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Gonzales, Miers driving force in US Attorney firings: ex-aide

[JURIST] US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile] and White House counsel Harriet Miers [official profile] were deeply involved in discussions about the firings of federal prosecutors [JURIST news archive], according to testimony [statement text] Thursday from former Gonzales chief of staff Kyle Sampson [official profile] before the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website]. Sampson, who resigned earlier this month [DOJ press release], said that staff made recommendations but Miers and Gonzales ultimately made the decisions about the firings. He also recalled that Gonzales had attended an important meeting to discuss the firings on November 27, 2006 - 10 days before they were carried out.

The administration has insisted that the US Attorneys were fired for poor performance [JURIST report], but Sampson Thursday characterized the difference between "political" and "performance-related" reasons for dismissal as "largely artificial." He denied the dismissals were intended to discourage US Attorneys from prosecuting corruption cases that might hurt the Bush administration, but said federal prosecutors serve at the president's pleasure and are judged in large part on how in sync they are with administration policy.

The Justice Department [official website] admitted Wednesday that it gave senators inaccurate information about the firings and presidential political adviser Karl Rove's role in trying to secure a US attorney's post in Arkansas for one of his former aides, Tim Griffin [Raw Story report]. Also Wednesday, Justice officials said a Feb. 23 letter sent to four Democratic senators wrongly stated that the department was not aware of Rove's involvement. AP has more.

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