A long-awaited report from the Justice Department released Monday concludes that political partisan considerations played a part in the firings of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006 but stops short of recommending criminal charges against top officials.
The dismissals of the lawyers led to the resignations of key officials at the Justice Department, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
The investigation found "significant evidence that political partisan considerations were an important factor" in the removal of several U.S. attorneys and points a finger at Gonzales for failing to supervise the U.S. attorney selection and removal process.
However, because investigators were unable to fully develop the facts of the case — partly bcause of the White House failure to provide internal documents — the report recommends further inquiry to determine whether any criminal offense was committed. Attorney General Michael Mukasey has followed the report's suggestion and appointed a prosecutor — Nora Dannehy — to continue the investigation.
The Justice Department's inspector general and its Office of Professional Responsibility have been conducting the investigation for more than a year, holding hundreds of hours of interviews and examining tens of thousands of pages of documents. The result is a 392-page report complete with timelines and other visual aids.
In a statement, Mukasey said the report "makes plain that, at a minimum, the process by which nine U.S. Attorneys were removed in 2006 was haphazard, arbitrary and unprofessional, and that the way in which the Justice Department handled those removals and the resulting public controversy was profoundly lacking."
Mukasey also said he hoped the report takes steps to restore the reputations of the affected U.S. attorneys. "They did not deserve the treatment they received," Mukasey says.