June 4, 2007

Whitehouse Asks DOJ IG to Investigate Gonzales’s Definition of Wrongdoing

Seeks Source of "Particular Case" Standard Repeatedly Invoked by DOJ Officials in Discussing Dismissals of U.S. Attorneys

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) today called for an investigation into a definition of wrongdoing, repeatedly invoked by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other Justice Department officials during the Senate’s inquiry into the firing of several United States Attorneys, arguing that the only “improper” reason to dismiss a U.S. Attorney would be to interfere with or influence a “particular case” for partisan gain.

“The notion that the definition of impropriety for DOJ employees should be set so low as to more or less mirror the definition of criminal obstruction of justice is disturbing,” Whitehouse wrote in a letter to Department of Justice Inspector General Glenn Fine. “Indeed, it implies that it would be perfectly appropriate to dismiss a U.S. Attorney because he or she did not, for example, act in a sufficiently partisan manner, although without regard to a particular case.”

Fine and H. Marshall Jarrett, head of the Office of Professional Responsibility, recently announced that their joint investigation into the U.S. Attorneys’ removals would be expanded to cover the extent to which improper or partisan considerations influenced hiring practices at the Justice Department. Whitehouse asked Fine to investigate the source of the “particular case” standard to determine “whether it is based on any internal DOJ guideline or policy, whether it is an ad hoc standard devised by DOJ employees to justify their behavior, whether there is any other explanation for its repeated use, and whether it is an appropriate standard.”

Whitehouse served as U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island from 1994-1998. He is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.


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