Still Don’t Know Jack…
From left to right, convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, golf organizer Jason Murdoch, former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, convicted former Bush administration official David Safavian and convicted former Rep. Bob Ney, R-OH. Quite the photo, isn't it? From the Canton Rep.
The WSJ has an interesting angle today on the missing WH e-mails, Jack Abramoff and the Department of Justice.
Lawyers involved in the case said that beginning more than a year ago, federal prosecutors and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents interviewed Mr. Abramoff and other cooperating witnesses at length about numerous contacts between Mr. Abramoff and White House officials, including presidential adviser Karl Rove.
One focus of the Justice inquiry has been whether Mr. Abramoff obtained official favors in exchange for giving Bush administration officials expensive meals and tickets to sporting events and concerts. The White House has denied this.
Disclosures last week that large numbers of Mr. Rove's White House email messages and those of other White House officials were erased and possibly permanently lost raised concern on Capitol Hill about possible destruction of evidence relevant to the Abramoff-White House inquiry.
People with direct knowledge of the investigation say that all of Mr. Abramoff's email correspondence was preserved and turned over to prosecutors, including those with the White House. But it isn't clear to what extent Mr. Rove and others in the White House may have exchanged messages among themselves, or with others outside, pertaining to Mr. Abramoff, and whether any of these may have been erased. The White House didn't respond to requests for comment….
One individual debriefed at length by prosecutors and the FBI about Mr. Abramoff's White House relations is Susan Ralston, who was Mr. Abramoff's executive assistant before taking on a similar job for Mr. Rove at the White House. She resigned her White House job in October 2006 after disclosures that she had been the main go-between for the two men.
Ms. Ralston's lawyer, Bradford Berenson, said she is a cooperating witness and not a target in the case. He confirmed that she has answered questions about Mr. Abramoff's involvement with the White House, adding, "She's been interviewed numerous times by investigators looking into all aspects of the Abramoff affair." (emphasis mine)
Quite the interesting little string of tidbits, isn't it? Especially when read in conjunction with this in The Hill from last week:
“The investigation will be handled fairly, appropriately, and impartially by dedicated career professionals in the Department of Justice, and the Department will insure that ample personnel and resources are dedicated to this matter,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Keeney wrote in a letter dated April 5 and received by Wertheimer Tuesday.
Keeney’s letter, however, did not address Wertheimer’s question about whether there had been any political intervention in the probe in the past. It also didn’t respond to his request that Gonzales inform the public about the level of resources currently assigned to the Abramoff-related criminal investigations and how those resources compare with resources previously available for the Abramoff-related investigations.
The letter also sidestepped the issue of what the DoJ is doing to resolve questions about Abramoff’s relationship with other former and current members of Congress, as well as their spouses, and whether their ties to Abramoff resulted in any criminal activity. (emphasis mine)
For some history on the "other former and current members of Congress, as well as their spouses, and whether their ties to Abramoff resulted in any criminal activity," see here for a bit of background.
With the substantial questions of self-dealing and politicization within the DoJ being raised at the moment, and the seemingly stagnant Abramoff investigation languishing in prosecutorial obscurity, is it any wonder that serious questions need to be raised about how things are going under the politically connected hand of Alice Fisher, who was tapped specially to head up the Public Corruption unit despite close ties to Tom DeLay? (Or, as I like to refer to him, "alleged potential target Tom DeLay," but I digress.) As Jane reported months ago:
Leahy also expressed concerns about Fisher's "views on checks of controversial provisions of the Patriot Act and her opposition to the Act's sunset provision; her participation in meetings in which the FBI expressed its disagreement with harsh interrogation methods practiced by the military toward detainees held at Guantanamo, and her ideas about appropriate safeguards for the treatment of enemy combatants." Leahy was also concerned about "reports that she has had ties to Congressman Tom DeLay's defense team" and "also to know what steps she to take to avoid a conflict of interest in the Department's investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and possibly Mr. DeLay."
Fisher is a career Republican who in her former job was registerd as a lobbyist for HCA, the healthcare company founded by Bill Frist's father. Her appointment was also controversial due to the fact that like her boss Abu Gonzales, Fisher has no trial experience and with Comey gone there would be no senior member of the Justice Department who was an experienced criminal prosecutor. But Senatorial oversight was dispensed with and BushCo. continued on its Brownie-esque rampage to replace experience with cronyism. (emphasis mine)
Because, honestly, why recess appoint a political crony to this particular public corruption supervisory job in the midst of Hurricane Katrina (when the President could not otherwise be bothered to desist from his rigorous vacationing and campaign fundraising schedule) unless there was a very good reason to do so for CYA purposes for someone? (*cough* Karl *cough*) Loyalty over the rule of law. Pledge of fealty over justice.
All this time, the multiple debriefings with Abramoff and various other Bush Admnistration officials and Republican staffers…and we know no more about Jack and his web of political cronies than we did several months ago. And we have little to no indictments to show for it. Don't know about you all, but I have a lot of questions…and they all come back to one helluva big one: just how far is a "loyal Bushie" willing to go to protect the political angle? And how can we trust that they haven't been going that far all along?
Not exactly encouraging, is it? The good news is that Rep. Henry Waxman is looking into all of this. I say bring on the sunshine.