The Justice Department is set to lose another top official since the fired U.S. attorneys controversy.
Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty turned in his resignation Monday, though he made no mention of the dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys last year, a move that has left a cloud over the department.
"The financial realities of college-age children and two decades of public service lead me to a long overdue transition in my career," McNulty said in his resignation letter.
E-mails and internal documents that the Justice Department released in an attempt to clear the air about the firings revealed that McNulty had been heavily involved in selecting the U.S. attorneys to be fired.
McNulty's resignation is the latest in a string of departures of top department officials. Mike Battle, the department official who called seven of the eight attorneys to fire them last December, resigned in March. Additionally, D. Kyle Sampson, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff, and Monica Goodling, the Justice Department's White House liaison, have stepped down since the controversy heated up earlier this spring.
On the heels of announcing McNulty's resignation, the Justice Department released a glowing statement from the attorney general in which Gonzales touted McNulty's leadership, calling him "an effective manager of day-to-day operations" and "an outstanding public servant and a fine attorney."
In February, McNulty responded to accusations of playing politics with the U.S. attorney firings when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 6. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., charged that the Justice Department "increasingly based hiring on political affiliation, ignored the recommendations of career attorneys, focused on the promotion of political agendas and failed to retain legions of talented career attorneys."
McNulty responded to the criticism, saying, "When I hear you talk about the politicizing of the Department of Justice, it's like a knife in my heart. The AG [attorney general] and I love the department, and it's an honor to serve and we love its mission. And your perspective is completely contrary to my daily experience and I would love the opportunity, not just today but in the weeks and months ahead, to dispel you of the opinion that you hold."
During the hearing McNulty also testified that "All of the changes that we made were performance related."
The following day, Department of Justice deputy director of public affairs Brian Roehrkasse wrote in an e-mail, "The Attorney General is extremely upset with stories on the US Attys this morning. He also thought some of the DAG's [Deputy Attorney General McNulty] statements were inaccurate."
Following his testimony before the Senate, McNulty called Schumer to apologize and correct his testimony. McNulty told Schumer he had felt mislead by Gonzales' then-chief of staff, Kyle Sampson.
One example of McNulty not being told everything is illustrated by a directive from Gonzales giving Kyle Sampson and former White House liaison Monica Goodling the authority to hire and fire political appointees at the department.
The cover sheet to the memo showed that McNulty was purposely left out of the loop. A document tracking sheet sent to the attorney general's office notes, "Per instructions received from JMD [Justice Management Division], ODAG [Office of Deputy Attorney General] is to bypassed on this package."
Schumer jumped on the announcement Monday, saying McNulty is the wrong man to go.
"It seems ironic that Paul McNulty who at least tried to level with the [Senate Judiciary] committee goes while Gonzales who stonewalled the committee is still in charge. This administration owes us a lot better," Schumer's statement said.
McNulty indicated in his resignation letter that he would leave his post by late summer.