Key dates in the U. S. Attorneys scandal

McClatchy NewspapersJune 18, 2007 

Key dates in the relationship between the White House and the Department of Justice:


Beginning Jan. 20, 2001 - In keeping with tradition, the new Bush administration appoints John Ashcroft as attorney general and begins nominating U.S attorneys to replace the Clinton administration's top prosecutors.

Sept. 11 - Terrorists use airplanes to attack the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, killing almost 3,000 people.

Oct. 26 - President Bush signs into law the USA Patriot Act, passed by Congress to give law enforcement agencies new surveillance and investigative power to go after terrorists.


April - An administration memo expands the number of White House and Justice Department staff who can discuss pending criminal or civil cases with one another.

November - The administration announces a nominee to replace Fred Black, longtime acting U.S. attorney for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Weeks earlier, Black proposed investigating GOP donor and lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who represented anti-labor interests in the Pacific territories. Abramoff was later convicted on unrelated bribery charges on the mainland. An inspector general's report later concluded that the administration was planning to replace Black regardless of Abramoff.

November - High Native American voter turnout gives Democrats the win in a close Senate race in South Dakota. Republicans look for evidence of voter fraud.


July - The Justice Department's congressional liaison, William Moschella, corresponds with a department lawyer about the prospect of taking away federal district court judges' power to appoint interim U.S. attorneys.

August - The Justice Department orders U.S. attorneys to contact members of Congress to urge them to continue funding "sneak and peek" terrorism search warrants as authorized under the Patriot Act. Administration officials maintain the effort does not violate the Anti-Lobbying Act, which prevents most government employees from lobbying Congress.

December - Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, is named special prosecutor to investigate allegations that administration officials leaked the name of a CIA officer to retaliate against her husband, a former ambassador who questioned pre-Iraq war intelligence.


October - Rove testifies before the grand jury investigating the leak case.

March - Vice President Dick Cheney's then-chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby testifies before a grand jury.

March 9 - With then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in the hospital, acting Attorney General James Comey and other Justice lawyers are called to the White House to explain why they won't recertify a classified surveillance program. Cheney, his counsel David Addington , then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and chief of staff Andrew Card attend. Cheney and his staff later quashed the promotion of one Justice lawyer in retaliation for his stance, Comey said.

March 10 - Gonzales and Card go around Comey, making a late-night hospital visit to get Ashcroft to certify the program. When Ashcroft declines, the White House continues the program without Justice's approval, agreeing to changes weeks later to stave off mass resignations.

September - In New Mexico, Republicans pressure U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to seek indictments against several individuals who they allege submitted fraudulent voter registrations. Iglesias forms an election fraud task force but seeks no indictments prior to the November election.

October - The BBC reports on a controversy in Florida involving the GOP and direct mail. Critics allege that Republicans are planning to try to purge minority voters without up-to-date addresses from the rolls. The GOP says it is looking for fraudulent registrations. The allegations involve GOP operative Tim Griffin. In 2006, Griffin is named interim U.S. attorney in Little Rock, Ark.

November - Bush taps Gonzales as attorney general to replace Ashcroft, who's resigning. To fill Gonzales' job as White House counsel, Bush chooses another longtime confidante from Texas, Harriet Miers.

November/December - In Washington state, Democrat Christine Gregoire is declared governor by 129 votes, after three recounts. Then-U.S. Attorney John McKay in Seattle comes under pressure by a congressman's chief of staff and local Republicans to bring a voter-fraud case against Democrats. He declines.


Jan. 6 - Rove asks the White House Counsel's Office "how we planned to proceed regarding U.S. attorneys" according to e-mail between administration staffers. The options include replacing none of them, replacing all 93 U.S. attorneys or replacing some of them.

Jan. 9 - Justice Department aide Kyle Sampson tells the White House Counsel's Office that he's discussed the matter with Gonzales and that they would aim to replace up to 20 percent of the U.S. attorneys. Not included are "loyal Bushies."

February - A divided Senate confirms Gonzales as attorney general.

March - Sampson draws and sends a list to the White House that ranks all of the U.S. attorneys on their loyalty to the administration.

September - Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., calls Gonzales to complain about New Mexico prosecutor Iglesias, in the first of three conversations in which he asks the Justice Department to remove the prosecutor.

Oct. 3 - Bush nominates White House counsel Miers to be a Supreme Court justice; her nomination was later withdrawn after critics said she lacked qualifications and was too close to Bush.

Oct. 28 - Cheney chief of staff Libby is indicted for obstruction of justice and perjury related to CIA leak case. Gonzales chief of staff Sampson later tells senators that he had proposed putting special prosecutor Fitzgerald on the firing list in 2006 but the idea went nowhere.

November - Justice's congressional liaison Moschella crafts language to insert into the Patriot Act reauthorization that, unbeknownst to lawmakers, allows the administration to name interim U.S. attorneys to serve indefinitely. The revision effectively strips the Senate's confirmation power over interim U.S. attorneys.


January - Sampson e-mails the White House revised recommendations for the removal of several U.S. attorneys, including then-U.S. Attorney Todd Graves in Missouri. Graves later steps down after being asked to step aside to give another lawyer a chance to serve.

February - Thomas Heffelfinger, the U.S. attorney in Minnesota, resigns. He apparently wasn't aware he was on the proposed firing list. Heffelfinger is replaced with 33-year-old Rachel Paulose, who worked as an aide to Gonzales.

March - Graves' interim replacement is named: Bradley Schlozman, a former high-ranking lawyer with a controversial tenure at the Justice Department's civil rights division.

March - Patriot Act reauthorization wins final passage in Congress.

April - Rove delivers a speech to Republican National Lawyers Association in which he identifies 11 key states for the 2008 election: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

June - U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins in Little Rock, Ark., is told to resign later in the year to make way for Tim Griffin, a former aide to Karl Rove and Republican Party opposition researcher.

October - In New Mexico, Republicans want Iglesias to bring charges against Democrats prior to the general election in a corruption investigation involving courthouse construction. He does not.

November - In Missouri, less than a week before the election, Schlozman gets a grand jury to indict four people affiliated with a left-leaning voter registration group on charges of filing false voter information. The move is controversial because Justice Department policy discourages charges being brought right before an election.

Dec. 7 - Seven U.S. attorneys are told to resign: Dan Bogden of Nevada, Paul Charlton of Arizona, Margaret Chiara in Michigan, David Iglesias of New Mexico, Carol Lam of San Diego, John McKay of Seattle and Kevin Ryan of San Francisco.

Late 2006 - Allen Weh, the New Mexico Republican Party chairman, who had complained about U.S. Attorney Iglesias, follows up with Rove personally during a visit to the White House and is told Iglesias is "gone."


Jan. 4 - Miers resigns as White House counsel. Bush replaces her with Fred Fielding, former counsel to President Reagan. Fielding was deputy counsel under President Nixon during Watergate but not part of the scandal.

January - Senators learn of the mass nature of the U.S. attorney firings, and Democrats on the Judiciary Committee begin asking questions. Controversy over Cummins' dismissal leads senators to realize the implication of the Patriot Act changes.

Feb. 6 - Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty testifies before that Senate Judiciary Committee that the firings of all of the U.S. attorneys were "performance-related" except one, Cummins of Arkansas. Cummins, he said, was asked to resign to make way for former Rove aide Griffin.

Feb. 28 - New Mexico's Iglesias alleges he may have been fired for refusing to speed up investigations of Democrats. This triggers a call from New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici's chief of staff to Rove deputy Scott Jennings, who sends an e-mail to Fielding and Sampson on their government accounts and Rove on a Republican Party e-mail address rather than a White House address.

Feb. 12 - McClatchy Newspapers reports that most of the fired U.S. attorneys received positive job reviews despite McNulty's testimony that their dismissals were "performance-related."

March 6 - Cheney's former chief of staff Libby is convicted for obstruction of justice and perjury related to CIA leak case.

March 12 - Gonzales chief of staff Sampson resigns.

March 13 - Gonzales gives a news conference to acknowledge that "mistakes were made" in the handling of the firings, but that he was "not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on." He later concedes to Congress that he downplayed his knowledge of the matter.

March 14 - Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility launches an internal investigation.

Mid-March - Gonzales tries to compare stories with his counselor and then-White House liaison Monica Goodling about how the firings occurred, according to Goodling. Goodling declines and later tells Congress she felt uncomfortable about the conversation. Days later, Goodling takes a leave of absence.

April 7 - Goodling resigns.

April 17 - President Bush's lawyers instruct the Republican National Committee not to turn over to Congress any e-mails related to the firings last year of eight U.S. attorneys before showing them to the White House. That would include e-mails to and from Rove.

April 19 - Gonzales tells the Senate Judiciary Committee "while the process that led to the resignations was flawed, I firmly believe that nothing improper occurred." He is vague about the White House's involvement and says repeatedly that he cannot remember conversations with the president, meetings and other details about U.S. attorneys and voter fraud complaints referenced in e-mails and interviews. Several Republican senators chastise him. President Bush says through a spokeswoman that Gonzales continues to have his "full confidence."

May 14 - Deputy Attorney General McNulty announces he will resign.

May - Congress passes legislation restoring time limits on administration picks for interim U.S. attorneys. After 120 days, district judges can appoint new interim attorneys pending Senate confirmation of the nominees.

June 5 - Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., says of the White House's refusal to make Rove and other aides available under oath or turn over documents: "I will soon have no choice but to issue subpoenas."

June 13 - The Senate and House issue subpoenas for Miers and a White House aide, as well as for certain documents.

Sources: Justice Department documents, congressional testimony, interviews by McClatchy Newspapers.

2007 McClatchy Newspapers

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