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The Bush administration has named a veteran federal prosecutor from Tennessee as the acting deputy attorney general at the Justice Department, an agency still reeling from the uproar over last year’s firings of United States attorneys. If he is nominated and confirmed, Craig S. Morford, the interim United States attorney in Nashville, would take over as the No. 2 official at a department that current and former officials have described as demoralized, with lawmakers in both parties calling on Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to resign.

Mr. Morford was named as a temporary deputy, but officials said he was likely to be named as the official candidate for the job after background checks are completed. He would succeed Paul J. McNulty, who is preparing to leave next month.

In the Justice Department, Mr. Morford has earned a reputation for successfully handling difficult assignments with a deft, aggressive style. As a prosecutor in Cleveland, he led the government team that won a conviction in the 2002 corruption trial of James Traficant Jr., a former Democratic representative from Ohio who was sentenced to more than eight years in prison.

In 2004, Attorney General John Ashcroft appointed Mr. Morford to lead an internal investigation into misconduct by federal prosecutors in Detroit, an inquiry that caused the government to ask a federal judge to throw out terrorism verdicts against two men convicted of operating a sleeper cell. Mr. Morford went to Nashville last year.

In announcing the appointment, Mr. Gonzales said in a statement: "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."

Senator Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat who has been scathingly critical of Mr. Gonzales, said the appointment was a positive step. "Mr. Morford starts out with one thing going for him: He’s a career prosecutor and not a politician," said Mr. Schumer, who has led the Senate investigation of the dismissals. "We’ll be watching closely to make sure that the rule of law comes first and foremost under his watch."


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