Fired Prosecutor Warned Justice Last July To Expect `Some Stink Down The Road'

Friday, April 27th 2007, 7:57 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The U.S. attorney in Arkansas warned the Justice Department five months before he and seven federal prosecutors were fired that ``there may be some stink about this down the road'' _ in part because of White House involvement.

``The White House recently called our sole Republican congressman (Boozman) and pretty much told him what they are doing with this appointment and how they are going about it,'' then-Arkansas U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins wrote in a July 6, 2006, e-mail to Mike Battle, then-head of the Justice Department office that oversees federal prosecutors. Cummins' reference was to Rep. John Boozman, R-Ark.

Cummins knew by then that he was going to be dismissed and replaced by a White House appointee who turned out to be Tim Griffin, a protege of Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser. His e-mail was in previously unreleased documents sent Friday by the Justice Department to the House and Senate Judiciary committees.

Cummins' prediction turned out to be correct. His firing and that of seven other U.S. attorneys over the winter created an uproar and accusations that the White House was meddling in federal law enforcement. It also has produced widespread calls for replacing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Boozman confirmed that the White House notified him last year in a voice mail of a plan to replace Cummins.

``They said, 'We're going to replace Bud Cummins with Tim Griffin. Do you see any problem with that?''' Boozman recalled in a telephone interview late Friday.

``My reply was that that would cause problems because Bud was very well respected and has served the president well,'' the congressman said. He said the White House did not call back.

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.

Supported by President Bush, Gonzales has vowed to keep serving as long as he can be effective. But after his Senate testimony last week in which he claimed a faulty memory dozens of times, Democrats and Republicans have publicly called for him to step down.

Particularly riled over the Cummins ouster was Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat, who made his pique clear during a meeting with Gonzales this week that the attorney general intended to be conciliatory. Pryor's chilly response to Gonzales' gesture: Resign.

Congressional investigations into the firings continued Friday. Even as Justice released the new documents containing Cummins' July 6 e-mail, House and Senate Judiciary committee aides interviewed Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, one of the few senior Justice officials who has kept his job since the clamor over the firings erupted in February.

Cummins wasn't alone in predicting the furor. Months ahead of time, Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, drafted a detailed plan for the firings, the last of five steps titled, ``Prepare to Withstand Political Upheaval.''

In his e-mail to Battle titled, ``FYI,'' Cummins wrote that he had received a call from an unidentified aide to a Democratic member of Congress about his resignation, saying members of the Arkansas delegation ``may be chapped about how it was handled.''

``I was contacted for confirmation that I was being ousted to make room for another appointee,'' Cummins wrote.

``I politely refused to get into it with them ... but strongly urged them to not raise hell about anything on my account,'' Cummins wrote.

He was upfront in stating his motivation: protection for himself, in writing.

``I just wanted to let you know that a) there may be some stink about this down the road; and b) I absolutely did not instigate or provoke it,'' Cummins added. ``Whatever else happens is entirely their doing.''

He closed by enlisting Battle, who later carried out the firings.

``You are now my witness.''