WASHINGTON (AP) - Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty said Monday he will resign, the highest-ranking Bush administration casualty in the furor over the firing of U.S. attorneys.
McNulty, who has served 18 months as the Justice Department’s second-in-command, announced his plans at a closed-door meeting of U.S. attorneys in San Antonio. He told them he would remain at the department until late summer or until the Senate approves a successor, aides said.
He also sent a one-page letter of resignation to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whose own job has been put in jeopardy by the firings and their aftermath.
“The financial realities of college-age children and two decades of public service lead me to a long overdue transition in my career,” McNulty said in the letter, which did not mention the firings controversy.
Neither did Gonzales, in a responding statement that praised McNulty as “a dynamic and thoughtful leader.”
“Paul is an outstanding public servant and a fine attorney who has been valued here at the department, by me and so many others, as both a colleague and a friend,” Gonzales said.
McNulty has been considering leaving for months, and aides said he never intended to serve more than two years as deputy attorney general. But his ultimate decision to step down, the aides said, was hastened by anger at being linked to the prosecutors’ purge that Congress is investigating to determine if eight U.S. attorneys were fired for political reasons.
The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about McNulty’s decision.
McNulty also irked Gonzales by testifying in February that at least one of the fired prosecutors was ordered to make way for a protege of Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief political adviser. Gonzales, who has resisted lawmakers’ calls to resign, maintains the firings were proper, and rooted in the prosecutors’ lackluster performances.
Two other former Justice Department officials _ Gonzales chief of staff Kyle Sampson and White House liaison Monica Goodling _ have resigned in the past two months over the U.S. attorney firings.
It’s unclear what McNulty will do after he leaves the Justice Department, where he has held several high-ranking posts in current Bush administration and that of former President George H.W. Bush.
McNulty also served more than four years as the U.S. attorney in suburban Alexandria, Va., a position he took three days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and one he frequently described as “one of the greatest jobs you can ever have.”
Much of McNulty’s focus as U.S. attorney was on terrorism cases, including the conviction of Zacarias Moussaoui, who admitted to conspiring with the Sept. 11 hijackers but was spared the death penalty.[/i]