The Justice Department advocated in early 2005 removing up to 20 percent of the nation’s U.S. attorneys whom it considered to be “underperforming” but retaining prosecutors who were “loyal Bushies,” according to e-mails released by Justice late yesterday. The Washington Post said the three e-mails also show that presidential adviser Karl Rove asked the White House counsel’s office whether it planned to proceed with a proposal to fire all 93 federal prosecutors. Officials said yesterday that Rove was opposed to that idea but wanted to know whether Justice planned to carry it out.
The e-mails provide new details about the early decision-making that led to the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year, indicating that Justice officials endorsed a larger number of firings than has been disclosed and that Rove expressed an early interest in the debate over the removals. The messages also show that an internal administration push to remove a large number of federal prosecutors was well underway even as Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel, was preparing for Senate hearings on his nomination.