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It was obvious that Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee viewed the title of the committee’s Feb. 6 hearing — “Is the Department of Justice Politicizing the Hiring and Firing of U.S. Attorneys?” — as a rhetorical question. But a better question might have been: When have such decisions not been politicized? The cause of the hearings was the dismissal of seven U.S. attorneys around the country — six of which came in December. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) compared the dismissal with the “Saturday Night Massacre” during the Watergate scandal. Not so, countered Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, who told the committee the six December ousters were for performance-related reasons. McNulty essentially admitted that the other U.S. attorney in question, H.E. Bud Cummins III of the Eastern District of Arkansas, was ousted not for doing a bad job but to make way for J. Timothy Griffin, a former Republican National Committee political director and acolyte of Karl Rove who has all of a year of federal prosecutorial experience on his r�sum�. But Griffin is hardly the first to be handed a U.S. attorney job for his political connections. With just three years of experience as a lawyer, J. Strom Thurmond Jr. — son of the eponymous late senator — became the government’s top law-enforcement officer in South Carolina in 2001 at age 29 with the endorsement of Republicans and Democrats alike. And statistics from the Justice Department show that a slightly higher percentage of U.S. attorneys appointed by President George W. Bush had prosecutorial experience before their appointments than their counterparts in the Clinton administration.
Jason McLure can be contacted at [email protected].

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