Attorney General Michael Mukasey announced today that no Justice Department employees are likely to be prosecuted on charges that they allowed political considerations to influence department hires.
This, despite a pair of recent inspector general reports that concluded that at as many as six justice officials illegally allowed the political views of prospective employees to be factored into hiring decisions.
But Mukasey did admit that the "system failed" by letting officials seek conservative's for nonpolitical positions.
Addressing the American Bar Association in New York today, Mukasey was explicit in his criticism, citing the findings of two recent inspector general reports that said officials violated federal law and internal guidelines when making hiring decisions.
"There is no denying it: The system failed. The active wrongdoing detailed in the two joint reports was not systemic, in that only a few people were directly implicated in it. But the failure was systemic in that the system -- the institution -- failed to check the behavior of those who did wrong."
But Mukasey said the improper hiring practices may not have risen to the level of a criminal act.
"Where there is enough evidence to charge someone with a crime, we vigorously prosecute," Mukasey said today. "But not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime," he said, explaining that while the actions may have violated federal civil service law, they did not break criminal law.
One of the inspector general reports focused on former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' White House liaison Monica Goodling, her predecessor Jan Williams and former Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson.
That investigation found that "Goodling improperly subjected candidates for certain career positions to the same politically based evaluation she used on candidates for political positions, in violation of federal law and department policy."
"There was a failure of supervision by senior officials in the department," Mukasey conceded, referring to the Gonzales era.
Gonzales' actions in the firing of nine U.S. Attorney's are the subject of a still pending review by Inspector General Glenn Fine.
Mukasey said that the civil servants were unlikely to be prosecuted in part because all but one has left the Justice Department.
The June Inspector General report also found that because of political considerations at the Justice Department, candidates from the nation's best law schools were deselected from the highly competitive Justice Department's Honors Program and the Summer Law Intern Program. The report found that some candidates were denied on the basis of their political leanings or affiliations with perceived liberal groups.