RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Former U.S. Attorney John McKay told an audience at a Hawaii State Bar Association luncheon yesterday that he has no regrets that he might have been fired for doing the right thing.
Looking for truth
A former U.S. attorney believes there is more behind his 2006 firing
John McKay, one of eight U.S. attorneys fired Dec. 7 in a move that ultimately led to the resignation of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general, said he believes the directive came from the White House and that more charges are likely.
"I believe there will be a criminal investigation," McKay said yesterday in a speech at a Hawaii State Bar Association luncheon. "I think what we've seen to date pales in comparison to what will come from this investigation."
McKay said an investigation by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine appears to be nearing completion, adding that the forthcoming report was likely one reason for Gonzales' resignation last month.
"I don't think he wanted to be the attorney general when the inspector general's report comes out," McKay said. "Not only will it be that the end result could be the referral for a criminal prosecution, but it's going to report on the management failures that were evident."
Gonzales' resignation came after months of criticism over his handling of FBI terror investigations and the firings of the U.S. attorneys.
Federal lawmakers said the dismissals of the federal prosecutors appeared to be politically motivated, and some of the fired U.S. attorneys said they felt pressured to investigate Democrats before elections. Gonzales, who was backed by President Bush, maintained that the dismissals were based on the prosecutors' lackluster performance records.
McKay, who served as U.S. attorney in Seattle, said he came under criticism from Republicans for not pursuing a criminal case in the 2004 gubernatorial election won by Democrat Christine Gregoire, who was declared the winner by 129 votes after three recounts.
"Many Republicans felt that the Democrats had stolen the election," he said. "I was investigating that with the FBI, and no evidence was developed of any kind that would indicate criminal acts had occurred. It did not ever cross my mind that what I did or didn't do should be based on anything other than the evidence.
"I don't regret for a moment that I may have been fired for doing the right thing in the governor's election or for appearing to be too independent of Justice (Department) or the White House."
McKay, now a visiting professor at Seattle University Law School and senior vice president and general counsel for Getty Images, said even if the inspector general determines no criminal investigation is necessary, he still feels some good has come from the firings.
"There's been focus and attention on some very important principles in our country," he said. "Those include prosecutorial independence; they include the requirement that we have compassion and fairness in our system; and most important they include the fact that those of us who wield governmental power don't work for political parties."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.