Fired US Attorney John McKay Speaks Out By Jason Leopold t r u t h o u t Report
Tuesday 12 June 2007
John McKay, the US attorney for western Washington state, who was fired last year along with eight other federal prosecutors, said "many eyebrows were raised" when Bradley Schlozman, a former official in the Justice Department's civil rights division, replaced Todd Graves, the US attorney for Kansas City, Missouri, last year.
"Many US attorneys were concerned when Mr. Schlozman was appointed," McKay told me shortly after he gave the keynote address to the Beverly Hills Bar Association's 53rd annual Supreme Court luncheon on June 5.
Schlozman testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. He came under fire for filing federal criminal charges of voter fraud against members of a Democratic organization on the evening of the November 2006 mid-term election. The case was later dismissed. Justice Department policy states that charges related to voter fraud should not be close to an election. Schlozman said he received approval to file the voter fraud charges from a Justice Department official who was instrumental in drafting the guidelines urging that US attorneys avoid filing charges claiming voter fraud at the height of an election.
"He was the deputy in the [Justice Department's] civil rights division, but I don't think he had the sort of background and experience we would have expected as a United States attorney," McKay told me. "So I would say it would be true that many eyebrows were raised when he was first appointed. Of course, we didn't know that Todd Graves had been forced to resign ... and it appears that he was forced to resign at least in part because Mr. Schlozman himself was trying to push the prosecution of voter fraud cases."
McKay believes his ouster was due in part to the fact that Republicans were angry that McKay did not convene a federal grand jury to pursue allegations of voter fraud related to the 2004 governor's election in the state in which Democrat Christine Gregoire defeated Republican Dino Rossi by a margin of 129 votes.
McKay told me during an exclusive interview recently that there were some Republicans in his district with close ties to the White House who demanded he launch an investigation into the election and bring charges against individuals for voter fraud, despite the fact there was no evidence to support the claims of vote-rigging.
He said he believes that he was not selected for a federal judgeship by local Republicans in Washington state last year because he did not file criminal charges against Democrats for voter fraud related to the 2004 governor's election. McKay said he felt he was not being treated fairly, and requested a meeting with then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers to discuss the issue, as well as his application for US district judge in his home state.
"I asked for a meeting with Harriet Miers, whom I had known since work I had been involved in with the American Bar Association, and she immediately agreed to see me in August of 2006," McKay told me. McKay said that when he met with Miers and her deputy William Kelley at the White House, the first thing they asked him was, "Why would Republicans in the state of Washington be angry with you?"
That was "a clear reference to the 2004 governor's election," McKay said in characterizing Miers and her deputy's comments. "Some believed I should convene a federal grand jury and bring innocent people before the grand jury."
"All of my actions as United States attorney had been coordinated with the Department of Justice," McKay told me. He said he explained that to Miers and Kelley, and informed them that there was no evidence of voter fraud to support launching a federal inquiry into the election.
The meeting with Miers and Kelley did not have a positive impact on McKay's request to be appointed a judge at US District Court. Instead, McKay said it appears that he landed on the so-called list of US attorneys to be fired just a few weeks after his meeting with Miers and Kelley.
But the question that remains unanswered is who put his name on the list?
McKay said he believes it came directly from high-level officials in the White House. McKay said he believe Attorney General Alberto Gonzales knows the identity of the officials who selected the US attorneys for termination, but Gonzales has lied to Congress in order to protect the administration.
Jason Leopold is a former Los Angeles bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswire. He has written over 2,000 stories on the California energy crisis and received the Dow Jones Journalist of the Year Award in 2001 for his coverage on the issue as well as a Project Censored award in 2004. Leopold also reported extensively on Enron's downfall and was the first journalist to land an interview with former Enron president Jeffrey Skilling following Enron's bankruptcy filing in December 2001. Leopold has appeared on CNBC and National Public Radio as an expert on energy policy and has also been the keynote speaker at more than two dozen energy industry conferences around the country.