Murray Waas for National Journal reports: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales signed a highly confidential order in March 2006 delegating to two of his top aides -- who have since resigned because of their central roles in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys -- extraordinary authority over the hiring and firing of most non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department. A copy of the order and other Justice Department records related to the conception and implementation of the order were provided to National Journal.
In the order, Gonzales delegated to his then-chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, and his White House liaison "the authority, with the approval of the Attorney General, to take final action in matters pertaining to the appointment, employment, pay, separation, and general administration" of virtually all non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department, including all of the department's political appointees who do not require Senate confirmation. Monica Goodling became White House liaison in April 2006, the month after Gonzales signed the order.
The existence of the order suggests that a broad effort was under way by the White House to place politically and ideologically loyal appointees throughout the Justice Department, not just at the U.S.-attorney level. Department records show that the personnel authority was delegated to the two aides at about the same time they were working with the White House in planning the firings of a dozen U.S. attorneys, eight of whom were, in fact, later dismissed.
The senior administration official who had firsthand knowledge of the plan said that Gonzales and other Justice officials had a "clear obligation" to disclose the plan's existence to the House and Senate Judiciary committees -- but the official said that, as far as he knew, they had not done so. When the committees began to inquire into the firings of the U.S. attorneys, the official said, Congress had a right to know that the firings were part of an ambitious effort to install administration loyalists throughout the department. The official spoke on the condition that neither his position nor agency be identified, because he feared retaliation from his superiors and the White House for disclosing aspects of the program.
Referring to the firings of the U.S. attorneys and the broader plan targeting other Justice employees, the senior official said, "You cannot separate one from the other. They were one and part of the same plan by the White House."
The official added, "The president of the United States has said it was imperative for the attorney general, and the attorney general alone, to re-establish trust with the Congress to keep his job … and you have, even after the president has said that, the attorney general and his men stiffing Congress." There's more. Read Murray's whole piece.