Paul McNulty, the deputy US attorney-general who presided over key corporate fraud and terrorism cases, resigned on Monday after a long spate of public criticism over his role in the firing of at least eight attorneys.
Mr McNulty said he would leave the department of justice after nearly eight years of service, including a stint as US attorney for the eastern district of Virginia. Before becoming a top prosecutor, he was closely associated with Republican issues and worked for House Republicans during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.
Mr McNulty’s departure had been rumoured for months as the DoJ sought to stem criticism of the mass firings in December.
He drew particular fire for testifying to Congress that all but one of the sackings were performance-related when internal e-mails showed he had not closely reviewed the work of some of the ousted prosecutors.
Internally, Mr McNulty’s testimony irked his boss, Alberto Gonzales, for conceding that Bud Cummins had been removed as Arkansas attorney to make room for a protégé of Karl Rove, deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
Mr Gonzales praised Mr McNulty’s “selfless dedication to good government” and wished him well in a statement issued on Monday.
At the DoJ, Mr McNulty was closely associated with efforts to set new rules for companies under investigation for fraud. The “McNulty memo” eased some but not all of the requirements for companies that seek to co-operate with prosecutors.
In his resignation letter reported by The Associated Press, Mr McNulty said: “The financial realities of college-age children and two decades of public service lead me to a long overdue transition in my career.”
He did not mention the firings controversy.
Neither did Mr Gonzales, in his responding statement that praised McNulty as “a dynamic and thoughtful leader”. “Paul is an outstanding public servant and a fine attorney who has been valued here at the department, by me and so many others,” he said.