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Understanding the McNulty Resignation

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The New York Times has released a fascinating account of Paul J. McNulty’s internal battles with the White House and Alberto Gonzales and the series of steps leading to his decision to resign.

Mr. McNulty, whose affable presence was said by friends to conceal an aggressively conservative approach to legal issues, had been shaken by the intensity of the storm over the removals and the sometimes sharp personal criticism directed at him from the White House and former Republican allies. At times, Mr. McNulty found himself pushed aside by D. Kyle Sampson, the former chief of staff to Mr. Gonzales, who granted Mr. Sampson wide-ranging authority, especially in personnel matters.

Mr. McNulty blamed himself for failing to resist the dismissal plan when Mr. Sampson brought it to him in October 2006, according to associates. He took one prosecutor off the removal list but acquiesced to the removal of seven others, according to Congressional aides’ accounts of his private testimony to Congress on April 27.

These facts go right to the core of the scandal and the dynamics which drove it. In McNulty’s view he, the number two man in the department and by tradition the officer with day-to-day operational responsibility, was pushed to the side while a young and inexperienced lawyer who was called “Rove junior” because of his connections with and similarity to Karl Rove made the judgments. Moreover, he came under attack as a result of his decision to tell a tiny smidgen of truth whereas Alberto Gonzales settled on a strategy of serving up fifty-pound whoppers under oath to a Congressional committee. That’s a breath-taking disclosure about the White House and the culture of lies in which it is now entangled. And it’s an enormous indictment of Alberto Gonzales.

But think about it: Alberto Gonzales is still attorney general, and his deputy is forced out because he was marginally more honest. It’s appalling.

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