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Thursday, July 07, 2005

Did Rove Help Fitzgerald onto the Plame Case?

Unlike Ken Starr, whose office had more leaks than a Liberian tanker, US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has been quite silent about his investigation, leading to all manner of speculation. No one knows exactly what he has, or if he can make a case against anyone without Judith Miller's testimony.

Fitzgerald has an interesting background. It's traditional for a state's ranking US Senator or Representative of the President's party to recommend the appointment of a US attorney. Fitzgerald had been a federal prosecutor in New York when Illinois Senator Peter Fitzgerald (no relation), something of a maverick Republican who wanted an outsider to come in and clean up corrupt local politics, gave him the nod. According to the WaPo:
The staff of the 9/11 commission called him one of the world's best terrorism prosecutors. He convicted Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and all four defendants in the embassy bombings, which had left 224 people dead. He extracted a guilty plea from Mafia capo John Gambino and became an authority on bin Laden, whom he indicted in 1998 for a global terrorist conspiracy that included the African bombings.
William Safliar has called Fitzgerald a "runaway Chicago prosecutor." To date he has over 50 convictions or plea bargains in his investigation into the activities of former Republican Illinois governor George Ryan, whose campaign he called a "criminal enterprise" (Ryan himself will go on trial in September). He has also indicted Democratic members of Daley's administration, proving that he's non-partisan in his zeal. Obama and Durbin both support him.

There is a compellling bit of speculation floating around having to do with why Fitzgerald was given the Plame case in the first place. Since his appointment in 2001, he has made Republicans in Illinois very nervous, and they would love nothing more than to get rid of him. The ranking Republican in Illinois is Dennis Hastert, and when Fitzgerald's term is up in October, his future will be in Hastert's hands.

According to Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, local party boss "Big" Bob Klellander, who also serves as Republican national committeeman, "feeds equally well under Republican and Democratic regimes and is a poster boy for the bipartisan Illinois political combine that runs things in the state." The same combine that Fitzgerald had been working so successfuly at breaking up, under whom Kjellander received a questionable $800,000 fee in a bond deal.

Kjellander's former college chum -- wait for it -- oh yeah. Unka Karl.

Was Fitzgerald put on the Plame investigation by Karl Rove to get him off the backs of Illinois Republicans? Some local observers said so at the time, and were not happy to see him go:
The bad news for Illinois is that it takes Fitzgerald away from investigating crime in Illinois. The article doesn't make clear whether Fitzgerald will be stepping down as U.S. Attorney -- even temporarily -- during his tour of duty in Washington.

Even if he keeps his job in Chicago, it means that much less time and energy devoted to fighting corruption in the most politically corrupt state in the nation.

Which is probably why the Republicans wanted him named special council in the first place.

As an honest investigator, he will might very well find nothing worthy of prosecution. And, the appointment has the added benefit of hampering his investigation into real crimes being committed by Illinois Republicans.
Hastert has refused to answer questions about whether he will recommend Fitzgerald stay on, or whether he will be "promoted" out of his job come October. I can't imagine this thing is going away, and as Kass notes, it would be increasingly difficult to remove Fitzgerald from the case. And if it turns out that Rove is convicted by the guy he pushed onto the case in an act of pure venal cronyism, I will be laughing myself to a fair-thee-well.