Montanans deserve an explanation, Tester tells Mercer

Mercer agrees to explain role in U.S. Attorney firings, questioned on holding two jobs at once

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) –Senator Jon Tester today questioned Montana's U.S. attorney about his ability to hold down two "more than full-time," high-profile jobs at the same time.  Tester also extracted a promise from Mercer to come before Congress and "in the light of day" explain his role in the firings of eight U.S. Attorneys across the country. 

Tester raised his concerns during a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.  Mercer was called to testify at today's hearing.

Tester asked Mercer whether he's willing to explain his involvement in the recent scandal involving the firings of eight U.S. Attorneys.  Mercer is mentioned in connection to the scandal throughout 3,000 pages of recently released emails between the White House and the Justice Department.  When asked by Tester if he would explain his role in the firings, Mercer answered "yes."

"Firing competent prosecutors for purely political reasons casts a dark shadow over our justice system," Tester said.  "Montanans have a right to know Mr. Mercer's role in this scandal,"

The Senate Judiciary Committee has authorized a subpoena for Mercer to testify about his role in the scandal.  The committee will not decide whether to confirm Mercer until it finishes investigating the scandal. 

Since September 2006, Mercer has served as both U.S. Attorney for Montana and as acting Associate U.S. Attorney General—the number three job in the U.S. Department of Justice.  Mercer has been overseeing other U.S. attorneys in Washington, D.C., since June 2005.

"Montanans deserve and need a full-time U.S. attorney," Tester said.  "And they deserve an honest and open explanation from Mr. Mercer.  Montana is being shortchanged by not having a full-time chief prosecutor."