WASHINGTON – A senior White House aide described a U.S. attorney in Arkansas who was fired last year as "lazy" — "which is why we got rid of him in the first place," according to Justice Department documents released Tuesday.
Former prosecutor Bud Cummins, reached Tuesday night for comment, responded: "I'm sure I have some faults, but my work ethic hasn't been one them."
The Feb. 16 e-mail by then-White House political director Sara Taylor was among the latest batch of documents turned over to lawmakers amid House and Senate investigations of last year's ouster of eight U.S. attorneys. In it, she complained that Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told senators that Cummins was replaced at the urging of then-White House counsel Harriet Miers.
Cummins' replacement, Tim Griffin, had worked for top presidential political adviser Karl Rove and the Republican National Committee before he was tapped for the prosecutor's job in Little Rock. He had also worked as a military and civilian attorney.
"Why would McNulty say this? This has been so poorly handled on the part o (sic) DOJ," Taylor wrote Kyle Sampson, who was then chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Sampson told Taylor he was out of the office but would call her the next week. Taylor was not satisfied.
"Tim was put in a horrible position; hung out to dry w/ no heads up," Taylor wrote back, using an e-mail address with a "gwb.com" Internet domain, which is owned by the RNC. "You forced him to do what he did; this is not good for his long-term career. Bud runs a campaign and McNulty refuses to say Bud is lazy — which is why we got rid of him in the first place."
"I look forward to visiting with you about this," Sampson responded.
Sampson left the Justice Department under fire March 12 as the controversy over the ousters began to peak. Taylor recently left the White House.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the e-mail Tuesday.
Cummins, reached in Arkansas, brushed off the criticism. "What do you say to that?" he asked after being read the e-mail text.
He added: 'The only opinions that really matter to me are the people I worked with every day, and if they think I was lazy, then that would be a concern. But I don't know where Sara Taylor would be getting her information, and the credibility of that whole group is so low, that that doesn't matter much to me. Putting all of us in this position of having to defend ourselves against all of this crap is just ridiculous."
The e-mail surfaced the day after Gonzales easily escaped a Senate vote of no confidence on his leadership of the Justice Department. Republicans blocked the vote, widely seen as a symbolic Democratic effort to force him from office amid blistering criticism from lawmakers in both parties.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said the e-mails show that the White House played an integral role in the firings and their aftermath.
"This only underscores the need for White House cooperation with this investigation," Conyers said.