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Paul McNulty’s resignation opens up the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department, hardly an enviable position given the current scandal over the firing of the U.S. attorneys. The White House will look for a confirmable ally with strong prosecutorial experience while Democrats push for someone who is unquestionably independent. Though the Bush administration may avoid a taxing Senate confirmation process by appointing an acting successor to fill out the term, the following four are potential picks to calm the storm…
• Kenneth Wainstein Assistant attorney general, National Security Division Pros: Wainstein enjoys wide respect within Justice and is seen as nonpolitical. He’s spent 18 years at Justice, where he’s been a line prosecutor, a U.S. attorney, head of the U.S. attorney oversight office, and a top adviser to FBI Director Robert Mueller. Cons: Wainstein is still grappling with the startup of the newly created National Security Division, and the Bush administration may be reluctant to pull him from such a critical post after less than a year on the job. And in an administration that has placed a premium on political loyalty, he may be too apolitical.
• Kevin O’Connor Acting chief of staff to Alberto Gonzales and U.S. attorney, District of Connecticut Pros: As U.S. attorney for Connecticut, he brought a string of public corruption cases, including the successful prosecution of former Republican Gov. John Rowland. He also briefly worked in the deputy attorney general’s office last year. Cons: Though O’Connor didn’t join Gonzales’ staff until late last month, he would no doubt face questions from congressional Democrats upset that the Justice Department hasn’t produced more documents about the U.S. attorney firings. Also, as U.S. attorney in a relatively small office, he’s never managed a large government bureaucracy.
• Michael Garcia U.S. attorney, Southern District of New York Pros: He has already managed a 20,000-employee agency as the leader of the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. In addition, Garcia cut his prosecutorial teeth working on some of the government’s biggest terrorism cases as a line prosecutor in Manhattan in the 1990s. Cons: His current office’s botched prosecution of a number of former KPMG partners in a tax shelter case spurred a searing opinion from a federal judge. The rebuke became a rally point for the business community and led the Justice Department to reform its corporate fraud charging policies. No experience at Main Justice.
• Stuart Levey Under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, U.S. Treasury Department Pros: A top lieutenant to well-regarded former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, Levey moved in 2004 to the Treasury Department, where he’s been deeply involved in the fight against terrorism and remains untainted by any of the current controversies at the Justice Department. Cons: Before the Judiciary Committee he’d likely face questions about the joint Treasury-CIA program that examined Americans’ financial records without individual court-authorized warrants or subpoenas. He’s also never been a U.S. attorney.

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