Judiciary Considers Releasing Redacted Version of Report

Posted March 4, 2004 at 11:20am

The Senate Judiciary Committee, after receiving the roughly 50-page report on leaked Democratic memos this morning, plans to reconvene at 1:30 p.m. to decide what it should do next in the investigation.

Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and ranking member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) expect to release a redacted version of the report to the media after the meeting, although that hasn’t been finalized. Some members of the committee are concerned that releasing the report, which recounts how GOP staffers accessed thousands of Democratic memos as well as 169 of Hatch’s, might damage any potential criminal investigation.

“I’m torn,” Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), a senior member of the panel, said of releasing the report. “The former prosecutors on the committee tell me it may jeopardize a criminal investigation.”

Durbin, who said he was the main target of staffers snooping into the files, said he would likely support revealing the redacted version. Having read the entire report, which he estimated is 50 pages long, in under an hour, Durbin said that “thousands” of his own files have been confirmed as taken and that many more might have been.

“Those were only the documents they were able to identify,” he said.

The report, which is considered “committee confidential” and therefore may only be viewed by Senators and their chief counsels, does not expand greatly beyond what Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Pickle briefed the committee on three weeks ago. “I did not see anything in the redacted report that was a significant departure,” Durbin said.

While no one would talk about the “handful of options” Pickle said he gave the committee, one source confirmed that there are three basic choices for the committee: to drop the matter, to forward the report to the Senate Ethics Committee for further probing or to forward it to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation.

Pickle said he would do whatever the panel tells him. “We’re prepared to take up and go with whatever option the committee chooses,” he said this morning.

In his opening statement Thursday, Leahy acknowledged that Pickle was not able to determine how the documents went from committee computers to the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal and conservative interest groups in mid-November. Signaling the Democratic intentions to push for a further investigation, Leahy said, “We cannot repair the damage that has been done until we know the answers to these questions.”

Hatch, after this morning’s initial meeting, again seemed hesitant to call for a criminal investigation. Looking over the entire three-and-a-half-month spectacle, Hatch said the memos’ significance was not all that great, proving only that Judiciary Democrats coordinate their strategies with liberal activist groups — a charge that conservative groups have alleged requires an Ethics Committee investigation.

“Let’s be honest, I didn’t need the reports in the media [about the memos] to know what they’re doing,” he said.