Paulose leaving Minnesota for D.C.

Share story

U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose
U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose is leaving to take a position with the Justice Department in Washington.
MPR Photo/Elizabeth Stawicki

Neither Paulose nor officials in Washington specified why the move was made and they declined to be interviewed. In a written statement, Paulose said she looked forward to her new job. The statement also praised the productivity within the office -- citing a tripling of child pornography prosecutions, the doubling of gun prosecutions and an increase in human trafficking indictments. But those successes have been overshadowed by repeated management problems.

"Her tenure as U.S. attorney has been marked by extraordinary instability within the office," says former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger, who held the job before Paulose.

Heffelfinger resigned from his position to go into private practice but he has been linked to Paulose because of the uncertainty surrounding her appointment. Earlier this year, records showed that Heffelfinger was targeted for firing by top Justice Department staffers. That led to questions about Paulose's qualifications.

Heffelfinger speaks
Former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger has been critical of the U.S. Justice Department for its apparent political motivations for firing several other U.S. attorneys. Heffelfinger resigned from the Minneapolis office.
MPR Photo/Elizabeth Stawicki

There was also Paulose's management style. In April, three supervisors stepped down from their management roles and went back to prosecuting cases, prompting a visit from a high-ranking Justice official.

Paulose is also reportedly under investigation for allegedly mishandling classified information and was also accused of using racist and disparaging comments about an employee. She has since denied making those comments to a local blogger adding that she was the victim of an orchestrated campaign by her staff. Heffelfinger says that upset employees in her office yet again.

"There was tremendous anger from within her office and it's my understanding that one, perhaps two, of her current supervisors were going to resign their supervisory positions in response to those comments about staff and others. So she was facing another round of internal upheaval."

Heffelfinger also says the circumstances of Paulose's resignation are highly unusual.

"Generally, when a United States attorney has faced allegations like the ones that Rachel has faced, they're not given the opportunity to come back to Washington."

"Generally, when a United States attorney has faced allegations like the ones that Rachel has faced, they're not given the opportunity to come back to Washington."

One staffer who declined to be named for fear of being reprimanded characterized the office as "celebratory" when staffers learned of Paulose's departure.

Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, who praised Paulose's appointment two years ago, says he's now pleased that she's moving on.

"I support what Rachel has done, the decision she has made. I think she is bright. I think she is talented. There are clearly challenges there that she wasn't able to address."

Coleman says he talked with Attorney General Michael Mukasey and urged him to name a successor who will run a strong office. DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar characterized Paulose's departure as the state's last chapter in the legacy left by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Klobuchar said Paulose's succesor should be someone who has the respect of the office's staff.

"Line attorneys, people who are doing the job day in and day out want certainty. They want to know that the person in charge has the interest of justice in mind and I think it's very important that they get someone in that's a seasoned prosecutor with some experience."

St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington says he's saddened to learn of Paulose's departure. Harrington praised Paulose's work ethic and her commitment to fighting crime in the Twin Cities. He cited her efforts to crack down on the Latin Kings gang.

"I think it's directly responsible for why the west side of St. Paul has one of the lowest crime rates of any neighborhood in the city of St. Paul. Her work in that case had huge ripple effects, not just on the west side of St. Paul but all over the cities where methamphetamine had become a major drug problem for the city."

The Justice Department says Paulose will assume her new role in early January. She will serve as the primary policy advisor to the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General.