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Mukasey won't prosecute in Justice hiring scandal

NEW YORK — No criminal prosecutions are planned for former Justice Department officials accused of allowing politics to influence the hiring of prosecutors, immigration judges and other career government lawyers, Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Tuesday.

Mukasey used his sharpest words yet to criticize the senior leaders who took part in or failed to stop illegal hiring practices during the tenure of his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales.

But, he told delegates to the American Bar Association annual meeting, ”Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime. In this instance, the two joint reports found only violations of the civil service laws.“

Other intrusions of Bush administration politics into department hirings and firings remain under investigation. Justice officials say the attorney general's remarks do not preclude criminal prosecutions if wrongdoing is found in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006 and the hiring practices in the department's civil rights division.

The political controversies prompted Gonzales' resignation last year.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said Mukasey ”seems intent on insulating this administration from accountability.“

An internal investigation concluded last month that for nearly two years, top advisers to Gonzales discriminated against applicants for career jobs who weren't Republican or conservative loyalists.

The federal government makes a distinction between ”career“ and ”political“ appointees, and it's a violation of civil service laws and Justice Department policy to hire career employees on the basis of political affiliation or allegiance.

Yet Monica Goodling, who served as Gonzales' counselor and White House liaison, routinely asked career job applicants about politics, the report concluded.

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