Attorney General Michael Mukasey on Tuesday said former Justice Department officials will not face prosecution for letting improper political considerations drive hirings of prosecutors, immigration judges and other career government lawyers.
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."
For nearly two years, top advisers to Gonzales discriminated against applicants for career jobs who weren't Republican or conservative loyalists, an internal investigation concluded last month.
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.
Mukasey, who once served as a federal judge in New York, said the Justice Department has taken steps under his leadership to prevent a recurrence of the hiring scandal.
"I have made repeatedly clear...that it is neither permissible nor acceptable to consider political affiliations in the hiring of career department employees," Mukasey said.Mark Sherman, AP Writer © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.