rove and Harriet Miers about dismissals of U.S. attorneys. Story, A4. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)

Cummins's dismissal differs from the firings of the seven other ousted federal prosecutors in several respects. Cummins was told he was being removed last June, and the rest were told on Dec. 7. Justice Department officials also have not publicly said Cummins's departure was related to his performance in office, as they have with the others. They acknowledged last month that he was fired simply to make room for Griffin.

But documents show that Cummins was clearly a target of Sampson's two-year effort to fire a group of U.S. attorneys who did not qualify as what he called "loyal Bushies." He was recommended for removal as early as March 2005.

Cummins said he had no idea of those plans until he was notified of his firing last June. Sometime in the next couple of months, he said, it became clear that Griffin was going to get the job, and Cummins stepped aside in December.

"Was it because Tim Griffin was working for Karl Rove?" Cummins said this week. "I don't know, and I don't think it really matters at this point."

The e-mails, however, show just how aggressively Griffin sought the appointment. On April 27, for example, he used a private e-mail account to send a note to Sampson.

"Kyle, This might also be helpful," Griffin wrote, enclosing the flattering, four-paragraph note that Cummins had written nearly four years earlier, after Griffin had worked in his office as a special assistant U.S. attorney.

"Just thought you should have it," Griffin said.

By June 13, about a week before Cummins would be told he was losing his job, Sampson wrote to Monica Goodling, senior counsel to Gonzales, to tell her that a colleague had the necessary pre-nomination paperwork for Griffin. He said that he would speak the following morning with Michael A. Battle, chief of the office that oversees U.S. attorneys, and make sure that Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty's office "knows that we are now executing this plan."

Sampson's note suggests the plan was not new: "I did tell them this was likely coming several months ago."

By July 25, a White House aide wrote to Sampson to ask whether she could begin trying to win over Pryor. "Is that a problem since he has not yet been nominated for U.S. attorney?" the aide wrote, referring to Griffin.

"If the president has already approved Griffin, then part of our 'consultation' (to meet the 'advice and consent' requirements of Constitution) would be to tell them we were going to start a BI on Griffin," Sampson replied six minutes later, using shorthand for a background investigation. "I assume this has already happened."

But Griffin was never formally nominated, in part because it became clear that Pryor was concerned about Griffin as a candidate, according to documents and officials. By August, Sampson and others were devising ways to hire Griffin into the Justice Department's criminal division until he could be moved into the U.S. attorney's spot.


<       2        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company