Alberto Gonzales won't remember this, either

Did the Justice Department fire a ninth U.S. attorney last year?

Published May 9, 2007 1:44PM (EDT)

Reading between the lines of an article in the Kansas City Star, Josh Marshall thinks he has discovered that the Bush administration canned a ninth U.S. attorney last year.

The victim: Missouri U.S. attorney Todd Graves.

The clues: Graves was on the list of prosecutors the Justice Department had targeted for firing; he resigned suddenly in 2006; while Graves said at the time that he was resigning voluntarily, a spokesman for Missouri Sen. Kit Bond tells the Star that, upon Graves' request, Bond "personally called the White House to gain [him] extra time to wrap up case work before his departure"; and a source tells the Star that the White House rejected Bond's request on Graves' behalf because of alleged "performance" concerns about him.

The questions: If you're resigning voluntarily, why do you need to get a senator to ask the White House to give you more time on the job? And if a prosecutor is resigning voluntarily, why would the White House refuse that request?

Graves was replaced by Bradley Schlozman, whose name may be familiar to Salon readers. As Mark Follman, Alex Koppelman and Jonathan Vanian reported back in March, Alberto Gonzales used a loophole passed as part of the reauthorization of the Patriot Act to appoint Schlozman as a U.S. attorney without Senate confirmation.

Why replace Graves with Schlozman? A Justice Department official told Salon that Schlozman was "one of Gonzales' guys," a proponent, as head of the voting rights section of the Civil Rights Division, of the sort of "vote fraud" actions popular with Republicans looking for a way to keep a lid on the Democratic vote. "Schlozman was reshaping the Civil Rights Division," Joe Rich, a former chief of the voting rights section, tells the Boston Globe. "Schlozman didn't know anything about voting law ... All he knew is he wanted to be sure that the Republicans were going to win." Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy and ranking Republican member Arlen Specter this week asked Schlozman to appear before their committee. In doing so, they cited reports indicating that before he resigned "voluntarily," Graves -- the man Schlozman replaced -- had refused to endorse a Justice Department suit that charged the state of Missouri with not doing enough to prevent vote fraud.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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