CIA leak prosecutor was ranked below 'strong' and 'loyal' prosecutors on Justice chart
"U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald was ranked among prosecutors who had 'not distinguished themselves' on a Justice Department chart sent to the White House in March 2005, when he was in the midst of leading a CIA leak investigation that resulted in the perjury conviction of a vice presidential aide, administration officials said yesterday," Dan Eggen and John Solomon report in a front page article in Tuesday's Washington Post.
According to a Post examination of Department of Justice documents, Fitzgerald was ranked "below strong U.S. Attorneys . . . who exhibited loyalty" to the Bush Administration but rated higher than "weak U.S. Attorneys who . . . chafed against Administration initiatives, etc."
"The chart was the first step in an effort to identify U.S. attorneys who should be removed," the article continues. "Two prosecutors who received the same ranking as Fitzgerald were later fired, documents show."
Excerpts from Post article:
The chart was drawn up by D. Kyle Sampson, then an aide to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, and was sent to then-White House counsel Harriet Miers. The reference to Fitzgerald is in a portion of the memo that Justice has refused to turn over to Congress, officials told The Washington Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the Fitzgerald ranking has not been made public.
At the time, Fitzgerald was leading the independent probe into the leak of the identity of a CIA operative, which led this month to the perjury conviction of vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, also had recently brought a corruption indictment in Illinois against former Republican governor George H. Ryan.
Fitzgerald's ranking adds another dimension to the prosecutor firings, which began as a White House proposal to remove all 93 U.S. attorneys after the 2004 elections and evolved into the coordinated dismissal of eight last year. The firings have caused an uproar on Capitol Hill amid allegations of improper political interference and have led several lawmakers in both parties to call on Gonzales to resign.
Mary Jo White, who supervised Fitzgerald when she served as the U.S. attorney in Manhattan and who has criticized the firings, said ranking Fitzgerald as a middling prosecutor "lacks total credibility across the board. "He is probably the best prosecutor in the nation, certainly one of them," said White, who worked in the Clinton and Bush administrations. "It casts total doubt on the whole process. It's kind of the icing on the cake."
Fitzgerald has been widely recognized for his pursuit of criminal cases against al-Qaeda's terrorist network before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and he drew up the official U.S. indictment against Osama bin Laden. He was named as special counsel in the CIA leak case in December 2003 by then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, who had recused himself.
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