U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar has teamed up with Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico to request that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appoint a special counsel to investigate Jack Abramoff’s Pacific dealings and the demotion of Frederick Black, former U.S. Attorney for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
In a letter made public Thursday, Sens. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Ken Salazar of Colorado also asked Gonzales to provide the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with a secret Justice Department report on security risks in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Bingaman and Salazar serve on the committee, which has oversight of the island territories.
Abramoff may have received details the secret report.
Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to tax, bribery and conspiracy charges and is awaiting sentencing, bragged in a 2001 e-mail to his clients in Saipan that he would use his connections in the attorney general’s office to block the anticipated report lest it fuel congressional efforts to place new immigration restrictions on the Northern Marianas. In the e-mail, first reported in the Los Angeles Times, Abramoff boasted that a top aide to then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft had been a recent guest in his box at a Washington Redskins football game and had mentioned the report.
As to Black’s demotion:
The demotion came at the same time Black had launched a probe into the secret hiring of Abramoff by Guam court officials. Payments to Abramoff were channeled through another lobbyist.
The senators noted that after Black was replaced, the Abramoff probe came to an abrupt end. They also stated that because the allegations directly involved current and former Justice Department officials, an outside prosecutor was necessary to ensure a full and impartial investigation of the matter.
Good for Sen. Salazar for taking this lead in the corruption scandals. Abramoff’s ties to the White House need to be fully explored in a probe headed by someone who is independent of the Justice Department and non-partisan .