I saw Paul McNulty, who announced yesterday that he was resigning as Deputy Attorney General, at the Dallas airport on Sunday. He was coming from a prosecutor conference at San Antonio and I was returning from a wedding. The similarities end there. McNulty sat in first class and I trudged back to coach.
The next morning news broke that McNulty was stepping down as DOJ’s #2 official so that he could go make money to pay for his kids’ colleges. Or at least that’s what he said.
The news was really no surprise. Alberto Gonzales’s deputy, after all, was never qualified to serve. McNulty was a longtime Republican operative who acted as spokesman for House Republicans during Bill Clinton’s impeachment and had never tried a case before becoming US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, one of the country’s most important offices, three days after 9/11. Loyalty to the Republican Party allowed McNulty to rise rapidly at DOJ. He was the first official to tell Congress that the dismissals of the eight US prosecutors were "performance-related." He was also implicated in the shady circumstances surrounding the replacement of the acting US attorney in Guam, which I explored in the recent article, "Attorneygate in Guam."
Many commentators are now arguing that McNulty was simply the fall guy for Gonzales. Probably so. But either way, the deputy deserved to go.