WASHINGTON — In a report released today by the Department of Justice's Inspector General, Glenn Fine writes that Jack Abramoff wanted to take the credit for getting rid of the chief federal prosecutor for U.S. territories in the Pacific Ocean - a man who opposed immigration exemptions for his client, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. The report concludes that Abramoff actually played no role at all in replacing Frederick Black, the interim U.S. attorney for the territories.
But the report says Abramoff did use a former top aide to then Texas Republican Congressman Tom DeLay to get inside information from the Justice Department about the fate of the prosecutor. Tony Rudy, who pleaded guilty to conspiring with Abramoff in the influence-peddling investigation, spoke to Carl Thorson, then Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the DOJ Office of Legislative Affairs on Abramoff's behalf. Rudy, in 2002, was then an associate at Abramoff's Greenberg/Traurig lobby firm. The report states that Rudy was ready to speak to the White House about "killing the US Attorney candidate [Black]".
The report says, when Abramoff was informed of the White House's decision to replace the interim prosecutor, he attempted to take credit with his Guam contacts for the selection of Leonardo Rapadas, "even though he played no role in it."
White House connections
The report also contained evidence of Abramoff's strong ties to the Bush White House. One White House political official, Leonard Rodriguez, told Fine's investigators he kept Abramoff aware of information relevant to Guam "at the behest of Ken Mehlman, the White House Political Director," the report said. There was no explanation of why Mehlman would have wanted the information shared with Abramoff.
The Inspector General also referred one matter to the FBI and his counterpart at the Interior Department for further investigation: the possibility that an Interior Department official leaked Abramoff a post-9/11 security review of the Northern Marianas that recommended extending federal immigration laws to the islands.
Earlier this week, an Interior Department official linked to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was charged with filing a false financial disclosure report.
The official, Roger Stillwell acknowledged receiving meals at Abramoff's restaurant Signatures, and tickets to sporting events from former lobbyist. In a court filing, Stillwell was charged with a single misdemeanor count of making a false filing. Abramoff's team reportedly cultivated Stillwell, the Marianas desk officer at the Interior Department.
The court papers indicate, "Stillwell well knew, the document falsely certified that he did not receive reportable gifts from a prohibited source." Why was it so important for Abramoff to feign credit for getting rid of the chief prosecutor for Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands?
These U.S. territories in the Pacific were important and lucrative clients to Abramoff's Washington lobbying practice. The report states that, even "when he clearly understood that he had no involvement," Abramoff instructed his colleagues to impress clients on Guam that he influenced the pick of the new federal prosecutor Leonardo Rapadas.
Immigration & labor issues
Why was it important to Abramoff to remove the interim U.S. attorney on Guam?
Abramoff had represented the Marianas government since 1995 and worked to prevent federal immigration and minimum wage laws from being applied in the CNMI. Abramoff told the OIG, and documents confirm, that prior to 2002 Abramoff was aware that Black, as the interim U.S. Attorney for Guam, and the CNMI, took the position that federal immigration law should apply in the CNMI. That Marianas also had a special exemption allowed garment makers there to put "Made in the U.S.A." labels in their clothing. Human rights groups argue this has fostered an exploitive working environment in the commonwealth's booming garment industry.
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The report said, Black told FBI agents investigating the wide-ranging influence-peddling scandal spawned by Abramoff that he was replaced because he stirred political controversy by starting his own, earlier probe of Abramoff. The Guam investigation stalled because -- as Black himself noted in 2003 -- other local public corruption probes were more pressing.
Abramoff told the OIG that one of his primary strategies in representing the CNMI involved bringing members of Congress and Congressional staff on trips to the CNMI. Abramoff stated that he wanted them to see first-hand the island and its businesses, and in. particular the conditions of those working on CNMI. He stated that these trips were successful in helping to prevent Congress from imposing federal immigration laws or the federal minimum wage on CNMI.
Abramoff made no secret of his desire to have Black replaced, at one point telling associates he didn't care if the new U.S. attorney was "Bozo the clown." the report states. Abramoff wrote in e-mails that Black was a "total commie and has been bashing the CNMI non-stop in the past. . . . We need to get this guy sniped out of there."
Abramoff pleaded guilty in January to mail fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion charges in connection with his lobbying work. He is cooperating with an investigation that has so far produced five convictions. Tony Rudy - pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy and corruption charges and revealed that he ran a criminal enterprise for Abramoff right in Delay's leadership office. Rudy's plea agreement did not implicate DeLay in any illegal activities.
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