U.S. at­tor­neys probe de­cried as par­ti­san Hill ‘hoax’

The Washington Times Weekly - - From Page One - By Jon Ward

House Repub­li­cans are cry­ing foul over the Democrats’ probe into the U.S. at­tor­neys’ fir­ings, call­ing it a “hoax” and a “shell game” that is aimed not at fact-find­ing but in­stead at in­flu­enc­ing the 2008 elec­tions.

“There’s a grow­ing ir­ri­ta­tion among Repub­li­cans, be­cause it’s gone on so long. With all the dig­ging you would ex­pect to find some­thing awk­ward or odd or un­ex­plain­able,” said Rep. Chris Can­non, Utah Repub­li­can.

Con­gress­men speak­ing on the record went only so far as to say that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has yielded no re­sults.

Pri­vately, Repub­li­can aides with in­ti­mate knowl­edge of the probe de­scribe a process driven by par­ti­san pol­i­tics from be­gin­ning to end.

“It is this big in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Repub­li­can ma­nip­u­la­tion of the ex­ec­u­tive branch’s pros­e­cu­to­rial abil­ity for par­ti­san gain,” said one se­nior House Repub­li­can staffer.

“What it has turned into is the Demo­cratic ma­nip­u­la­tion of the leg­isla­tive branch for par­ti­san gain. It’s a hoax, and a very ex­pen­sive one,” the staffer said.

Democrats say they have not found any ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing be­cause the White House has of­fered only private in­ter­views with key ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, with­out a tran­script.

“It’s easy for some Repub­li­cans to com­plain about the process when they know full well that the White House has blocked Congress’ ef­forts to get the full truth about the fir­ing of in­de­pen­dently minded U.S. at­tor­neys,” said Nadeam El­shami, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat.

The White House coun­ters that Democrats have re­jected Pres­i­dent Bush’s of­fer for in­ter­views with ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, choos­ing in­stead to in­sist on pub­lic hear­ings.

The show­down be­tween the ex­ec­u­tive and leg­isla­tive branches has been at a stale­mate for months. Repub­li­cans say Democrats are happy to let it re­main that way.

“They have a stake in drag­ging this out, be­cause they know it’ll go through ’08,” said Fred Piccolo, Mr. Can­non’s spokesman.

The se­nior Repub­li­can staffer said Democrats are “mar­ket­ing the idea that there is Repub­li­can cor­rup­tion,” af­ter a se­ries of po­lit­i­cal scan­dals helped Democrats re­gain con­trol of both the House and the Se­nate in elec­tions last fall.

“If peo­ple out­side the Belt­way don’t un­der­stand that in the end no real wrong­do­ing was found, but just have this im­pres­sion that some hanky-panky was go­ing on and De- mocrats held peo­ple ac­count­able, it’s a win for them,” the Repub­li­can aide said.

Democrats have charged that the fed­eral prose­cu­tors were re­moved for in­ves­ti­gat­ing Repub­li­can of­fi­cials or for not mov­ing quickly enough on probes in­volv­ing Democrats.

“The com­mit­tee’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion has al­ready sur­faced sub­stan­tial ev­i­dence that many of th­ese U.S. at­tor­neys were fired for im­proper rea­sons, of­ten be­cause they re­fused to bring spe­cious ‘vote fraud’ cases de­sired by Repub­li­can po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tives or oth­er­wise brought or did not bring cases con­sis­tent with party in­ter­ests,” said Jonathan God­frey, House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee spokesman.

Repub­li­cans say the at­tor­neys are po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees who serve at the author­ity of Mr. Bush.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tion used ex­tremely poor po­lit­i­cal judg­ment in how it han­dled the dis­missal,” said Rep. F. James Sensen­bren­ner Jr., Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can. “But there is no ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing on the part of any­body in the Jus­tice De­part­ment or in the White House in the fir­ing of th­ese U.S. at­tor­neys.”

One Jus­tice De­part­ment of­fi­cial has ad­mit­ted to wrong­do­ing, but in a mat­ter un­re­lated to the U.S. at­tor­neys fir­ings.

Mon­ica Goodling, a for­mer close aide to At­tor­ney Gen­eral Al­berto R. Gon­za­les, told Congress that she im­prop­erly screened the po­lit­i­cal be­liefs of some ap­pli­cants for ca­reer Jus­tice De­part­ment jobs.

Democrats have paid lit­tle at­ten­tion to that ad­mis­sion and have con­tin­ued to press the White House for ac­cess to high-rank­ing of­fi­cials such as Karl Rove, who an­nounced last week that he will re­sign at the end of the month.

Democrats also will con­tinue to pur­sue Mr. Gon­za­les.

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