This article about the resignation of Rachel K. Paulose as U.S. attorney for Minnesota incorrectly said that the Office of Special Counsel, which has been investigating allegations against her, is part of the Justice Department. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent agency.
U.S. Attorney for Minnesota to Leave Post
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Rachel K. Paulose, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota who sparked staff rebellions and a federal probe into her handling of classified information, is resigning to return to the Justice Department's Washington headquarters, department officials said yesterday.
Paulose, at 34 the nation's youngest chief federal prosecutor, was part of a wave of Bush administration insiders dispatched to run U.S. attorney's offices around the country, in what Democrats and other critics said reflected a strategy by then-Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to inject politics into the administration of justice.
The appointments were one aspect of a controversy triggered by the unusual firings last year of nine U.S. attorneys. The resulting firestorm on Capitol Hill eventually prompted Gonzales to resign.
None of the appointees stirred as much heat as did Paulose. She drew complaints from lawyers who worked for her, from critics of her outspoken conservative, Christian beliefs and, ultimately, even from the Republican senator who had endorsed her selection.
The Justice Department's Office of Special Counsel had been investigating allegations that she had mishandled classified material and made a racist remark to a staff member. An internal department audit found that her employees said she treated subordinates harshly and lacked the experience for her job.
In an interview with a blogger last week, posted on National Review Online, the usually press-shy Paulose denied saying anything racist to the staff member and added that "the department is defending me against this outrageous and defamatory lie."
She also decried "the McCarthyite hysteria" that surrounded her.
The brief interview provoked some of Paulose's staff, according to her predecessor as Minnesota U.S. attorney, Thomas W. Heffelfinger. He said in an interview last night that "at least one and as many as three of her current staff managers either had resigned or were threatening to resign today."
Such defections would have been the second in Paulose's office in less than a year. This spring, her top assistant and two other senior prosecutors stepped down from their management responsibilities, saying they no longer could work with her.
"Last week she was talking about staying, and today she is leaving," said Heffelfinger, a state and federal prosecutor for nearly 20 years before he resigned last year to enter private practice. "So something happened."
Her departure "was a mutual decision" between Paulose and officials in Justice's headquarters, said one source familiar with the decision, speaking about a personnel matter on the condition of anonymity.
Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, who was narrowly confirmed by the Senate and sworn in 10 days ago, was aware of the decision, the source said. Paulose "has come to realize, and the new attorney general and others, that management was a challenge for her there," the source said. "She felt it was best for her office for her to . . . get out of this management position and into a place where she could excel."