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U.S. Attorneys Scandal—District of Columbia

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Over the last month I’ve gotten a number of notes from readers suggesting that closer attention should be paid to Jeffrey A. Taylor, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. Taylor arrived at his new post on September 22, 2006, using the special new procedure allowing Attorney General Gonzales to skirt the Senate confirmation process. He had previously worked as a Republican staffer on Capitol Hill. His arrival on the scene does in fact parallel the purge process elsewhere in a number of other respects, and the political significance of the U.S. Attorney’s office in the nation’s capital is obvious. Today, the Washington Post, looking at the process of politicization in the Justice Department, takes a look at Taylor’s hiring practices and sees abuse:

When he was counsel to a House subcommittee in 2005, Jay Apperson resigned after writing a letter to a federal judge in his boss’s name, demanding a tougher sentence for a drug courier. As an assistant U.S. attorney in Virginia in the 1990s, he infuriated fellow prosecutors when he facetiously suggested a White History Month to complement Black History Month.

Yet when Apperson was looking for a job recently, four senior Justice Department officials urged Jeffrey A. Taylor, the top federal prosecutor for the District of Columbia, to hire him. Taylor did, and allowed him to skip the rigorous vetting process that the vast majority of career federal prosecutors face.

The process, as usual, involved heavy influence from high levels within main Justice:

Taylor, who formerly worked as Gonzales’s counsel, said the decision to hire Apperson was his. But he said that Michael Elston, the chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, and Acting Associate Attorney General William W. Mercer urged him to consider Apperson. Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General William E. Moschella and Michael A. Battle, who at the time headed the office that oversees U.S. attorneys, also suggested that Apperson would be a good hire.

As Congress nears a showdown with the Bush Administration over its oversight function, and as Bush officials announce their intention to disrespect outstanding Congressional subpoenas (as, for instance, Condoleezza Rice recently did), Taylor steps into the spotlight. When it comes to contempt citations, the practice would be for the House or Senate to refer the citation to his office for prosecution. There’s no position where, from the perspective of President Bush, a “loyal Bushie” is more vitally needed.

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