May 27, 2006

Attorney General prepared to quit over Jefferson probe: NYT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and
FBI director Robert S. Mueller III said this week that they
were prepared to quit if the White House directed them to
relinquish evidence seized in a disputed search of a House
member's office, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

Citing government officials, the Times reported that
Gonzalez was joined in raising the possibility of resignation
by the deputy attorney general, Paul McNulty, who told
associates that they had an obligation to protect evidence in a
criminal case and would not be willing to follow a White House
order to return the material to Congress.

McNulty, the newspaper said, was instrumental in the
resignation threats.

Bush on Thursday ordered the evidence sealed for 45 days to
give Congress and Justice a chance to work out a deal, averting
a showdown.

The FBI seized evidence last Saturday from the office of
Rep. William Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat. House leaders
objected, saying they had violated the Constitution, and
demanded that Justice return the evidence.

Former associates have said Jefferson accepted more than
$400,000 in bribes to help them sell telecommunications
technology to Nigeria and other West African countries.

Two of those associates have pleaded guilty to bribery
charges, and the FBI disclosed on Sunday it has videotaped
Jefferson accepting bribe money and has found $90,000 in cash
in his freezer.