White House Started with Arkansas' Cummins, Considered Firing all Federal Prosecutors

WASHINGTON - The pressure continues to grow for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales over the firings of eight federal prosecutors during a White House-directed housecleaning of U.S. attorneys.

Gonzales today accepted the resignation of his top aide, Kyle Sampson.

Authorities say Sampson failed to brief other senior Justice Department officials of his discussions about the firings with then-White House counsel Harriet Miers.  Miers resigned in January and moved to Dallas.

E-mail correspondence between Sampson and Miers that was made available today indicate they began two years ago to consider individual U.S. attorneys for possible dismissal.  As the list took shape, their correspondence indicated possible backlash from the attorneys and their congressional allies.

Then prosecutor Bud Cummins, who was based in Little Rock, was named in one e-mail from Sampson as "in the process of being pushed out."  Five other prosecutors, in Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, San Diego and Seattle, were listed by  Sampson as U.S. attorneys "we should now consider pushing out."

That was in September.  In December, the White House signed off on the plan to fire the prosecutors.

The government's 93 U.S. attorneys are presidential appointees who can be hired and fired at will.  But critics say the fate of the eight who were dismissed last year appeared to have been politically motivated.  And Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike said they were outraged that Justice Department officials weren't forthcoming on how the firings unfolded, even when asked, under oath, by Congress.

Democrats are calling for Gonzales to resign.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)