U.S. attorney Craig Morford
Mark Humphrey  /  AP file
U.S. attorney Craig Morford has been choosen to replace outgoing Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty.
updated 7/18/2007 4:19:02 PM ET 2007-07-18T20:19:02

The federal prosecutor who helped put a former Democratic lawmaker behind bars was named Wednesday as the Justice Department's No. 2 official.

Craig S. Morford, currently the U.S. attorney in Nashville, was tapped by President Bush to become acting Deputy Attorney General, the Justice Department said. He will replace Paul McNulty, who announced his resignation in June.

Morford is a career prosecutor who has pursued organized crime and public corruption in Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee for the past 20 years.

Politics aside?
Morford is best known for his case against former Rep. James Traficant, an Ohio Democrat convicted in 2002 of accepting bribes and gifts from businessmen in exchange for intervening with government agencies. Traficant is serving an eight-year sentence in a federal prison in Pennsylvania.

Rep. James Traficant Jr.
Haraz Ghanbari  /  AP
Craig Morford's work as Nashville U.S. Attorney resulted in former Rep. James Traficant Jr., seen here leaving court in 2002, being convicted of racketeering, bribery, kickbacks and fraud.

In a 2005 interview, Morford said his philosophy is sticking close to the evidence and letting politics go by the wayside.

"You take the facts that you have and you do the right thing," he said then. "I'm not afraid of making hard decisions. I'm not afraid of going after anybody if it's the appropriate thing to do."

His appointment comes during a sensitive moment for the Justice Department. Democrats contend that politics motivated last year's controversial firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

Congress is investigating the ousters. The Justice Department also has launched an internal inquiry into whether career attorneys were hired by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his top aides on the basis of their loyalty to the Republican Party.

Senate Democrats have made clear they want a career prosecutor in the Justice Department's No. 2 job as a qualification for confirmation. Morford will hold the job in an acting capacity, which does not require confirmation. It was not clear whether Bush intends to nominate Morford for the job on a permanent basis.

Gonzales highlighted Morford's credibility as a career prosecutor. "With 20 years of experience as a Justice Department prosecutor, I am pleased to have a person of Mr. Morford's exemplary character and integrity in this critical position at this time," Gonzales said in a statement.

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