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Fired attorneys say apologies are in order

Story Highlights

• One dismissed attorney says decision should be revisited
• Two others believe they are owed an apology
• Gonzales comments called "a step in the right direction"
• "I don't think he even knows the reasons," one says
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- One of eight U.S. attorneys fired in a controversial Justice Department shakeup said Tuesday that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should rethink the dismissals, and two others said apologies were due.

"I think the attorney general at least took a first step toward acknowledging his errors, but I was extremely disappointed that he has not called into question the firing of the U.S. attorneys," said John McKay, who in December lost his post as the top federal prosecutor in Seattle. "He said he stands by them, but I don't think he even knows the reasons."

Gonzales announced Tuesday that his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, had resigned over the firings and admitted that "mistakes were made." But he said all the prosecutors were political appointees who could be removed "for any reason," and he stood by the firings.

"My question is, if he fired the guy who fired us, why is he standing by the dismissals?" McKay asked.

The Justice Department initially told Congress that most of the eight prosecutors -- political appointees who serve at the pleasure of the president -- were removed for performance-related reasons. That prompted an outcry from the fired lawyers and allegations of political influence on pending cases.

David Iglesias, the former U.S. attorney in Albuquerque, accused two of New Mexico's Republican members of Congress of pressuring him to bring indictments of Democrats in an investigation of state contracting before the November midterm elections.

The lawmakers -- Rep. Heather Wilson and Sen. Pete Domenici -- have acknowledged making calls about the investigation, but they denied impropriety.

Iglesias was not on the initial list of U.S. attorneys deemed "weak" by the Justice Department. He got good marks in a July 2005 evaluation, with department officials calling him "well respected" and saying he showed "good leadership."

He said Tuesday that Gonzales' comments were "a step in the right direction, but it doesn't get me where I like to be."

"I would love a full apology. I would like thanks for a job well done," he said.

Gonzales told reporters that Sampson had failed to share information about the shakeup, which led Justice Department officials to give "incomplete" explanations of the firings to Congress.

Iglesias said Sampson's resignation was "the right thing for him to do," but he questioned how much information about his discussions with the White House he kept from Gonzales.

"It's the chief of staff's job to serve as a conduit for information to his boss," Iglesias said.

The only prosecutor who administration officials acknowledged was dismissed for political reasons was Henry "Bud" Cummins, the U.S. attorney in Little Rock, Arkansas. Cummins was asked to resign last June to make way for Timothy Griffin, a former lieutenant of White House political adviser Karl Rove who was returning from service as a military lawyer, according to documents released Tuesday.

Cummins had no direct comment on Tuesday's developments. But he told CNN that Justice Department claims the firings were based on performance were "pretty ludicrous," and said his axed colleagues "deserve an apology."

CNN's Kevin Bohn and Paul Vercammen contributed to this report.

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