Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The return of Joe the Fixer

-- by Dave

If I were a New Yorker trying to get to the bottom of the "Troopergate" scandal that's enmeshed Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer, I'd be looking plenty askance at their new special prosecutor in the case:
Senate Investigations Committee Chairman George Winner, R-Elmira has, as expected, named Washington lawyer Joseph diGenova as “Special Counsel'’ in the Troopergate affair.

Amid concerns by the Republican dominated Senate that the state Ethics Commission, with a Spitzer-appointed chairman and its scheduled expiration next week, and Democratic Albany County DA David Soares would go easy on their investigation of Troopergate, Senators had said they wanted an outside counsel.

While he’s from D.C. and is an outside by Albany standards, diGenova has, as a federal prosecutor and then counsel to Congress, investigated some hefty Democratic targets including former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry in the 1980s and the Teamsters in 1997.

Of course, diGenova is known to the DFHs of the liberal blogosphere as "Joe the Fixer" for his, ah, very special prosecutorial skills. As I noted back in 2004:
For those keeping score, diGenova was the "independent counsel" appointed to investigate former President George H.W. Bush and Co. for their illegal handling of Bill Clinton's passport files. For some reason, diGenova was conveniently appointed to the investigation just a couple of years before the U.S. District Court of Appeals ruled that the counsels' most important attribute was independence from the administration under investigation.

Here's how diGenova's absurdly partisan dismissal of the charges was reasoned in 1995:

As independent counsel, I have just wrapped up a three-year inquiry into the State Department's search of Bill Clinton's passport file when he was a Presidential candidate. The investigation found no criminality, just political stupidity, in the Bush Administration.

Hey, it worked the first time, didn't it?

Incidentally, as Robert Parry has reported at The Consortium, diGenova's whitewash covered up more than just the passport files affair -- it also papered over the possible enlistment of the Czechoslovakian secret police to dig up dirt on Clinton. Nonetheless:

Despite the phone records and the public declarations by Czech intelligence veterans, diGenova said he "found no evidence linking the publication of the [1992] Czech press stories to either Czechoslovak intelligence or the Bush-Quayle campaign." Similarly, diGenova announced that he found nothing wrong with the Bush administration's search of Clinton's personal passport files or its leaking of the confidential criminal referral about those files a month before the 1992 election.

The report aimed its harshest criticism at State Department Inspector General Sherman Funk for suspecting that a crime had been committed in the first place. DiGenova's report mocked the IG for "a woefully inadequate understanding of the facts."

Stung by the criticism, John Duncan, a senior lawyer in the IG's office, expressed disbelief at diGenova's findings. Duncan protested in writing that he could not understand how diGenova "reached the conclusion that none of the parties involved in the Clinton passport search violated any federal criminal statute. Astoundingly, [diGenova] has also concluded that no senior-level party to the search did anything improper whatever. This conclusion is so ludicrous that simply stating it demonstrates its frailty."

Duncan saw, too, a dangerous precedent that diGenova's see-no-evil report was accepting. "The Independent Counsel has provided his personal absolution to individuals who we found had attempted to use their U.S. Government positions to manipulate the election of a President of the United States," Duncan wrote.

Here's another, more detailed, account of the matter by Parry.

If New Yorkers were hoping for a clean, apolitical investigation, well ... better luck next time.

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