Bush DoJ Nominee Withdraws, Avoids Answering Prosecutor Purge Questions

Brian Zick

Mary Clare Jalonick for AP reports: President Bush's pick to be the No. 3 official in the Justice Department asked to have his nomination withdrawn Friday, four days before he was to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Bill Mercer sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales saying it was unlikely that the Senate would confirm him as associate attorney general, a post he has held on an interim basis since September. He plans to leave Washington and turn his full attention to his work as U.S. attorney for Montana. (…) The Judiciary Committee had scheduled a hearing on Mercer's nomination for Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the committee had said senators needed the facts from an investigation into the firings of several federal prosecutors before he could be confirmed. "The White House has found many ways to keep sunlight from reaching some of the darker corners of the Bush Justice Department, but this is a new one," Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement. "With a confirmation hearing looming next Tuesday, they have withdrawn this nomination to avoid having to answer more questions under oath." Mercer is the sixth senior Justice Department official to leave the tight-knit circle of Gonzales' advisers in the wake of the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last December. He is the only of the group, however, to remain with the Justice Department.

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