Lawmaker's Aide Targeted Prosecutor Before List Was Made
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
An aide to Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.) urged the White House to replace the U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo., months before Todd P. Graves's name was included on a Justice Department list of federal prosecutors the Bush administration was thinking of pushing out of their jobs.
A spokeswoman for Bond said yesterday that the senator's former counsel, Jack Bartling, contacted the White House counsel's office in the spring of 2005, without Bond's permission. According to the spokeswoman, Bartling said that Graves's replacement "would be favored," because the prosecutor's wife and brother-in-law had stirred ethics complaints in Missouri.
Graves's name was included on a January 2006 memo, drafted by the then-chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, that recommended to the White House seven U.S. attorneys who "might be considered for removal and replacement," according to administration and legislative sources. Two months later, on March 10, 2006, Graves resigned.
Graves is the second U.S. attorney whose ouster is known to have been encouraged by the office of a Republican senator. Sen. Pete V. Domenici (N.M.) complained last October about New Mexico's David C. Iglesias, who was later fired.
And the disclosure by Bond's office sheds the first light on a small group of U.S. attorneys who were targeted by the Bush administration but ultimately were not among the eight prosecutors forced to resign last year.
Their names have been redacted from internal Justice Department e-mails detailing plans for the firings. Agency documents have not explained the fate of these prosecutors, other than a e-mail from April 2006, in which D. Kyle Sampson, Gonzales's then-chief of staff, noted that "two others on my original list already have left office."
Bond's communications director, Shana Marchio, said that, around the time Graves resigned, administration officials told the senator's staff that Bartling's prodding did not prompt the prosecutor's departure but that they had "their own reasons" for wanting him removed. Marchio said they did not specify the reasons.
Last night, Graves issued a statement that said: "This would be humorous if we were not talking about the United States Department of Justice. First, you tell me that DOJ staffers were making secret hit lists and my name was on one of them. Then, you tell me that a staffer for Missouri's senior senator had a hit list so secret that not even the senator knew about it."
In the spring of 2005, the Justice Department said the state contracts held by Graves's wife and brother-in-law did not create a conflict of interest.
Staff writer Dan Eggen contributed to this report.