President Bush will nominate U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty of Alexandria to become the next deputy attorney general, the White House announced yesterday, replacing an earlier candidate who dropped out amid growing opposition from Senate Democrats.
McNulty, 47, has presided over a dramatic expansion of the U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria, which has become the central legal front in the Bush administration's anti-terrorism strategy.
Two other Virginia-based officials were also picked for administration posts yesterday: Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner's homeland security adviser, George W. Foresman, will be nominated for a senior Department of Homeland Security position, and John F. Clark, head of the U.S. Marshals Service's eastern district in Virginia, will be nominated for that agency's top job.
McNulty will keep his current job and serve as acting deputy attorney general while awaiting Senate confirmation for the number two Justice Department job, officials said. His nomination comes after months of disputes between the Senate and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales over the previous nominee, Timothy E. Flanigan, who withdrew his name from consideration Oct. 7.
The Senate Judiciary Committee had scheduled an unusual second hearing to question Flanigan about his dealings with indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Some of the panel's Democrats also objected to Flanigan's lack of prosecutorial experience and about his role in setting administration interrogation policies.
McNulty has overseen the busy U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria for four years and has deep ties in Washington's GOP circles. He was chief counsel and spokesman for House Judiciary Committee Republicans during impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton, headed the Bush transition team at the Justice Department and prepared former attorney general John D. Ashcroft for his bruising Senate confirmation hearings in 2001.
Since becoming U.S. attorney, McNulty has overseen the prosecutions of convicted Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui; John Walker Lindh, an American who helped the Taliban in Afghanistan; and a group of Muslim men convicted of training overseas for holy war against the United States.
Some defense lawyers have been critical of McNulty, for his aggressive approach in terrorism and other areas and because he has never personally prosecuted a case. But associates say he is deeply involved in the details of all major cases brought by his office, and he is well-liked by many defense lawyers and prosecutors.
"Obviously, we wish him the best,'' said Michael Nachmanoff, first assistant federal public defender in the federal public defender's office in Alexandria, which defends the majority of cases brought by McNulty's office. "In our personal dealings, he has always been a gentleman.''
McNulty, a Pittsburgh native, is married with four children ages 13 to 21.
At DHS, Foresman has been nominated to be undersecretary for preparedness. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff called Foresman "a highly respected, veteran emergency management professional."
Before joining the Warner administration, Foresman served as vice chairman of a congressionally chartered terrorism commission chaired by former governor James S. Gilmore III (R) and is close to many state officials who have objected to the department's focus on terrorism as opposed to natural disasters.
Foresman will be asked to carry out reorganization of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose preparedness and planning functions will be stripped and placed under a new, larger directorate under his control.
Staff writer Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.