Report critical of former Justice Dept. official
IG report accuses former Justice official of misleading Congress, mistreating staff

Jan 13, 2009 16:45 EST

A former top Justice Department official made false statements to Congress and violated federal law in overseeing the agency's civil rights division, investigators say.

The accusations against Bradley Schlozman, the former acting head of the civil rights division, are included in a new report by the department's inspector general, Glenn Fine.

Tuesday's report is the latest of several inquiries that found senior Justice Department officials violated civil service laws under the tenure of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Gonzales has denied knowledge of the conduct by his deputies, but the series of reports paints a disturbing portrait of the nation's top law enforcement agency being pulled in a sharply political direction during the Bush administration.

The report says Schlozman politicized and mistreated his staff and tried to punish agency employees he believed were too liberal. The report cited an e-mail in which Schlozman noted it had been awhile since he'd had to "scream with a bloodcurdling cry at some commie."

In the same 2003 missive, Schlozman used derogatory language to describe his pleasure in punishing career staffers, writing that "bitchslapping a bunch of (division) attorneys really did get the blood pumping and was even enjoyable once in a while."

At other times, the report said, Schlozman urged the hiring of "real Americans," apparently meaning conservatives, as opposed to liberals, whom he referred to as "libs" and "pinkos."

Schlozman resigned from the Justice Department in 2007 and is now an attorney in private practice in Wichita, Kan.

The report also faults the managers above Schlozman who, it said, received warning signs of inappropriate conduct but did not stop him or rein him in.

Investigators referred the case to federal prosecutors last spring, but they decided last week not to file charges against Schlozman.

Patricia Riley, special counsel to the U.S. Attorney for Washington, said the office conducted "a thorough and exhaustive review of the issue" of whether Schlozman lied to Congress. She declined to say exactly why the office chose not to file charges, but added the inquiry was conducted by six veteran prosecutors.

Investigators said Schlozman should not be considered suitable for government employment in the future, and they are forwarding the findings to the relevant bar associations.

Schlozman's lawyer, William Jordan, denied the allegations, saying his client had passed a lie-detector test.

"The report released today is inaccurate, incomplete, biased, unsupported by the law, and contrary to the facts," said Jordan, who accused the investigators themselves of "extraordinary bias and lack of ethical and legal standards."

The investigation, conducted with the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility, found that Schlozman did not tell the truth to Congress when he told Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in a June 2007 hearing that he did not consider political affiliations in hiring.

Citing the "troubling conduct" described in the report, Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said the agency has since reformed its hiring practices. "We are confident that the institutional problems identified in today's report no longer exist and will not recur," Carr said.

The Justice Department controversies — in particular the firing of nine U.S. attorneys — led to Gonzales' resignation in 2007 amid charges that White House officials under President George W. Bush had influenced decisions at the normally independent Justice Department.

Earlier inquiries by Fine's office concluded that top Gonzales advisers discriminated against applicants for career jobs who weren't Republican or conservative loyalists.

The federal government makes a distinction between "career" and "political" appointees, and it is 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 their politics, a previous report concluded.

Investigators also concluded that the White House political affairs office recommended a majority of the immigration judge candidates whom the department considered hiring, including one name forwarded by then-top Bush adviser Karl Rove.