Documents Show Justice Ranking U.S. Attorneys

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The Justice Department sent Congress a new batch of documents about the dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys. The documents show Justice Department and White House staffers planning the firings and trying to control the subsequent fallout.

Some of the newly released documents are repeats, like the letter in which Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, responds to a suggestion from White House counsel Harriet Miers that all 93 U.S. attorneys be fired.

NPR now has new information about that plan. According to someone who's had conversations with White House officials, the plan to fire all 93 U.S. attorneys originated with political adviser Karl Rove. It was seen as a way to get political cover for firing the small number of U.S. attorneys the White House actually wanted to get rid of. Documents show the plan was eventually dismissed as impractical.

The Justice Department documents released today include a spreadsheet ranking all 93 prosecutors. The chart ranks them on whether they have Hill experience, campaign experience, and — in the last column — whether they're members of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.

By eventually dismissing the eight prosecutors, the White House started down a path that has led to a clash with Congress over executive privilege. The current question is whether, and how, White House officials will testify about their role in the dismissals.

In a letter Thursday, White House Counsel Fred Fielding told Congress he won't budge from his original offer — to let Congress interview White House staffers privately, with no oath or transcript.

Sources tell NPR that Fielding actually wants to negotiate with Congress about how the interviews will take place. But Fielding has not been able to persuade President Bush to go along.

Congress still wants to know more about the months leading up to the firings and who was involved in the decision-making. A House committee has subpoenaed some of that information. Other details are likely to come out when Gonzales testifies before Congress about the firings Tuesday.



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