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April 15, 2014

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I’d given up on Gonzales leaving, Bogden says

WASHINGTON - Former U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden climbed out of bed at 5 a.m. Monday for his morning run, clicked on the TV news and saw the improbable.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had resigned. Like many Washington observers, Bogden said , he had "kind of accepted the fact that Gonzales was going to ride out" the political storm.

Bogden flipped through the channels quickly at his Reno home. Every station was breaking the story. He clicked to MSNBC and saw his own face staring back at him, with good reason. Bogden was one of the prosecutors purged by the Bush administration, apparently ending a long career with the Justice Department.

As the news of the resignation sank in, Bogden reflected on the eight months since he learned of his firing. He offered a few details he had refused to share while Gonzales remained in the job.

Bogden said Gonzales had called at least three times in the spring offering support. And three times, Bogden said, he asked for his job back.

He didn't get it.

As the months rolled past, Bogden said , he finally understood that the decision wouldn't be reversed. He also came to an unexpected conclusion. After 24 years as a prosecutor, most of them for Justice, he no longer wanted to work at the department.

Since Bogden's departure, former Justice officials have admitted using political litmus tests in hiring. They have described an attempt to persuade a heavily sedated Attorney General John Ashcroft to sign off on a controversial wiretapping program. They have given contradictory explanations for firing Bogden and the other prosecutors.

Eventually, Bogden realized that "I didn't want to work under the leadership."

Gonzales' departure is good for the department, Bogden said. It may help to repair the institution. "The public has lost confidence in the attorney general. When you lose that, it's time for someone else to take over."

President Bush doesn't share that view. At 7:50 a.m., Bogden watched as Bush, in Waco, Texas, said how sad it is that a talented public servant was kept from doing his job because his name was dragged through the mud for political reasons.

Bush talked about how unfairly Gonzales was portrayed, and Bogden said he thought that the same could be said for the dismissed prosecutors. As Congress sought an explanation for the firings, Justice officials said the attorneys had not been performing well.

Bogden and others responded by producing glowing performance appraisals.

Monday, as Bush defended Gonzales, "The president didn't come forward and talk about our sullied names and reputations."

Bogden added that he is no closer to understand why he was turned out. He would like to know what he did to earn the attention of those who Democrats think wanted to stack the offices with "loyal Bushies," as one uncovered e-mail put it.

Maybe Bogden's office was handling cases that displeased his bosses in the Republican administration - indicting a politically connected Reno doctor, investigating a Republican congressman's fund raising, raiding the home of a businessman close to the Republican congressman running for governor, among others.

Or maybe it was what his office wasn't doing - pursuing voter fraud cases that were a Bush administration priority.

The White House has yet to appoint Bogden's replacement. Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign has given the White House names of three candidates.

Would Bogden go back now that Gonzales is gone?

"It's not my call. It's President Bush's call."

As for the future, Bogden will have a small place in history as one of the U.S. attorneys whose firing led to the downfall of an attorney general. He doesn't care for the rep.

"I thought I'd be remembered by the accomplishments our office would achieve, be known for hard work and dedication."

So in the end, what did the Bush administration gain by the firings?

"Not much was accomplished," he said. "I think a lot of harm was done."

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