MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block. Justice Department investigators have spent years looking into claims that the Bush administration politicized parts of that department. Today, they released their report on the Civil Rights Division. It says one powerful manager illegally hired attorneys based on partisan credentials and then lied about it to Congress. NPR's Ari Shapiro has the details.

ARI SHAPIRO: For people who follow the Justice Department, today was a bit like the release of the final Harry Potter book: the end of a dramatic saga that has stretched on for years. The inspector general and the Office of Professional Responsibility have released their reports in four installments. Each shows how Bush appointees at Justice broke the rules to put conservatives in positions that were supposed to be apolitical. Today's report, the last one, focuses on the Civil Rights Division and a man named Brad Schlozman.

(Soundbite of Scholzman on Capitol Hill in 2007)

Unknown Woman: These individuals, senator, were not hired because they were Republican…

Mr. BRADLEY SCHLOZMAN (Associate Counsel to the Director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys): I didn't ask that.

SHAPIRO: That was Schlozman defending himself on Capitol Hill in 2007. Justice Department investigators now say he lied at that hearing. They say Schlozman did hire people because they were Republican. The report portrays Schlozman as a brash, self-important manager who tried to build an idealogically pure team of conservatives. He called civil rights attorneys pinkos and commies.

In a voicemail to a colleague, he once justified hiring people with no record of civil rights experience. Quote, I just want to make sure we don't start confining ourselves to, you know, politburo members because they happen to be a member of some, you know, psychopathic left-wing organization designed to overthrow the government, Shlozman said.

Mr. MARK CORALLO (Co-founder, Co-principal, Corallo Comstock; Schlozman's spokesman and former colleague): Let's not confuse inartful comments with, you know, breaking the law.

SHAPIRO: This is Mark Corallo, Schlozman's spokesman and former colleague. He was the Justice Department's communications director under John Ashcroft.

Mr. CORALLO: I mean, the United States attorney's office looked at it, they did a very thorough investigation, and they said there is nothing here, and they moved on.

SHAPIRO: The U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., spent about six months investigating the allegations before deciding not to prosecute Schlozman. Republican former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh says that doesn't exonerate Schlozman.

Mr. DICK THORNBURGH (Republican, Former Attorney General; Former Governor, Pennsylvania): There is a real difference between not prosecuting someone criminally and yet still finding that actions undertaken were improper. So I wouldn't put too much stock on the U.S. attorney's decision not to prosecute.

SHAPIRO: Thornburgh ran the Justice Department under President Reagan.

Mr. THORNBURGH: The kind of overt and blatant partisan considerations that were apparent from this report really have a harmful effect on the operations of the department.

SHAPIRO: Schlozman hired 112 attorneys in his time at Justice. The report says two-thirds were clearly conservative. Almost all the others had no obvious ideology. Schlozman's spokespeople dispute those numbers. They say Schlozman hired at least two dozen liberals. Joe Rich was at the Civil Rights Division for almost 40 years. For his last two years running the voting section, he worked under Brad Schlozman.

Mr. JOSEPH RICH (Former Chief, Voting Section, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice): He had a disdain, a real vendetta, to get Civil Rights Division attorneys - really to harass them and to drive them out of the division. And so it made working conditions for any career lawyer dealing with him extremely difficult.

SHAPIRO: Is he one of the reasons you left the division?

Mr. RICH: Oh, yeah, without a doubt. Some of the stuff in this report is really quite despicable. For a government official to be discussing things the way he discussed, I think, is a real travesty of justice - to say the least.

SHAPIRO: In one email, Schlozman wrote to a former colleague: I, too, get to work with mold spores, but here in Civil Rights, we call them Voting Section Attorneys. In 2006, Schlozman left the Civil Rights Division to be interim U.S. attorney in Missouri. While he was there, he wrote an email saying, perhaps the division will name an award for me or something. How about the Brad Schlozman Award for Most Effectively Breaking the Will of Liberal Partisan Bureaucrats? I would be happy to come back for the awards ceremony. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.

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