Speculation was instant when Seattle's U.S. Attorney, John McKay, announced his resignation Dec. 14. He "will be returning to the private sector," he said, catching many by surprise. It didn't sound like he actually had anything planned, and he wasn't finishing the likely final year of his tenure under the Bush administration. Yesterday, in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in D.C., Deputy U.S. Attorney General Paul McNulty may have cleared up the mystery: McKay, he said during questioning, and five other U.S. district attorneys were in fact fired - "performance related," he called it - while another was replaced so his job could go to a buddy of Bush brain Karl Rove. Said McNulty:
It should come as no surprise to anyone that, in an organization as large as the Justice Department, U.S. Attorneys are removed or asked or encouraged to resign from time to time. However, in this Administration U.S. Attorneys are never-repeat, never- removed, or asked or encouraged to resign, in an effort to retaliate against them, or interfere with, or inappropriately influence a particular investigation, criminal prosecution, or civil case.
Pregnantly missing from that claim are the words "never removed for cheap political reasons." In McKay's case, his performance was roundly applauded by those on both sides of the courtroom. Apparently it wasn't enough to merely fire him for doing his job; the Bush adminstration had to make sure the door hit him in the ass on the way out.