U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald was ranked among prosecutors who had "not distinguished themselves" on a Justice Department chart sent to the White House in March 2005, when he was in the midst of leading the CIA leak investigation that resulted in the perjury conviction of a vice presidential aide, administration officials said yesterday.
The ranking placed Fitzgerald below "strong U.S. Attorneys . . . who exhibited loyalty" to the administration but above "weak U.S. Attorneys who . . . chafed against Administration initiatives, etc.," according to Justice documents.
The chart was the first step in an effort to identify U.S. attorneys who should be removed. Two prosecutors who received the same ranking as Fitzgerald were later fired, documents show.
Fitzgerald's ranking adds another dimension to the prosecutor firings, which began as a White House proposal to remove all 93 U.S. attorneys after the 2004 elections and evolved into the coordinated dismissal of eight last year, a move that has infuriated lawmakers and led to calls for Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to resign.[..]
The March 2005 chart ranking Fitzgerald and other prosecutors was drawn up by Gonzales aide D. Kyle Sampson and sent to then-White House counsel Harriet Miers. The reference to Fitzgerald is in a portion of the memo that Justice has refused to turn over to Congress, officials told The Washington Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity because Fitzgerald's ranking has not been made public.[..]
Sampson resigned as Gonzales's chief of staff last week, and his attorney declined to comment yesterday.
Mary Jo White, who supervised Fitzgerald when she served as the U.S. attorney in Manhattan and who has criticized the firings, said ranking him as a middling prosecutor "lacks total credibility across the board."
"He is probably the best prosecutor in the nation -- certainly one of them," said White, who worked in the Clinton and Bush administrations. "It casts total doubt on the whole process. It's kind of the icing on the cake."
Oh, that statement that Sampson resigned? Not so much...