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As it turns out more than eight U.S. attorneys may have been slated to be fired by the Justice Department. Other names were on a list the department compiled in January 2006. And one of them was the U.S. attorney for western Missouri, Todd Graves.
Graves resigned last year, before the U.S. attorneys were dismissed. Some Missouri Democrats think there was an effort by the Justice Department to affect a close Senate race in that state.
From member station KCUR in Kansas City, Frank Morris has the story.
FRANK MORRIS: In October 2005 when Bradley Schlozman was in charge of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, he authorized a lawsuit against Missouri for failing to update voter lists held by local election boards. But Todd Graves - the U.S. attorney for western Missouri - refused to sign on.
Less than five months later, Graves suddenly announced his resignation. And in only two weeks, the U.S. Department of Justice had replaced him with Bradley Schlozman. It was the first U.S. attorney appointment under a Patriot Act provision allowing an indefinite interim appointment without Senate confirmation.
Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill - a Democrat who was then challenging incumbent Republican Jim Talent - says at that time, the move didn't alarm her.
Senator CLAIRE McCASKILL (Democrat, Missouri): Certainly, I think, none of us were aware at that point of what appears to be a grand plan to work on the voter ID, voter suppression issue for the '06 election cycle.
MORRIS: Schlozman proceeded with the lawsuit. But Democrats argued that purging the rules would disenfranchise thousands of poor and elderly voters. Meanwhile, Missouri Republicans used the lawsuit itself as evidence of voter fraud and passed a voter ID bill. The State Supreme Court struck down that law just before the election.
Then Schlozman brought voter fraud charges against former employees of the liberal group ACORN throughout the year and later when he indicted two Democratic politicians. Schlozman always proclaimed political neutrality.
Mr. BRADLEY SCHLOZMAN (U.S. Attorney, Western District of Missouri): We follow the facts and the prosecutors in this office are not motivated by politics in any way.
MORRIS: The facts in the voter registration case were pretty clear. The defendants allegedly submitted blatantly fake registration forms. ACORN had, in fact, fired them all weeks earlier and turned them into law enforcement officials. But the indictments came just five days before the election.
ACORN's Kansas City President Claudie Harris thinks it was timed to discredit her organization.
Ms. CLAUDIE HARRIS (President, ACORN, Kansas City): All we did was register low income people to vote so they can have a voice in this government. And if there's something wrong with that, my god, what is wrong in this country?
Mr. JOSEPH RICH (Project Director, Fair Housing and Community Development): He has a definite partisan political agenda.
MORRIS: Joseph Rich with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law says Justice Department policy forbids political prosecutions during an election. Rich should know. He worked for the department's civil rights division for 36 years - mostly under Republican presidents, and the last two with Bradley Schlozman.
Mr. RICH: In my experience, there had never been such politicization of the Civil Rights Division. Which is something that is very damaging to any law enforcement agency is to turn it into a political vehicle for political purposes.
MORRIS: Before he went to Kansas City - while he was in still in Washington -Schlozman pushed through Justice Department approval for a Texas redistricting plan and for a Georgia voter ID law against the advice of career department lawyers who argued minorities would be harmed in both cases.
Joseph Rich says that Bradley Schlozman forced him to falsify performance reviews and that he imposed a political litmus test on new hires. Rich says moving the department's point man on voter fraud to a battleground state during a fiercely contested election sure gives the appearance of impropriety.
But the Department of Justice strongly contests that assertion. Department spokesman Dean Boyd reads a statement about Bradley Schlozman.
Mr. DEAN BOYD (Spokesman, Justice Department): The suggestion that he was sent to Missouri for the purpose of altering elections or prosecuting individuals from one particular political party is baseless. The Justice Department brings its civil actions and criminal prosecutions based on evidence, not politics.
MORRIS: Bradley Schlozman has now returned to Justice Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. He left Kansas City last month, just a couple of days before a federal judge threw out the lawsuit he brought against the state of Missouri.
For her part, Senator Claire McCaskill says she'd still like to hear more from Bradley Schlozman.
Sen. McCASKILL: What this all indicates is more questions need to be asked and more answers under oath need to be given.
MORRIS: For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris in Kansas City.
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