Saturday, June 16, 2007

Like Rats From The Proverbial Ship

Another Justice Department official involved in last year's dismissals of federal prosecutors is resigning, department officials said on Friday.

In this case, the departure of Michael J. Elston, chief of staff to the outgoing deputy attorney general, Paul J. McNulty, had been expected since Mr. McNulty announced last month that he would step down this summer.

At one point, Mr. Elston compiled a list of prosecutors for possible removal, but his principal involvement came after the firings in February when he exchanged e-mail messages with H. E. Cummins III of Arkansas, one of the ousted United States attorneys.

Mr. Cummins testified later to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he regarded Mr. Elston's message as a veiled threat to retaliate against any ousted prosecutor who spoke to a reporter.

Mr. Elston said he was "shocked and baffled" by Mr. Cummins's assertions and denied that his e-mail message was intended to silence any of the dismissed prosecutors.

Mr. Elston is the fifth Justice Department official who played a role in the dismissals to resign in recent months. In addition to Mr. McNulty, others are D. Kyle Sampson, former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, and Monica M. Goodling, a senior aide to Mr. Gonzales.

Michael Battle, who ran an office that serves as a link to the Justice Department’s 93 United States attorneys, departed in March but said his resignation was not tied to the dismissals.

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