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Ex-Aide Contradicts Gonzales on Firings

Sampson said he could not recall who put Iglesias's name on the list. Justice officials have said that Sampson added the name. Sampson said Iglesias's name remained on the list after McNulty told a group of Justice officials that Domenici would be pleased by the firing.

Sampson was also grilled about Fitzgerald, who was listed by Sampson as "undistinguished" in a March 2005 ranking of U.S. attorneys. Fitzgerald is widely considered by his peers to be one of the top prosecutors in the nation. At a meeting with Miers and Kelley in 2006, Sampson said, he brought up the idea of firing Fitzgerald.

" 'Pat Fitzgerald could be added to this list,' " Sampson told the White House aides, according to his testimony. "They looked at me if I had said something totally inappropriate, and I had. Immediately after I did it, I regretted it." Sampson said he quickly withdrew the suggestion.

Sampson also defended his ranking of Fitzgerald as mediocre, saying he sought to assign a neutral rating because of the sensitivity of the CIA leak investigation that Fitzgerald was overseeing.

Sampson also testified that Gonzales did not reject the idea of using a new work-around to avoid Senate confirmation in filling prosecutor vacancies until after Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) raised objections to the appointment of Tim Griffin to be U.S. attorney in Little Rock. Justice officials have said that Gonzales rejected the idea but have been unclear about the timing.

Sampson -- who wrote e-mails from August to December advocating bypassing confirmation -- said Gonzales did not reject the idea until late December or early January. Pryor said Gonzales told him earlier that no such move had been contemplated.

Staff writer Michael Abramowitz and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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