The Justice Department has just announced the resignation of Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty. McNulty says his transition to the private sector is "long overdue," especially as he faces the expenses of two children in college. But aides to McNulty tell the Associated Press that his decision to leave now was "hastened" by his anger at being linked to the firing of federal prosecutors last year.
It's not entirely clear how much of a role McNulty played in the firings. As second in command at Justice, he should have been intimately involved in personnel decisions of that magnitude. But McNulty has told congressional investigators that he had limited involvement in the firings and in fact tried to prevent at least one of them. There are signs that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales worked with some of his more ideologically minded aides to circumvent McNulty's office on other personnel matters as well.
McNulty will leave the department at some point this summer, and Gonzales is working hard to make nice in the meantime; in a statement released this afternoon, the attorney general praises his outgoing deputy as "an outstanding public servant and a fine attorney." It may be a matter of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. McNulty has already reportedly apologized to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for telling them initially that the prosecutors were fired for "performance-related reasons." According to Sen. Chuck Schumer, McNulty told him that he had not been kept in the loop by the people who were supposed to have briefed him before he testified about the firings. Once he's off the Justice Department payroll, McNulty may well find himself feeling more comfortable about telling senators what else he knows about his days on Team Gonzales.