Sunday, June 24, 2007

Nominee for a Top Justice Dept. Post Withdraws

The Bush administration’s nominee to be the Justice Department’s third-highest official withdrew his name from consideration on Friday in advance of a scheduled confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

The official, William W. Mercer, who has held the job of associate attorney general on a temporary basis since September 2006, will return to his job as United States attorney in Montana, which he kept pending his confirmation.Although Mr. Mercer is staying at the agency, he is the sixth official to step down from a senior post at its headquarters in the uproar over the dismissals of federal prosecutors.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which was to hold next week’s hearing, called Mr. Mercer’s withdrawal an effort to keep information about the dismissals from the panel.

“The White House has found many ways to keep sunlight from reaching some of the darker corners of the Bush Justice Department, but this is a new one,” Mr. Leahy said. “With a confirmation hearing looming next Tuesday, they have withdrawn this nomination to avoid having to answer more questions under oath."



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