Resigned Justice Department deputy Paul McNulty occupied "a very central place" at the agency, according to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. At the National Press Club, Gonzales said it was McNulty's suggestions on which U.S. attorneys to dismiss that mattered most to him.
McNulty has maintained that he was not kept up to date on the prosecutor review process, and that he was surprised to see at least one of the names on the final list of U.S. attorneys to be fired.
But in a question-and-answer session that followed his prepared speech on violent crime, Gonzales stressed how much decision-making responsibility the deputy attorney general has at the Justice Department.
Gonzales began by saying it was his former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, who provided the recommendations. But he went on to say, as he said on the Hill last week, that he believed that those recommendations reflected McNulty's views.
"The one person that I would care about would be the views of the deputy attorney general, because the deputy attorney general is the direct supervisor of the United States attorneys," Gonzales said.
"And in this particular case, Mr. McNulty was a former colleague of all of these United States attorneys, and so he would probably know better than anyone else about the performance and the qualifications of these — of our United States attorney community."
Gonzales has vowed to remain on the job as long as he can, in his words, continue to serve effectively.