One of the eight U.S. attorneys fired last year says he was told his dismissal was necessary to let a Republican lawyer get experience to qualify for a federal judgeship.
In written answers to supplement his congressional testimony, ex-U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden of Nevada said William Mercer, acting associate attorney general, gave him that rationale for his firing. Bodgen's firing angered Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada, who joined bipartisan criticism of the way Attorney General Alberto Gonzales handled the dismissals.
Mercer explained that ``the administration had a two-year window of opportunity'' to give someone ``the experience of serving as United States attorney'' so ``the Republican Party would have more future candidates to the federal bench'' and political positions, Bogden wrote.
The disclosure came as the Justice Department said its inspector general is investigating an allegation that former Gonzales aide Monica Goodling used political affiliation as criteria for screening applicants for career-level prosecutor positions. The agency said in a statement that federal law prohibits such considerations in hiring career prosecutors.
``Whether or not the allegation is true is currently the subject'' of the investigation by the inspector general and the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said in a statement.
Jeffrey King, one of Goodling's lawyers, declined to comment.
Also, the Senate Judiciary Committee today subpoenaed the Justice Department for e-mails that agency officials traded with Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's top political adviser. In a statement, the panel cited testimony by fired U.S. attorneys that they believed ``political influence was a factor in their firings.''
This proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that the White House is behind it.