Justice Department Officials Confirm White House Instigated Plan To Bypass Senate On U.S. Attorney

bbg.jpg Both Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his former chief of staff Kyle Sampson approved a plan to bypass the Senate and install Karl Rove-protege Tim Griffin as U.S. attorney in Arkansas.

But according to Karen Tumulty of Time, private testimony by Sampson reveals that the idea was “instigated” by the White House:

In private testimony that is being released this afternoon by the commitee, Alberto Gonzales’s former Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson told investigators that Gonzales himself initially resisted the idea of bypassing the Senators from Arkansas to install Karl Rove protege Tim Griffin as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Pressure to do it, he suggested, was coming from officials at the White House–specifically, White House political director Sara Taylor, her deputy Scott Jennings and Chris Oprison, the associate White House counsel. Sampson described himself and Goodling as “open to the idea,” which is not the same as instigating it.

Taylor reports directly to Rove. In a Dec. 19, 2006 e-mail, Sampson said that getting Griffin “appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc.”

Additionally, according to written testimony by Bud Cummins — the prosecutor Griffin replaced — Michael Elston, the chief of staff to former Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, the plan to install Griffin and circumvent Senate approval was completely dictated by the White House:

Elston denied knowing anything about anyone’s intention to circumvent Senate confirmation in Griffin’s case. He said that might have been the White House’s plan, but they “never read DOJ into that plan” and DOJ would never go along with it. This indicated to me that my removal had been dictated entirely by the White House.

Fortunately, in a 306-114 vote, the House yesterday passed legislation “that would curb President Bush’s power to appoint prosecutors indefinitely,” limiting interim U.S. attorneys’ terms to 120 days. The Senate has already approved the bill, and it now heads to Bush for his signature.