McNulty: I was out of the loop

The outgoing deputy attorney general, like just about everyone else at Justice, says he didn't have much to do with firing U.S. attorneys.

By Tim Grieve

Published June 21, 2007 7:59PM (EDT)

Alberto Gonzales has defended his role in the U.S. attorney scandal by claiming that he relied on recommendations that "reflected the views of the deputy attorney general."

But in testimony today before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, outgoing Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty -- like just about everyone else who has answered questions about the firings -- said he wasn't really all that involved. "At the end of that process, or near the end, I was approached, consulted," he explained. "Kyle Sampson explained that he was told by the attorney general, 'Go get the deputy's input.' So . . . I provided my feedback to the process."

That "feedback" came in October 2006; McNulty said it would be fair to say that he was "left out" of the process until then.

Why was the deputy attorney general -- second in command at the Justice Department -- left out of the loop on such an important project? McNulty couldn't say, but it was apparently nothing out of the ordinary for him: McNulty said he also didn't know that Gonzales had signed an order delegating to Sampson and Monica Goodling much of the department's hiring and firing authority -- authority that would have belonged to McNulty otherwise -- until he read about it long after the fact in the National Journal.

Tim Grieve

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

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