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Counselor To Gonzales Announces Resignation

Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Hertling also wrote that Gonzales and McNulty have "taken steps to ensure that no actual or apparent conflict of interest would arise" in connection with the prosecutor firings.

Another conflict erupted this week between Justice and Democrats over other records connected to the firings that have not been released to Congress. The committee is set to approve subpoenas Thursday demanding the release of those records, along with uncensored versions of previously released documents.

"We are trying to get to the truth," Leahy, Schumer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) wrote in a letter to Gonzales yesterday. "Documents should be provided without restrictions on disclosure so that they may be used to question witnesses -- including yourself -- on any issue that is an important part of our inquiry."

Throughout the week, Gonzales has been reaching out to lawmakers, predominantly House Republicans. Aides on Capitol Hill confirmed that the attorney general spoke with Rep. Chris Cannon (Utah), the top Republican on a Judiciary subcommittee, and to Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the minority whip and a close ally of Christian conservatives, who in the past have not been outspoken in support of Gonzales.

The discontent in Minnesota centers on U.S. Attorney Rachel K. Paulose, 34, who previously worked for Gonzales and his deputy, McNulty. She is part of a wave of more than a dozen Bush administration insiders appointed as federal prosecutors over the past two years, according to government records.

Paulose said in a statement that "the management team supports the decision of the three to step down" and that "the community will benefit from their focus on prosecuting high-profile, sophisticated cases in the years to come."

"We have work to do," Paulose said. "The office remains focused on our law enforcement priorities and service to this community."

David Schultz, a law professor at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., said the Minneapolis U.S. attorney's office had been relatively free of discontent in recent administrations.

"You never really hear political rumblings out of that office, so it comes as some surprise to see three people step down like this all at once," Schultz said. "It raises the question of whether attorneys are starting to become uncomfortable about the politicization that seems to be going on at Justice."

Paulose replaced veteran prosecutor Thomas B. Heffelfinger, who served as U.S. attorney under both President Bush and President George H.W. Bush. Heffelfinger abruptly resigned early last year to enter private practice.

Heffelfinger has said that he does not know whether he was slated for removal. E-mails from Sampson indicate that two U.S. attorneys targeted for dismissal resigned in early 2006; Heffelfinger is one of two who quit during that time to enter private practice. Heffelfinger declined to comment yesterday.

Paulose has drawn complaints from taxpayer advocates for an allegedly lavish "investiture" ceremony held last month to commemorate her confirmation as U.S. attorney, although Justice officials say the cost to the department was only $225. Paulose has also gained attention for her aggressive efforts to obtain "righteous sentences" in child pornography cases. staff writer Paul Kane and Washington Post staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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