Democrats Call for Special Counsel to Review DOJ’s Abramoff Investigation

Posted October 6, 2005 at 2:32pm

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and four other House Democrats have asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to appoint a special counsel to investigate whether the Justice Department backed off a probe of former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s business dealings in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D), who represents Guam in the House, was among those supporting Miller’s request.

In one incident cited by the Democrats, then-acting U.S. Attorney for Guam and CNMI Frederick Black was allegedly removed from his post after he had initiated an investigation into Abramoff’s lobbying activities on behalf of the Guam Superior Court.

The FBI reportedly is looking into the circumstances surrounding Black’s removal, according to The New York Times. The Los Angeles Times originally reported Black’s demotion in August.

In another episode, Abramoff allegedly used his influence to block the release of a classified examination of Guam and CNMI immigration laws, which Black had ordered in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

According to e-mails dated Oct. 1, 2001, and now on file with the House Judiciary Committee, Abramoff wrote to a client regarding an effort to lobby then-Attorney General John Ashcroft over the Guam/CNMI immigration review. In one message, Abramoff wrote that he was going to see Ashcroft the following week on the matter. In that same exchange, Abramoff said another lobbyist he worked with was going to “play basketball” with Ashcroft before his own meeting with the attorney general. Abramoff also claimed to be hosting another senior Justice official at a Washington Redskins football game at that time.

Miller, Bordallo and and the other Democrats — Reps. John Conyers (Mich.), Nick Rahall (W.Va.), Bill Delahunt (Mass.) — claimed that Abramoff’s access to the immigration report may have constituted a violation of U.S. national security laws.

In addition, the Democrats said there was “an obvious conflict of interest in the Department of Justice pursuing an investigation into possible misconduct by DOJ and Administration officials with regard to the demotion of Mr. Black and the possible dissemination of classified information by Department of Justice personnel.”

Miller and Abramoff clashed repeatedly over the CNMI in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Miller offered legislation on several occasions to require the CNMI to adopt U.S. wage, labor and immigration laws, only to see the proposals blocked by then House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and other Abramoff allies. Miller charged that companies operating in the CNMI exported tens of millions of dollars in garments to this country with the “Made in the U.S.A.” label, since the CNMI is an American possession, while at the same time exploiting workers at those firms.

Abramoff, at the same time, was racking up millions of dollars in lobbying fees from his lucrative CNMI contract.

Justice Department officials declined to comment on Miller’s letter because they had just received it.