Paul McNulty

We all scream for ice cream! And that includes high-ranking officials of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Here’s our latest legal celebrity sighting:

Last night I watched the fireworks from the South Lawn of the White House. The event had a very DC feel to it: everyone there was quasi-famous, even if you couldn’t figure out why.

But I did recognize one person: Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, the second-highest-ranking official at the DOJ. He was dressed casually, in a red polo shirt, and was sitting on a blanket with his wife and kids.

McNulty may not be Brad Pitt — but here in Washington, he might as well have been. People kept going up to him, introducing themselves, and having their picture taken with him. This is clearly the dorkiest city in the entire country (and I count myself among the dorks, since I recognized him too).

I discreetly took two photographs of DAG McNulty munching on a Dove ice cream bar. Here they are.

Paul McNulty ice cream 1 Paul J McNulty Above the Law blog.jpeg
High-ranking Justice Department officials: they’re just like us. They eat ice cream bars!
Earlier: Every DAG Has His Day

Paul McNulty Paul J McNulty Above the Law blog.jpegFor departure. For Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, his last day at the Department of Justice will be in not-too-distant future. He announced his intention to resign earlier today.
But he won’t be leaving the DOJ as abruptly as, say, Monica Goodling. He’ll stick around for a few more months:

McNulty, who has served 18 months as the Justice Department’s second-in-command, announced his plans at a closed-door meeting of U.S. attorneys in San Antonio, according to two senior department aides. He said he will remain at the department until this fall or until the Senate approves a successor, the aides said.

(It’s nice to know that we were actually right about something. But then again, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.)
Justice Department Official Resigning, Aides Say [Associated Press]
Earlier: Paul McNulty: On His Way Out?

Alberto Gonzales 4 Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Above the Law blog.gifToday is Friday, the favorite day of the week for high-profile government officials to announce their departures. E.g., Sandra Day O’Connor; Monica Goodling; Cully Stimson.
Might Alberto Gonzales resign as Attorney General today? We doubt it. Coming on the heels of yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, where AGAG took a real beating, it would look too reactive. It would be much more likely for some other DOJ official — e.g., Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty — to step down late this afternoon.
But a Gonzales departure is probably more likely now than ever. Over at Slate, the needle on the “Gonzo-Meter” — which measures the chance of an Alberto Gonzales departure — has moved farther to the right. The Slate folks explain:

We are bumping the meter up to 95. It may take the attorney general a few days to recognize that he did not exactly pull off a rout. But if the president was indeed waiting for his boy to turn this thing around today, the president must have been sorely disappointed. If anything, Gonzales probably lost support today. And if he persuaded even a single soul of his great competence, we’ll eat our meter.

Time for an ATL reader poll:


Gonzo-Meter: Al, You’re Not Helping [Slate]

Alberto Gonzales 3 Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Alberto Gonzalez Above the Law blog.jpgWe’re getting underway again, with the testimony of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Some random audience member just shouted out: “Hi Senator Kyl!”
2:39: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who missed much of the morning session due to a funeral, is leading off the afternoon questioning. He reads a brief introductory statement (and barely looks up from his notes). Grassley gloats over how the DOJ tried to prevent a witness from testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, on which he also serves, but got slapped down by the courts.
(Wow, that accent is REALLY Midwestern. Anyone wanna go to the mal?)
2:49: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) wants to know what safeguards were in place to prevent improper political considerations from entering into the process re: which U.S. Attorneys to fire. He’s very animated, angry — he frequently raises his voice.
AGAG says that he relied upon people he trusted — and repeatedly mentions the Deputy Attorney General, Paul McNulty, and the big role the DAG played in this process. It seems to us that Gonzales wants to make McNulty the fall guy.
(Not a bad idea — McNulty is leaving the DOJ soon, anyway).
3:02: OMG, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) — a Republican, and a conservative one at that — just ripped AGAG a new one. Several new ones, actually. Some quotes:

“You should be judged by the same standards as these U.S. attorneys were judged, and suffer the same consequences.”

“Mistakes were made, and mistakes should have consequences.”

“[T]his was handled incompetently… Communication was atrocious.”

“The best way to put this all behind us is your resignation,” so we can “start with a clean slate.”

“I like you as a man, as an individual, but mistakes have consequences.”

OUCH. OUCH OUCH. Alberto Gonzales = pinata.
If this is what a Republican has to say, wait ’til the Democrats are up to bat next….
4:08: Sorry, our attention wandered… Lots of questioning about matters not related to the U.S. Attorney firings (because this is, after all, technically a general DOJ oversight hearing). E.g., Sen. Kyl asking about offshore gambling outfits; Sen. Specter asking about whether there’s any federal law enforcement angle to the Virginia Tech shootings.
Now, a ten-minute recess.
Earlier: Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 2)
Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 1)

Paul McNulty Paul J McNulty Above the Law blog.jpegWe had previously suggested that Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty — who by some accounts is the one who REALLY screwed up in the U.S. Attorneys firing fiasco — might be leaving the Justice Department. It looks like our prediction may come to pass.
Rule No. 1 inside the Beltway: “If they don’t deny it, then it’s true.” (Rule No. 2: “Even if they do deny it, it’s probably still true.”)
Applying Rule No. 1, Paul McNulty is leaving the DOJ. From the BLT:

Is Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty looking for a new job? Yes, said the Wall Street Journal yesterday, citing “people familiar” with his plans. McNulty himself was a bit more sanguine, telling the Journal he was “fully focused on doing my job and haven’t given much thought to what comes next.”

McNulty chose not to knock the story down today. During a brief interview with Legal Times following a speech to a legal panel about the Thompson Memo and corporate fraud, McNulty was asked if he was looking for a new job. McNulty responded, after a pause: “I can’t answer that.”

If you have any thoughts about who might be up for the thankless task of serving as DAG for the last 21 months of the Bush Administration, we welcome them in the comments. (We throw the considerable weight of Above the Law behind the Prom Queen.)
McNulty Can’t Say If He’s Staying [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]
Gonzales Deputy, in Crossfire, Looks for Quiet Exit [Wall Street Journal]
Earlier: Paul McNulty: It’s All His Fault

Paul McNulty Paul J McNulty Above the Law blog.jpegThat’s the gist of this lengthy, extremely interesting, thoroughly researched special report. It’s by one of our favorite reporters, Jan Crawford Greenburg — who’s on the verge of replacing Linda Greenhouse as undisputed queen bee of the SCOTUS press corps hive.
After reading the JCG piece, a devastating indictment of McNulty’s involvement in this debacle, one possible outcome presents itself as increasingly likely:

Alberto Gonzales stays on as Attorney General — but Paul McNulty’s head rolls.

A scandal this big needs to claim some victims before it dies down. Some high-ranking DOJ or White House officials must be sacrificed to the vengeful Senate Democrats. And, with all due respect, Kyle Sampson isn’t a sufficiently big fish. Nor is Monica Goodling, for that matter.
But the Deputy Attorney General of the United States? Now that’s another story…
Update: The question then becomes whether McNulty goes quietly. There’s a good case to be made that the answer is no.
DOJ Official Ignored White House Guidance [ABC News]
Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty biography [U.S. Department of Justice]
Paul J. McNulty bio [Wikipedia]

Ty Clevenger, a former attorney in the Special Litigation Section (“SPL”) of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, is the one who got the ball rolling with respect to colorful anecdotes about Shanetta Cutlar, the charismatic and strong-willed chief of the Section.
Clevenger sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty raising concerns about Cutlar’s leadership of SPL. Shortly thereafter, Clevenger was effectively fired by Cutlar the next day.
As for Clevenger’s letter, the DAG assigned it to Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, for a response. Earlier this month, Clevenger received the following from Wan Kim:
Wan Kim Wan J Kim Ty Clevenger letter Above the Law blog.JPG
Letters to McDonald’s, complaining about insufficient mintiness in Shamrock Shakes,* receive responses evincing greater concern.
Now we understand why Shanetta Cutlar was comfortable enough in her position to wear a tiara to a recent meeting of DOJ section chiefs. We predict she will remain in power at SPL long after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has left the building (which may not be saying much — but you get our point).
* Yes, Shamrock Shakes are back! We enjoyed one in Miami earlier this week.

Shanetta Cutlar Above the Law Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section Above the Law.jpgEarlier this week, we shared with you what we’ve heard about Ty Clevenger and Shanetta Cutlar.
To recap, Clevenger was a lawyer in the Special Litigation Section of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. He worked under Cutlar, the Chief of the Section. We wrote:

[Clevenger] had some issues with Cutlar and how she ran the Section. Last fall, Clevenger sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty. Clevenger alleged that Cutlar — whom he described as “extremely intelligent” and “very charming,” but also “a Jekyll and Hyde personality” — created an “atmosphere of fear and paranoia” within the Section.

On October 4, 2006, Ty Clevenger sent his letter to McNulty. Clevenger’s office was searched overnight, and he was fired the next day. He is in the process of filing a whistleblower complaint.

This is what we had heard, from reliable sources; but it struck us as rather odd, almost fishy. It’s just not consistent with what we know about federal government service. As a federal government lawyer, you can do all sorts of things — e.g., write a saucy, pseudonymous judicial gossip blog — and still part ways with your office voluntarily (and on good terms). In the rare cases when government lawyers are fired or asked to resign, events usually unfold at a glacial rather than breakneck pace (unless there is, say, compelling evidence of criminal conduct).
So we reached out to Ty Clevenger himself, by email. He happily responded to our questions. He verified the sequence of events: his sending of the letter to McNulty, followed almost immediately by his being asked to leave.
We asked Clevenger this question:

“Exactly how did the search of your office and the firing go down? It seems rather shocking for a government lawyer to be fired so quickly, especially after sending a letter of complaint to the DAG. It seems like basically a recipe for trouble for the people behind the firing.”

Ty Clevenger’s response to our query, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Ty Clevenger and Shanetta Cutlar: How It All Went Down”

Shanetta Cutlar Above the Law Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section Above the Law.jpgThe Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department — one of the DOJ’s most important arms, charged with enforcing our nation’s anti-discrimination laws — has been experiencing some upheaval over the past few years. Several articles in the Washington Post have examined some of the conflicts within the division. See, e.g., here, here, and here.
We’ve learned that Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee may be taking a closer look at what’s going on over at the Civil Rights Division. And when they do, some of their attention may focus on the Special Litigation Section, headed by Shanetta Y. Cutlar.
Here’s an explanation of the Section’s mission, from its website:

[The Section is] charged with enforcing federal civil rights statutes in four major areas: Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons, Conduct of Law Enforcement Agencies, Access to Reproductive Health Clinics and places of Religious Worship, and Religious Exercise of Institutionalized Persons. The Section undertakes investigations and litigation through the United States and its territories.

The Section Chief is Shanetta Cutlar, an award-winning litigatrix. And even though some attorneys and staff members have alleged that she’s “abusive” — what a subjective word! — Cutlar is a woman after our own heart. There’s nothing we love more than a high-powered female who takes charge of a situation and demands respect from her subordinates. We adore women in leadership roles who follow the teaching of Machiavelli: “[I]t is far safer to be feared than loved.”
A former attorney in the Special Litigation Section, Ty Clevenger — a Stanford Law grad and former law clerk to the highly esteemed Judge Morris Arnold (8th Cir.) — had some issues with Cutlar and how she ran the Section. Last fall, Clevenger sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty. Clevenger alleged that Cutlar — whom he described as “extremely intelligent” and “very charming,” but also “a Jekyll and Hyde personality” — created an “atmosphere of fear and paranoia” within the Section.
On October 4, 2006, Ty Clevenger sent his letter to McNulty. Clevenger’s office was searched overnight, and he was fired the next day. He is in the process of filing a whistleblower complaint.
Here’s the first page of Clevenger’s letter to the DAG:
Shanetta Cutlar Paul McNulty 1.jpg
There’s more. Juicy details about La Shanetta’s alleged behavior are described in the rest of Ty Clevenger’s letter. The letter has been distributed to all the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee (with supporting documentation).
We reprint the entire Clevenger letter, which a source helpfully leaked provided to us, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “DOJ Diva of the Day: Shanetta Y. Cutlar”