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U.S. attorneys are presidential appointees who can be removed for any reason at any time. But the IG concluded that U.S. attorneys cannot be removed as a way of influencing a case or an election. According to the IG’s office, that could be a criminal offense.

The report said the IG/OPR investigation could not determine the full role of the White House in the firings but concluded that it was involved in three of the nine dismissals, including that of H.E. “Bud” Cummins III, who was U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. The report concluded that Mr. Cummins was removed so that his position could be given to Tim Griffin, who had worked as an aide to Mr. Rove.

The report also concludes that even with the involvement of White House and other officials, the greatest blame for the dismissals belongs to Mr. Gonzales. It said he was unengaged in the process of the dismissals, leaving the details to his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. The report also accused Mr. Gonzales of making misleading and inaccurate statements after the firings.

Attorneys for Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Sampson challenged the report’s conclusions.

“It is mystifying and disappointing that the inspector general chose to impugn Mr. Sampson’s candor and integrity when, virtually alone among significant participants in this matter, Mr. Sampson at all times cooperated fully and voluntarily with any and all investigators,” attorney Bradford Berenson said.

Mr. Gonzales’ attorney questioned the need for an appointed prosecutor.

“The report makes clear that Judge Gonzales engaged in no wrongful or improper conduct while recognizing, as he has acknowledged many times, that the process for evaluating U.S. attorney performance in this instance was flawed,” attorney George J.Terwilliger III said.