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A controversial official at the Justice Department has resigned. Bradley Schlozman is under investigation for partisanship in hiring career attorneys. He testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in early June. He has yet to answer a list of follow-up written questions submitted by the committee.
Yesterday, Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy wrote Schlozman, informing him that he is still obliged to provide those answers.
NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.
NINA TOTENBERG: At the June hearing, Schlozman acknowledged that he told Republican applicants for career positions to leave their conservative credentials off their resume. And he conceded that he boasted about hiring a large number of conservative lawyers for career positions.
Mr. BRADLEY SCHLOZMAN (Former U.S. Attorney, Western District of Missouri): I probably have made statements like that.
TOTENBERG: Charges that Schlozman violated the law by politicizing the hiring process when he served in the Civil Rights Division are under investigation now by the department's inspector general.
But much of the June hearing was devoted to Schlozman's tenure as interim U.S. attorney in Missouri, a job he was appointed to in the wake of the firing of Todd Graves, himself a conservative Republican who'd refused to prosecute alleged violations of the law by a few workers paid by a liberal activist group to register voters.
Graves testified that when Schlozman filed the charges just days before a hotly contested Senate election in Missouri...
Mr. TODD GRAVES (Former U.S. Attorney, Western District of Missouri): It surprised me. It surprised me that they'd been filed that close to an election.
TOTENBERG: The Justice Department's long-standing guidelines said that, except in extraordinary circumstances, such charges should not be filed close to an election because it could affect the outcome.
And indeed the indictment prompted an immediate press release from the state Republican Party accusing Democrats of trying to, quote, "steal the election." At the hearing, Schlozman testified that he'd brought the charges, quote, at "the direction of the Justice Department's Criminal Division."
Sources say, however, that the head of the elections crime branch threatened to publicly contradict Schlozman. And shortly thereafter, Schlozman revised his testimony to say that he had pursued the indictments himself and got an approval from the section.
Shortly after Schlozman's testimony, the Justice Department published a new set of guidelines that removed the previous language that had barred most, if not all, voter fraud investigations until an election is over.
Yesterday, in a letter to Schlozman, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy noted that the committee had submitted written follow-up questions with a June 28th deadline for a response. To date, Leahy observed, Schlozman had not answered the questions.
Moreover, Leahy said that the committee had requested certain documents and e-mails that were relevant to Schlozman's testimony and they had not been supplied yet either.
Leahy went on to note that the Judiciary Committee has authorized subpoenas for the information, subpoenas that Leahy said he had not yet signed but with the clear implication that he will if the requested material and follow-up answers are not provided by a new August 28th deadline.
A spokesman for the Justice Department confirmed that Schlozman has resigned but said he did not know how Schlozman could be reached.
After it became clear that Schlozman could not be confirmed as U.S. attorney in Missouri, he returned to the Justice Department as associate counsel in the executive office that oversees all U.S. attorneys' offices.
He becomes the latest in a long list of high-ranking Bush administration officials to resign their Justice Department posts, including Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty and his chief of staff, plus acting Associate Attorney General William Mercer, White House liaison Monica Goodling, and the attorney general's chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, among others.
Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.
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