The fate of Nevada's top federal prosecutor came down to a 90-second meeting shortly before Justice Department officials decided to dismiss him in December.
A former high level department executive told congressional investigators that a Justice Department team held a last-minute discussion after Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty said in a Dec. 5 e-mail that he was "skittish" about firing Daniel Bogden.
McNulty was meeting with his chief of staff, a senior counsel to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and possibly one other official in the office of Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' chief of staff.
McNulty said he was concerned about Bogden, then 50, getting a job outside government after 16 years as a federal prosector and being able to care for his family, according to accounts in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He withdrew his concern after it was pointed out that Bogden was not married, according to the account gathered by investigators.
Bogden was informed of his dismissal Dec. 7. His last day in office was Feb. 28. He declined comment Tuesday on Sampson's testimony, the Las Vegas Sun reported.
The newspaper accounts emerged from interviews that staffers from House and Senate judiciary committees conducted on Sunday with Sampson, who resigned as Gonzales' chief of staff on March 12 amid
a Congressional investigation of the firing of Bogden and seven other U.S. attorneys.
Congressional Democrats question whether the Bush administration singled out some of those fired in an effort to interfere with corruption cases in ways that might help Republicans.
Sampson told investigators that neither he nor Gonzales consulted Bogden's job evaluation or checked with local law enforcement about his performance before he was dismissed.
There were no major concerns about Bogden as a manager or whether he had failed assignments, investigators were told. There
was a general feeling among senior staffers at the Justice Department that a "stronger leader" could be put in Nevada.
Senior committee aides familiar with the interview said that under questioning, Sampson could not say how the conclusion was reached or who put Bogden on the list of U.S. attorneys to be fired.
No names have publicly surfaced as a prospective replacement. Bogden's responsibilities have been handled on an interim basis by his chief deputy, Steven Myhre.
Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., who had nominated Bogden and has been
critical of his dismissal, said through a spokesman that the investigation confirms that Bogden "was let go for the wrong reasons." A 2003 Justice Department performance review that has been made public gave Bogden positive grades.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said through his spokesman that Bogden
received "a raw deal."
"Over the course of 90 seconds, they determined the fate of this man's professional future," Reid spokesman Jon Summers said. "Senator Reid is looking forward to learning more."
Gonzales has acknowledged the firings were poorly handled but that they were proper. Supporters of the Bush administration say political appointees should be able to be dismissed for any reason or for no reason.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)