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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Investigating possible FBI election interference

From Bill Gertz at the Washington Times:

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III ordered an internal investigation into whether bureau agents interfered with midterm congressional elections by disclosing a corruption probe that undermined the re-election bid of Republican Rep. Curt Weldon weeks before the Nov. 7 vote.

The internal probe was disclosed in a Senate Judiciary Committee report containing the FBI's written answers to questions posed by committee members.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, asked why FBI agents searched the office of Mr. Weldon's daughter and a business associate three weeks before the elections.

The publicity from the raid contributed to the Pennsylvania Republican's defeat and led to the election of retired Navy Vice Adm. Joe Sestak, a former Clinton administration national security official.

Mr. Grassley said in his questions to the FBI that the timing of the raid "left the FBI open to criticism and speculation about whether there was an attempt to influence an election." He also wrote that after the investigation was disclosed in the press, the FBI was forced to conduct the searches to prevent the destruction of evidence.

"It appears that the FBI would not have executed these search warrants until after the election except for the fact that someone — possibly an employee of the Justice Department or FBI — leaked the fact of the investigation to the media," Mr. Grassley said.

Asked if the FBI knows the identity of the person who made the disclosure or is investigating the matter, the FBI said that "an internal review of this matter is being conducted at the request of Director Mueller."

Mr. Weldon declined to comment on the probe, but a person familiar with the former congressman's thinking said he believes the Justice Department and FBI deliberately sought to sabotage his re-election bid by disclosing the probe in the press within days of the election.

Mr. Weldon suspects that careerists and Democratic Party sympathizers in the Justice Department worked covertly with former Clinton administration officials to defeat him and to elect Mr. Sestak, according to the person.

Mr. Weldon had played a key role in several high-profile investigations of the Clinton administration, including its role in a 1996 illegal transfer of missile technology to China, the 1990s loss of nuclear secrets to China, and the investigation of Clinton National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger, who in April 2005 pleaded guilty to illegally removing classified documents from the National Archives related to counterterrorism efforts....

A Justice Department spokesman said the internal probe is being handled by the U.S. attorney for Delaware, Colm F. Connolly. Mr. Connolly had no immediate comment. An FBI spokesman declined to discuss the status of the probe and referred questions to the Justice Department.

Interestingly enough, he's just been offered a promotion:

Connolly on track for federal judgeship

Posted Saturday, August 11, 2007

Two of four candidates nominated to fill the vacant U.S. District Court judgeship in Wilmington told The News Journal Friday they believe U.S. Attorney Colm F. Connolly is on track to become the next federal judge from Delaware.

The White House has started a background investigation on one of the four attorneys nominated to fill the vacant judgeship, an aide for Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., said Friday.

"The congressman's office was contacted by the White House yesterday letting him know that a background investigation was going to begin on one of the nominees," said Jeff Dayton, Castle's district director. "They did not say which nominee."

Neither the White House nor Delaware's congressional delegation would comment on whose background was being investigated, but nominees Andrea L. Rocanelli and Richard A. Forsten said they had been informed by the White House that background investigations were not being conducted on them.

"It was an honor to have my name submitted by Congressman Castle," said Forsten, who is legal counsel to the Delaware Republican Party and an attorney at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. He added that based on reports he has heard, Connolly is the person who will be nominated by President Bush.

The background investigation, which takes four to five weeks, takes the process a step closer to the president submitting a name to the Senate for confirmation.

The nominee would replace Judge Kent A. Jordan, who left the Delaware district in December for the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.