WASHINGTON — Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Thursday he personally offered to help Daniel Bogden find a new job, after acknowledging to U.S. senators he was unfamiliar with the Nevadan’s performance when he signed off on Bogden’s dismissal as the state’s U.S. attorney late last year.
Of the U.S. attorneys who were fired on Dec. 7, Bogden “was probably the one for me in hindsight that was the closest call,” Gonzales said in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“I do not recall what I knew about Mr. Bogden on December 7,” Gonzales said. “I did not have an independent basis or recollection of knowing of Mr. Bogden’s performance.”
The attorney general’s comments during a seven-hour appearance before the Senate committee appeared only to deepen a mystery surrounding Bogden’s dismissal.
Top Justice Department officials involved with the U.S. attorney firings have said they do not recall:
• How Bogden ended up on a list of prosecutors who were to be replaced.
• Who recommended he be listed.
At the hearing where he was sharply questioned, Gonzales did not provide any fresh information on the reasons for Bogden’s dismissal.
Gonzales insisted his role was limited and that he trusted senior department officials including Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty to see that the dismissals were handled properly.
Instead the firings have fueled major controversy. Some of the fired prosecutors including Bogden had handled public corruption cases causing Democrats to question whether the dismissals were politically motivated.
On Bogden, “It appears there were concerns about the level of energy generally in a fast-growing district, concerns about (Bogden’s) commitment to proceeding on obscenity, generally getting a sense of getting new energy in that office,” Gonzales said, citing issues that have been offered by Justice officials previously.
Gonzales said he regretted that Bogden was not told to his face that he was being replaced.
But he said that after discussing the Nevadan recently with McNulty, the No. 2 Justice leader, Gonzales believed that relieving Bogden “was the right decision.”
McNulty was the Justice official who said in an e-mail two days before Bogden was fired that he was “skittish” about dismissing the Nevadan.
At a last minute meeting among top Justice aides finalizing the dismissals, McNulty withdrew his concern after being told that Bogden was not married and did not have a family, according to testimony that Sampson has given Senate investigators.
Gonzales said that he has spoken to Bogden, the only one of the fired prosecutors he has contacted since the dismissals.
“Because of the fact Mr. Bogden was not notified, I did talk to Mr. Bogden and I offered up to Mr. Bogden my help in securing employment moving forward,” Gonzales said. “If there was anything I could to help I wanted to do that because, I struggled as well with that decision.”
Several weeks after he was fired, unidentified Justice Department officials spoke to Bogden about becoming a federal immigration judge, an administrative law post. Bogden has said those talks went nowhere.
Bogden, who remains in Nevada, could not be reached on Thursday. He has said he planned to take two months before beginning to search for a new job.
Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., has called on Justice to work with Bogden and “restore his reputation.” It was not clear whether Gonzales’ offer to help Bogden stemmed from Ensign’s involvement. Bogden said in an interview April 13 he has had no contact from the Justice Department for the past several weeks.