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Spotlight on John McKay, Western Washington

Cho, AvaHome & Roxy for ePluribus Media
Original Publication Date
John McKay
The saga of the purge of US Attorneys continues to unfold and this "spotlight" features the resignation of US Attorney John McKay of Washington's Western District, and his "interim" replacement, Jeffrey Sullivan. Mc Kay was nominated by President Bush and approved by the Senate in 2001 and has served the citizens of Western Washington for the last five years.

Typically, US Attorneys change with a change in the White House, not in the middle of a presidential term. McKay was asked to resign on December 7th, 2006 and announced his resignation effective January 26th, 2007. "I have nothing but respect and pride in having worked for President Bush," he said. He will be joining the faculty of Seattle University Law School.

So why was McKay asked to resign?

Reports seem to indicate he was doing a good job, and he is credited with establishing the framework for LINX:

From Seattle PI:

In the wake of the terrorist attacks, well before the 9/11 Commission report called for a "revolution" in the information sharing among police agencies, McKay joined forces with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and FBI to create a regional network called LINX that has become a national model.


"He broke down so many walls in the field of information sharing," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

LINX, which gives local, state and federal authorities access to one another's databases, required agreements among all levels of government. "He had the capability of bringing us together," Winchell said of McKay, "and he has continued to foster those relationships."

McKay has received accolades and compliments from other federal law enforcement agencies ...

Again from Seattle PI:

ATF Special Agent in Charge Kelvin Crenshaw said McKay is "absolutely, without a doubt, a strong leader, probably the best U.S. attorney I've worked with going on 19 years." When the ATF and the FBI got into a turf dispute over jurisdiction of a local firebombing by the Earth Liberation Front, McKay helped resolve it. "He certainly helped smooth that out," Crenshaw said. "He made sure everybody got to the table and voiced their concerns. The agencies ultimately worked it out."

Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik called McKay "a superb U.S. attorney who came into an excellent office and made it better." "He was good at many of the things that are necessary to have a coordinated anti-terrorism program." said Clinton appointee Kate Pflaumer, who held the office for eight years prior to McKay.

Just seven months before being asked to resign, John McKay got an exceptional performance review.

"McKay is an effective, well-regarded and capable leader of the [U.S. attorney's office] and the District's law enforcement community," the team of 27 Justice Department officials concluded, according to a copy of their final report obtained by The Seattle Times.


The assessment of McKay's office by the Justice Department's Evaluation and Review Staff (EARS) was similarly laudatory.

And yet, John McKay was asked to resign, according to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, "for performance related issues". There is some speculation that the resignation is related to the 2004 Governor's race:

One of the most persistent rumors in Seattle legal circles is that the Justice Department forced McKay, a Republican, to resign to appease Washington state Republicans angry over the 2004 governor's race. Some believe McKay's dismissal was retribution for his failure to convene a federal grand jury to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the race.


The Evergreen Freedom Foundation filed a formal complaint with U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in 2005 about what it considered McKay's lax oversight of the election, in which Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire defeated Republican Dino Rossi by 129 votes. Many influential Republicans publicly criticized McKay.

There were allegations by the Washington State Democratic Party that Karl Rove was behind the recount lawsuit. You will note a Seattle Times article had this to say.

"But we believe this, too," Berendt (state party Chairman) said. "We believe that Rove is in regular contact with people here."

The election lawsuit was filed in January by Rossi and Republican supporters who allege that the election was flawed and should be thrown out.

Mary Lane, a spokeswoman for Rossi, said people in the White House are kept up to date about the case. "They're interested in what's going on. ... We talk to them about it," she said. "There's certainly no Karl Rove pulling strings."

Deputy Attorney General McNulty has repeatedly denied that there was anything political in the recent rash of forced resignations of US Attorneys, and even met with a congressional delegation to defend the resignations -- but Democrats aren't buying it.

Sen. Patty Murray said after sitting in on a closed-door Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday she heard nothing to suggest that John McKay deserved to be fired as U.S. attorney.

"I heard nothing from Department of Justice officials that changed my mind about John McKay's performance," Murray, D-Wash., said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. She said she was not at liberty to comment further.

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., has been chosen to help select candidates to permanently succeed McKay.

On January 26th, Jeffrey Sullivan was named to "interim" US Attorney for Western Washington, filling in for John McKay until a permanent successor is nominated and approved by the Senate.

Sullivan has been chief of the criminal division since 2002, overseeing all federal criminal cases filed in the Western Washington district, ranging from terrorism-related cases to ones involving public corruption and corporate fraud, the U.S. attorney's office said.

He was Yakima County prosecutor from 1975 to 2002, and before that was in private practice. Sullivan graduated from Gonzaga University School of Law, and received his bachelor's degree from Gonzaga.

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