ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrea Seabrook.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty has announced that he will resign late this summer. He is the most senior official to step down from the Justice Department in the U.S. attorney scandal.
NPR's Ari Shapiro has been covering this evolving story, and he joins me now. Ari, was this at all expected?
ARI SHAPIRO: Well, yes and no. There have been these rumors floating around Washington for at least the last few weeks that if the attorney general didn't step down, some other senior official at the Justice Department was going to. And it looks like now, that's what has happened today.
And, you know, there has been evidence of, sort of, growing tension between the attorney general and his deputy. For example, there was an email that was released in the stack of Justice Department documents related to the U.S. attorney dismissals, and this email was sent the day after Paul McNulty testified on Capitol Hill about the firings. And it said the attorney general is extremely upset about the testimony. The email also said he's - some of the deputy attorney general's statements were inaccurate, because McNulty was the first person to say that one of the U.S. attorneys was dismissed just to give somebody else who had previously worked for Karl Rove a chance to serve in the position.
Before that, the attorney general had said that all of these dismissals were performance related, so yeah, there had been some evidence over the last few weeks that all was not well between the two of them.
NORRIS: Evidence, but is any of that coming out in the attorney general or the deputy attorney general's public statements today?
SHAPIRO: Not at all. They don't even mention the U.S. attorneys issue in their public statements. Paul McNulty said in his letter of resignation that he was stepping down because of the financial realities of college-age children. He thanked the attorney general for his friendship and support. Gonzales, for his part, said the Justice Department is losing a dynamic and thoughtful leader. You know, to be fair, sources say that McNulty had not planned to stay in the job much longer anyway, but it seems as though the U.S. attorney story just sort of hastened his departure a little bit.
NORRIS: And news of the resignation broke late today that - how is Washington reacting to this news?
SHAPIRO: You know, the people who were upset about the U.S. attorneys scandal already are not apparently mollified by this. For example, Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York who's been leading this investigation and who's friendly with McNulty, said it seems ironic that Paul McNulty, who at least tried to level with the committee - that's the Senate Judiciary Committee - goes, while Gonzales, who's stonewalled the committee, is still in charge.
Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs that committee, said he still intends to get to the truth - and these are his words - about the role the White House played in the replacement of United States attorneys for political purposes. So they're not assuaged at all by this.
NORRIS: Now Paul McNulty says he's not stepping down immediately, so what happens next?
SHAPIRO: Well, in the long term, he's going to stick around, he says, at least until late summer, or perhaps he'll leave when the Senate confirms somebody to take his place if that happens earlier than late summer. Given the tenor of things between the Justice Department and Congress right now, I think it's pretty safe to assume that a new deputy attorney general will not be confirmed by the Senate immediately, so we're probably talking about at least a couple of months there. That's the long term.
In the short term, we're probably going to get a lot more reaction to this tomorrow when a former deputy attorney general testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That's going to be James Comey, who was second in command at the Justice Department during President Bush's first term. He's going to come before the committee, talk about the U.S. attorney dismissals. We'll no doubt hear a lot more about McNulty at that hearing.
And as for the attorney general, you know, those who have called on him to resign before are still calling on him to resign now, but he says he's saying and so does his top supporter, President Bush.
NORRIS: Thank you, Ari.
SHAPIRO: You're welcome.
NORRIS: That was NPR's Ari Shapiro.
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