House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., wrote to the House and Senate judiciary committees today to ask that the congressional probe into the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys be widened to include the case of an acting U.S. Attorney demoted in 2002 after he began investigating the now-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his dealings with Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Miller for years has pressed for a full probe of Abramoff’s dealings with the CNMI and its sweatshop industry, as well as the demotion of Fred Black, the then-acting U.S. Attorney for the islands. Now, he says, it seems that what looked initially like a corrupt lobbyist exploiting his ties to the Bush Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress might in fact be part of a widespread pattern of tampering with the work of U.S. Attorneys.
From Miller’s press release this morning:
Press reports and leaked e-mails indicated that the Bush Administration may have replaced Black because he was conducting a criminal investigation of Abramoff and his clients, and because he favored insular area policies that Abramoff and his clients opposed. Abramoff also reportedly helped to quash a classified Justice Department report that Black requested on security threats posed by CNMI’s immigration policy.
At the lawmakers’ request, the Justice Department’s Inspector General investigated the case and found numerous political contacts between Abramoff and Administration officials but reported that Black’s replacement had not been improper. Miller and Rahall believe it is now appropriate to revisit the case.
“We want to know whether high level Bush Administration officials tampered with a U.S. Attorney’s investigation of a corrupt lobbyist,” said Miller. “Black was trying to secure our borders and root out corruption while Abramoff was wining and dining the Justice Department. We need to know what happened in this case.”