McNulty Named No. 2 at Justice Dept.
A key Republican player in the 1998 impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton was tapped Friday by President Bush to take over the No. 2 post at the Justice Department.
Paul McNulty, currently the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, served as chief counsel and communications director for the House’s impeachment proceedings.
Despite his role in that highly contentious episode, McNulty has earned high marks from Democrats over the years, including his four-years-plus tenure as U.S. Attorney.
In that position, McNulty has handled a number of high-profile cases, including terrorism probes. He is also considered well connected to both the Bush administration and Capitol Hill, and his nomination is not expected to garner any significant opposition.
“I know Paul McNulty, and he’s got the experience and temperament to be very successful at the Justice Department,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement released by his office. Schumer served on the House Judiciary Committee when the panel impeached Clinton.
A spokesman for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) declined to comment on McNulty’s nomination.
McNulty, 47, was selected for the Justice post after the previous candidate, Timothy Flanigan, withdrew his nomination. Senate Democrats had objected to Flanigan’s ties to former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and they raised numerous questions about the business dealings between the two men. Flanigan withdrew after Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) scheduled a second hearing on his nomination.
McNulty will likely have a role in any potential indictments coming out of DOJ’s ongoing probe of Abramoff. While the former lobbyist has already been indicted in Miami on federal wire and mail fraud charges, more indictments are expected in the coming months.
McNulty will take over as acting deputy attorney general until his nomination is formally approved by the Senate. A hearing could be held before the Thanksgiving recess, though the process could slip to December, a Senate GOP source said.
McNulty’s ties to Capitol Hill go back to 1983, when he was named counsel to the House ethics committee. He held that post until 1987.
After a stint with the Legal Services Corp., McNulty, who began his career as a Democrat, went to work for then-Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.) as minority counsel on the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime.
In 1990, McNulty moved to the Justice Department as a deputy director of policy development. He took over as department spokesman the following year.
McNulty left DOJ following Clinton’s victory in the 1992 presidential campaign and went to work for the law firm now called Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. He returned to the House Judiciary Committee following the GOP takeover of the House in 1994.
Following Clinton’s impeachment by the House and his acquittal by the Senate, McNulty became chief counsel and legislative director to then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas).
McNulty assisted with transition work at Justice following Bush’s victory in 2000, and he helped steer former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s nomination through the Senate over strong Democratic opposition.
McNulty was appointed to the Eastern District of Virginia post on Sept. 14, 2001. Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) championed his selection; McNulty had helped craft a parole abolition and sentencing reform initiative backed by Allen when he was serving as Virginia governor.
McNulty has been heading a probe into whether classified intelligence has been passed to Israel by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. A former Pentagon analyst, Lawrence Franklin, recently pled guilty to conspiracy to communicate classified defense information to an official from a foreign government and other charges. That investigation remains ongoing.
McNulty received his bachelor’s degree in history from Grove City College in Pennsylvania. He earned a law degree from Capital University School of Law in Columbus, Ohio, in 1983.