Friday, April 27, 2007


McClatchy newspapers reported Thursday that "the Bush administration considered firing the former U.S. attorney in Minnesota, but he left his job voluntarily before the list of attorney to be ousted was completed." Congressional investigators told reporters that they noticed U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger's name "on a version of the list that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, began assembling in early 2005." Heffelfinger, who served as the U.S. attorney for Minnesota from September 2001 to February 2006, resigned more than nine months before the Justice Department finalized their list of prosecutors to purge.

The list with Heffelfinger's name has been examined by congressional investigators, but was not made public in the thousands of pages of documents released by the Justice Department since the investigation into the scandal began. Heffelfinger has previously said that politics were not a factor in his decision to step down, but when asked by McClatchy about the early list, he said he "had no indication whatsoever at any point during my service as U.S. attorney that anybody at Justice was less than fully satisfied with my work."

He met with Sampson "no less than three times," but says if Sampson had concerns about his performance, "they were never raised." "Heffelfinger's case interests congressional investigators because he worked in one of the states that White House political adviser Karl Rove identified as an escalation battleground, and because he was replaced by a 34-year old Bush administration loyalist who'd been a member of Gonzales' inner circle." Rachel Paulose, Heffelfinger's replacement, has caused turmoil in the Minnesota U.S. attorney's office, where four top staffers voluntarily stepped down in protest of her "highly dictatorial style of managing."

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