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Kyle Sampson

Kyle Sampson

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D. Kyle Sampson was the Chief of Staff and Counselor of United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 Attorney General
United States Attorney General
The United States Attorney General is the head of the United States Department of Justice concerned with legal affairs and is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States government. The attorney general is considered to be the chief lawyer of the U.S. government...

 Alberto Gonzales
Alberto Gonzales
Alberto R. Gonzales was the 80th Attorney General of the United States. Gonzales was appointed to the post in February 2005 by President George W. Bush. Gonzales was the first Hispanic Attorney General in U.S. history and the highest-ranking Hispanic government official ever...

. He resigned on March 12, 2007, amid the controversy surrounding the firing of eight United States Attorney
United States Attorney
United States Attorneys represent the United States federal government in United States district court and United States court of appeals. There are 93 U.S. Attorneys stationed throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands...

s in 2006 and was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in July 2010. In October 2007, Sampson joined the law firm of Hunton & Williams LLP
Hunton & Williams
Founded in 1901, Hunton & Williams LLP is a US law firm that employs more than 800 lawyers. It has been called "one of the most well-connected legal and lobbying firms in DC." The firm was founded in Richmond, Virginia and has 18 other offices throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. In...

 as a partner in the firm's food and drug practice, where his practice focuses on FDA regulatory and enforcement matters.

Early career


As a young man, Sampson served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints among Hmong
Hmong people
The Hmong , are an Asian ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. Hmong are also one of the sub-groups of the Miao ethnicity in southern China...

 refugees who had emigrated from Laos to Minnesota. After graduating from Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University is a private university located in Provo, Utah. It is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , and is the United States' largest religious university and third-largest private university.Approximately 98% of the university's 34,000 students...

 in 1993, Sampson earned a law degree with honors from The University of Chicago Law School
University of Chicago Law School
The University of Chicago Law School was founded in 1902 as the graduate school of law at the University of Chicago and is among the most prestigious and selective law schools in the world. The U.S. News & World Report currently ranks it fifth among U.S...

 in 1996, serving as Articles Editor on the law review
University of Chicago Law Review
The University of Chicago Law Review is a law journal published by the University of Chicago Law School, and was established in 1933. From 1942 through 1945 the review was published by the faculty, due to World War II. Prominent former student members have included Judge Abner J...

. He clerked for Judge Karen J. Williams
Karen J. Williams
Karen J. Williams was a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, appointed in 1992 and serving as its Chief Judge from 2007 until her retirement in 2009. Williams was mentioned as a potential nominee to the United States Supreme Court during the administration of George W...

 of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and then joined the Salt Lake City law firm of Parr Waddoups Brown Gee & Loveless.

Government service


From 1999 to 2001 Sampson served as Counsel to Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah
Utah
Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

) on the Senate Judiciary Committee. After the 2000 election, Sampson "drew on a friendship he had built in law school with Elizabeth Cheney
Elizabeth Cheney
Elizabeth Cheney Perry , commonly called Liz, is an American attorney. During the George W. Bush administration years, she held positions in the State Department of the United States...

, the daughter of the vice president, to land a job making personnel decisions in the early days of the Bush administration." Later he worked under Alberto Gonzales
Alberto Gonzales
Alberto R. Gonzales was the 80th Attorney General of the United States. Gonzales was appointed to the post in February 2005 by President George W. Bush. Gonzales was the first Hispanic Attorney General in U.S. history and the highest-ranking Hispanic government official ever...

 as Associate Counsel to the President. From there, he served as Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, and then, in 2003, became Counselor to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft
John Ashcroft
John David Ashcroft is a United States politician who served as the 79th United States Attorney General, from 2001 until 2005, appointed by President George W. Bush. Ashcroft previously served as the 50th Governor of Missouri and a U.S...

. In 2005, he was promoted to be Chief of Staff and Counselor to Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales (who was sworn in as Attorney General on February 14, 2005). Sampson was "a trusted political advisor" to both Ashcroft and Gonzales.

In 2006, Sampson was a candidate for appointment to be the U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah.
"White House and Justice officials backed Mr. Sampson in his bid to replace [Paul] Warner, making that clear to the staff of Senator Hatch
Orrin Hatch
Orrin Grant Hatch is the senior United States Senator for Utah and is a member of the Republican Party. Hatch served as the chairman or ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1993 to 2005...

. But the senator wanted Mr. Bush to nominate Brett Tolman
Brett Tolman
Brett Tolman was the United States Attorney for the District of Utah from July 2006 to December 2009. Before becoming U.S. Attorney, Tolman worked as counsel in the Senate Judiciary Committee for committee chairs Orrin Hatch and then Arlen Specter during the 109th United States Congress...

, a one-time Utah federal prosecutor who had spent the previous three years working on antiterrorism issues for the Judiciary Committee staff. . . . Mr. Hatch finally made a personal appeal to Mr. Gonzales to drop his bid to nominate Mr. Sampson. After a four-month delay, President Bush nominated Tolman for the position in June 2006."

The U.S. Attorneys dismissal controversy


Sampson and Harriet Miers
Harriet Miers
Harriet Ellan Miers is an American lawyer and former White House Counsel. In 2005, she was nominated by President George W. Bush to be an Associate Justice of the U.S...

 created a list of U.S. Attorneys to be fired, as shown by emails produced for a Congressional investigation, and Sampson coordinated the execution of the plan. "Miers had pushed to fire them all," and Administration officials "were determined to dismiss those they considered the weakest performers." Sampson, "at the behest of the White House," conducted "a review to determine which of the ninety-three U.S. attorneys around the country should be let go." "Sampson had good political instincts, having worked on Capitol Hill for Senator Orrin Hatch
Orrin Hatch
Orrin Grant Hatch is the senior United States Senator for Utah and is a member of the Republican Party. Hatch served as the chairman or ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1993 to 2005...

 before moving to the White House counsel's office to work for Gonzales." Sampson wrote in an email to Miers that he was
"concerned that to execute this plan properly we must all be on the same page and be steeled to withstand any political upheaval that might result. If we start caving to complaining US Attorneys or Senators then we shouldn't do it -- it'll be more trouble than it's worth. We'll stand by for a green light from you."


Sampson resigned after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales—under pressure from Congress—agreed that the Justice Department would turn those emails over to Congress and would make Department staff, including Sampson, available to testify about the firings. Sampson "was seen within the Justice Department as a workaholic chief of staff who managed to keep things moving for Gonzales. When Sampson resigned . . ., Gonzales was left . . . rudderless."

According to one commentator, "Had Republicans still been in power, there would have been no controversy, no investigation." After all, "United States attorneys are political appointees who serve at the pleasure of the president, and during changeovers in administration, they are replaced as a matter of standard practice." But in 2007, Republicans were no longer in power.

As a result of the dismissal of the eight U.S. Attorneys, many senators called on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign as well. Senator Charles E. Schumer, the first senator to call for Gonzales's resignation, believes Gonzales should have resigned, not Sampson. According to Schumer, "it raises the temperature. Kyle Sampson will not become the . . . fall guy.". The New York Times reported that "Mr. Gonzales, who approved the idea of the group firing, has been under fierce criticism from lawmakers of both parties over the dismissals, which have provoked charges that they were politically motivated." Gonzales resigned on September 17, 2007.

On July 21, 2010, Nora Dannehy
Nora Dannehy
Nora R. Dannehy was appointed Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut on April 4, 2008. She is the first woman to hold the office, which was established in 1789. Dannehy, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1986, joined the United States Department of Justice in 1991...

, the special prosecutor tasked with investigating the attorney dismissals, concluded that "there was insufficient evidence to establish that persons knowingly made material false statements to [the Office of Inspector General] or Congress or corruptly endeavored to obstruct justice" and that no criminal charges would be filed against Sampson or Gonzales.

Further reading