Aide wanted Fitzgerald fired

March 30, 2007 at 2:04 pm Leave a comment

CHICAGO SUNTIMES

March 30, 2007

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ top aide once advised that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald be fired — a suggestion that was ripped Thursday.

Kyle Sampson testified that as chief of staff, he made the recommendation about the future of Fitzgerald, who is the top federal prosecutor in Chicago and hailed by some as the nation’s best.

Sampson said he made the suggestion to force out Fitzgerald to White House counsel Harriet Miers and her deputy.

”They looked at me as if I had said something totally inappropriate, and I had,” Sampson said in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Fitzgerald’s spokesman wouldn’t comment on the testimony, but Sen. Dick Durbin blasted it.

“This confirms Americans’ worst fears — that truly independent prosecutors were under fire in this administration,” Durbin said in a statement.

While Fitzgerald was not fired, eight other U.S. prosecutors were dismissed last year, setting of a storm of criticism. The Senate and House are investigating whether the prosecutors were fired for political motives.

Sampson, who has quit, said Thursday the firings were based on legitimate policy issues. But he also contradicted his former boss Gonzales, who had said he wasn’t involved in the firings. ”The attorney general was aware of this process from the beginning in early 2005,” Sampson said.

Sampson’s testimony for the first time put Gonzales at the heart of the firings, undercutting him further.

Sun-Times wire reports

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