“Montana’s senators angrily reacted to a report in today’s Washington Post that acting Associate Attorney General William Mercer worked to alter federal law so that he and a handful of other senior Justice officials could escape residency requirements that governed their assignments as U.S. attorneys.”
The change, approved by Congress in 2006, allowed Mercer to continue serving as U.S. attorney for Montana while working there just three days a month and spending the rest of his time as one of Gonzales’s top aides at Justice Department headquarters in Washington.
The legislation was added to the USA Patriot Act reauthorization — at Mercer’s request — on the same day that Gonzales told Montana’s chief federal judge that Mercer was not in violation of federal residency requirements.
“For months, I gave Bill Mercer the benefit of the doubt that he was shooting straight with me and with the people of Montana,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who called on Mercer to resign his position as U.S. attorney. … “Mr. Mercer was operating outside federal law, so he had the law changed. That might work in Alberto Gonzales’ Justice Department, but it’s not how we do business in Montana.”