Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Whitewater continuity with the current US Attorney purge

Joe Conason reminds us of an incident in the opening months of what became the 10-year "hunting of the President" via the Whitewater pseudo-scandal in An Awful Legacy of Bush 41 New York Observer (dated 03/19/07; accessed 03/14/07) which recalls a case in which Old Man Bush's administration tried to push a US Attorney into a politically-motivated investigation:

In September 1992, a Republican activist employed by the Resolution Trust Corporation provided that opportunity by fabricating a criminal referral naming the Clintons as witnesses in a case against the Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan Association (the small Arkansas savings and loan owned by Whitewater partner and Clinton friend James McDougal).

The referral prepared by L. Jean Lewis lacked merit — as determined by both Mr. Banks and the top F.B.I. agent in his office — but Ms. Lewis commenced a persistent crusade for action against the hated Clintons. The F.B.I. and the U.S. Attorney repeatedly rejected or ignored her crankish entreaties.

Eventually, however, officials in the Bush White House and the Justice Department heard whispers about the Lewis referral. Obviously, that document had the potential to save the President from defeat in November by smearing the Clintons as corrupt participants in a sweetheart land deal. (They had actually lost a large sum of money in Whitewater.)

That fall, Edith Holiday, secretary to the Bush cabinet, asked Attorney General William Barr whether he knew anything about such a referral. Although Mr. Barr knew nothing, he quickly sent an inquiry to the F.B.I. Weeks later, the President’s counsel, C. Boyden Gray, posed a similar improper question to a top Resolution Trust Corp. official.
In this case, the US Attorney in Little Rock was Charles Banks, who flatly refused to open an investigation involving the Clintons that had no merit other than its political value to Bush. "I believe it amounts to prosecutorial misconduct and violates the most basic fundamental rule of Department of Justice policy," he wrote.


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