Bush Shuns Advice To Fire Special Counsel

Bloch's Deputy Resigns

In a July 10 letter, Deputy Special Counsel James Byrne accused his boss of putting "political agendas and personal vendettas" above the interests of the Special Counsel's office.

The White House overruled a senior executive branch official who suggested firing the man in charge of representing government whistleblowers, NPR has learned.

Special Counsel Scott Bloch has been under increasing pressure from inside and outside his office to step down, but President Bush apparently has yet to ask for his resignation despite internal advice that he do so.

Clay Johnson, the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, urged the White House to dismiss Bloch, and the White House refused, according to sources familiar with the conversations. On Friday, Johnson's office denied the account. Spokeswoman Jane Lee wrote in an e-mail: "Mr. Johnson has not given or been asked for a recommendation regarding Scott Bloch." The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

People who have talked with Johnson say he is "pained" by the situation at the Office of Special Counsel.

Bloch is the subject of a federal investigation, a private lawsuit and complaints from government oversight and whistleblower groups. He is accused of ignoring claims from the government whistleblowers he is supposed to protect, retaliating against his own employees and destroying evidence in order to obstruct a federal investigation.

Bloch's deputy, James Byrne, accused Bloch in a resignation letter made public Thursday of putting "political agendas and personal vendettas" above the interests of the Special Counsel's office. And in May, dozens of FBI agents stormed Bloch's home and office in a surprise raid. A grand jury has begun hearing testimony from witnesses about whether Bloch committed obstruction of justice.

The government watchdog group Project on Government Oversight sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and White House Counsel Fred Fielding Thursday urging the president to remove Bloch from his position, citing "a disturbing downward spiral" for the Office of Special Counsel. The group has not received a response.

The Special Counsel serves a five-year term but can be removed earlier for "malfeasance, neglect of duty or inefficiency."

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.