Lawmakers Urge Investigation Into Administration’s Prosecutor Purge In Abramoff Case

In recent weeks, Congress has investigated the Bush administration’s recent purge of qualified, well-respected U.S. attorneys. But one former prosecutor — Frederick A. Black — has received little attention. The administration fired Black shortly after he began investigating Jack Abramoff’s dealings in Guam.

Today in a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Nick Rahall (D-WV) urge Congress to investigate “the potential political manipulation by Jack Abramoff and his allies in Congress and the Administration” in the Black case:

At the time, we viewed the replacement of the Acting U.S. Attorney as an example of the overly zealous and improper, if not illegal, conduct by the now disgraced and convicted lobbyist, Jack Abramoff.

In light of more recent revelations about political interference with the work of other U.S. Attorneys, however, it is necessary now to re-examine the case as it may represent the beginning of a pattern of behavior by some members of Congress and officials in the Bush Administration to politicize the work of U.S. Attorneys and to quash their independence.

In 2002, Black launched an investigation into Jack Abramoff’s “secret arrangement with Superior Court officials to lobby against a court reform bill then pending in Congress.” On Nov. 18, 2002, Black issued a grand jury subpoena to the Guam Superior Court to turn over all records involving the lobbying contract with Abramoff. The administration swiftly punished Black:

A day later, the chief prosecutor, US Attorney Frederick A. Black, who had launched the investigation, was demoted. A White House news release announced that Bush was replacing Black.

The timing caught some by surprise. Despite his officially temporary status as the acting US attorney, Black had held the assignment for more than a decade.

An internal Justice Department investigation concluded that the White House did not improperly retaliate against Black for raising allegations against Abramoff. But the probe into Abramoff’s activities in Guam died shortly after Black stepped down.

(Full letter from Miller and Rahall HERE.)