The inquiry into firings expands - to hirings

Published May 31, 2007

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department said Wednesday it has expanded its internal inquiry on the firing of U.S. attorneys into whether politics played a part in hiring career prosecutors.

In a rare note updating lawmakers on its investigation, the department said it also was looking into hiring practices within its Civil Rights Division. Lawmakers have questioned whether the division has hired prosecutors with strong political resumes but little civil rights experience.

The expanded investigation was first reported this month by the Associated Press.

The letter to the leaders of House and Senate Judiciary committees comes a week after the department's former White House aide, Monica Goodling, admitted that she "crossed the line" in considering job applicants' loyalty to the Republican Party before approving their hires. Doing so is illegal.

The short letter, signed by Justice Inspector General Glenn A. Fine and Office of Professional Responsibility counsel H. Marshall Jarrett, widens the inquiry into hiring practices in at least three areas, including:

- Those by Goodling and other Justice officials.

- The Civil Rights division.

- The department's honors programs and summer law intern positions.

Also Wednesday

STEM CELL RESEARCH: Congress intends to send President Bush legislation next week to ease restrictions on federally funded embryonic stem cell research, inviting his second veto in as many years on the subject. Both houses passed legislation on the subject earlier in the year. The final vote is expected today in the House. Several Democratic officials said Wednesday that supporters of the bill appear to lack the two-thirds majority needed to override Bush's veto.

LAND MANAGEMENT: President Bush said he is nominating James Caswell, a public land official in Idaho, to head the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management. Caswell, who runs Idaho's Office of Species Conservation, would succeed Kathleen Clarke, who resigned in February.