WASHINGTON – A report on a Justice Department investigation into the controversial firings of U.S. attorneys is harshly critical of the politically charged dismissals but does not recommend referring the role of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to a grand jury for possible criminal charges, according to published reports.
The Washington Post and The New York Times, in Monday editions, said department's inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility do recommend, however, that a prosecutor continue to investigate the involvement of lawmakers and the White House in the firings.
Gonzales, a longtime friend and adviser to President George W. Bush resigned last year after coming under blistering criticism for the dismissals.
Democrats and some of the fired U.S. attorneys maintain that the firings in late 2006 were motivated by politics and not the job performance of the prosecutors.
The Post said that Attorney General Michael Mukasey will appoint a prosecutor to continue the investigation, meaning the matter will continue into the next administration, which takes office Jan. 20.
According to a source cited by the Times, Kyle Sampson, Gonzales's former chief of staff and the man who carried out the dismissal of eight prosecutors, is likely to be the target of much of the report's criticism. The report, the Times said, was expected to indicate that Sampson was working on orders from his higher ups, including Gonzales, Bush's former top political adviser Karl Rove, and Harriet Miers, a former White House counsel.
During the 18-month probe, investigators poured through thousands of documents and interviewed dozens of people.
The report was to be released Monday.