William Mercer, the Acting Associate Attorney General, asked President Bush today to withdraw his nomination to be the permanent No. 3 official in the Justice Department, “saying it was unlikely that the Senate would confirm him to a post he has held on an interim basis since September.”
Mercer, who is also the current U.S. attorney in Montana, is enmeshed in both the U.S. attorney scandal and the politicization of the Justice Department. He reportedly told fired U.S. attorney Daniel Bogden of Nevada that his dismissal was “to make room for others to gain experience so the Republican Party would have a strong bench of candidates for federal judgeships.”
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) called for Mercer to resign after the Washington Post reported that he “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.”
In a statement, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said Mercer withdrew his name to avoid testifying under oath:
The White House has found many ways to keep sunlight from reaching some of the darker corners of the Bush Justice Department, but this is a new one. They have withdrawn this nomination to avoid having to answer more questions under oath.
Gonzales said in a statement today that he is “very pleased that the department will continue to benefit from his leadership, talent and experience through his role as U.S. attorney in Montana.”
Mercer, whose confirmation hearing was set for Tuesday, served in the Department for two years, as both a temporary senior official and as the U.S. attorney in Montana .