Justice Department officials named a longtime public corruption prosecutor to explore the basis for firing a U.S. attorney in New Mexico two years ago, reports the Washington Post. The move escalates the uproar over political infusion in the process and raises the possibility of a criminal investigation of lawmakers, White House aides, and former department officials.
Nora Dannehy, who will continue the inquiry, is a 17-year veteran of the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut whose work led to the conviction of the state’s former governor John Rowland four years ago. She will make a preliminary report to Attorney General Michael Mukasey within two months, but lawyers involved in the case said her work probably will extend into the next administration. Mukasey moved to continue the inquiry after a report issued yesterday by department investigators found political motives for the firing of three U.S. attorneys and charged that senior officials “abdicated” their duty to safeguard the independence of the process.