Washington Attorney General Michael Mukasey named a prosecutor Monday to investigate whether former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, other Bush administration officials or Republicans in Congress should face criminal charges in the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.
The launching of a criminal inquiry follows the recommendation of internal Justice Department investigators who concluded that, despite denials of the administration, political considerations played a part in the firings of as many as four of the federal prosecutors.
In their 358-page report, investigators said the lack of cooperation by senior officials at the White House and in the Justice Department left gaps in their findings that should be investigated further.
"Serious allegations involving potential criminal conduct have not been fully investigated or resolved," the report said, listing lying to investigators, obstruction of justice and wire fraud among the potential felony crimes.
Mukasey's appointment of Nora Dannehy, the acting U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to continue the inquiry leaves open the possibility that it won't be finished before President Bush leaves office in January.
Senators of both parties who led a congressional probe of the firings praised Mukasey's decision and cautioned Bush against pardoning anyone as he leaves the White House.