Justice Dept.'s No. 2 to Counter Claims of Untruths Over Firings

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 21, 2007

Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty today will defend his past statements about the firings of U.S. attorneys, rebutting allegations from other Bush administration officials that he misled Congress by suggesting there was no substantial White House role in the dismissals, according to prepared remarks released yesterday.

McNulty, who is leaving the Justice Department this summer, also will tell a House Judiciary subcommittee that he does not believe that other senior officials, including former Justice aide Monica M. Goodling, purposely hid the extent of the White House's role in the firings.

The prepared remarks indicate that McNulty, 49, will attempt to hold a middle ground as he responds to sharp congressional questions, by defending his statements without leveling accusations at the administration officials who have accused him of giving inaccurate testimony.

"When I testified in February before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I testified truthfully, providing the committee with the facts as I knew them at that time," McNulty says in his remarks.

"I want to be clear today, however, that at all times, I have sought to provide Congress with the truth," he adds later. "And I also want to be clear that I do not believe, and have never believed, that anyone in the Department of Justice set out to mislead me so that I might provide Congress with inaccurate information about this matter."

The firings of nine U.S. attorneys last year have prompted an uproar in Congress and demands by lawmakers that McNulty's boss, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, resign.

Rep. Linda T. Sanchez (D-Calif.), chairman of the subcommittee that is holding today's hearing, said yesterday that "the Bush administration still can't get its story straight" about the prosecutor firings.

"I am hopeful that Mr. McNulty can help clear up some of the numerous contradictions in the Bush administration's explanations on this issue," Sanchez said.

Today's testimony will cap a dramatic turnabout for McNulty, the highest-ranking casualty of the imbroglio. Just six months ago, as a former U.S. attorney who had become second-in-command at the Justice Department, McNulty was widely regarded as a likely candidate for appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

But in May testimony, offered under a limited grant of immunity from prosecution, Goodling accused McNulty of providing inaccurate testimony to Congress and of seeking to obscure the White House's role in carrying them out. Gonzales, after first playing down his role, also named McNulty as the Justice aide most responsible for the dismissals.

McNulty has denied Goodling's allegations and has portrayed his role in the firings as limited.

Internal e-mails and other documents show that McNulty's initial testimony that most of the prosecutors were fired for "performance related" reasons prompted sharp criticism from Gonzales and other Bush administration officials.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company