Praise Undermines Case for Dismissals
A former deputy attorney general lavished praise yesterday on most of the eight U.S. attorneys who were fired after he left the job, testifying that only one of them had serious performance problems.
James B. Comey, the Justice Department's second in command from 2003 until August 2005, also told a House Judiciary subcommittee that although he was the "direct supervisor" of all U.S attorneys, he was never informed about an effort by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and his aides to remove a large group of prosecutors that began in early 2005.
"My experience with the U.S. attorneys just listed was very positive," Comey said, referring to six of the former prosecutors who testified in Congress in March. He added that the reasons given for their firings "have not been consistent with my experience" and that "I had very positive encounters with these folks."
The testimony from Comey, a highly regarded former prosecutor who is now general counsel for Lockheed Martin, further undermines assertions by Gonzales and his aides that dissatisfaction with the prosecutors' work led to their dismissals. It also underscores the extent to which the firings, which originated in the White House, were handled outside the normal chain of command at Justice.
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