Writing in The New York Times, Barry Coburn, a former Federal prosecutor, opines:
Against this backdrop, it is hard to feel comfortable with Mr. Fitzgerald's [the Federal prosecutor's] remarks in announcing the charges that Mr Blagojevich's conduct amounted to a "political corruption crime spree" and "would make Lincoln roll over in his grave," that "the breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering." that Mr. Blagojevich "put a "for sale" sign on the naming of a United States Senator" and that his conduct was "cynical" and "appalling" and has "taken us to a truly new low."
Any prosecutor at the center of a firestorm of publicity may find the temptation to grandstand hard to resist, but these comments are, to put it mildly, remarkably inflammatory. Mr. Fitzgerald's expression of revulsion, use of hyperbolic rhetoric and implicit assertion of his personal belief that the charges have merit clearly run a foul of the rules. It is one thing for a prosecutor to publicly condemn a defendant's actions and assert a belief that he did what he is charged with doing after a trial and conviction, but another to do so before he is indicted by a grand jury.
In "The Prosecution Should Give It a Rest" (12-13-08), Coburn cites the relevant rules of both the US District Court for Northern Illinois and the American Bar Association pertaining to Fitzgerald's actions. Though stated in cautious legalese, it is clear that the prosecutor is in flagrant violation of these rules.
On the same day, Victoria Toensing, a former Justice Department official - and a self-described Republican - wrote of Fitzgerald in The Wall Street Journal ("Fitzgerald Should Keep His Opinions to Himself" 12-13-08). Repeating much of the Coburn charges against Fitzgerald, Toensing adds "And although I am a Republican, I am first an officer of the court. Thus, I take no joy in a prosecutor pursuing a Democratic politician by violating his ethical responsibility. I fear for the integrity of the criminal justice system when a prosecutor breaks the rules."
She goes further by making a connection to Fitzgerald's prior behavior in the Plame case:
In his news conference in October 2005 announcing the indictment of Scooter Libby for obstruction of justice, he compared himself to an umpire who "gets sand thrown in his eyes." The umpire is trying to figure what happened and somebody blocked" his view. With this statement, Mr. Fitzgerald made us all believe he could not find the person who leaked Valerie Plame's name as a CIA operative because of Mr. Libby. What we now know is that Mr. Fitzgerald knew well before he ever started the investigation in January 2004 that Richard Armitage was the leaker and nothing Mr. Libby did or did not do threw sand in his eyes. In fact - since there was no crime - there was not even a game for the umpire to call.
Clearly, Toensing is suggesting that Libby was unjustly convicted in the Plame case and Fitzgerald knew that the conviction was not appropriate to the charge. But what she doesn't say is that Libby was the designated fall guy in the case in the time-honored tradition of two-party politics. Libby fell on his sword - without a great deal of pain as things turned out - in order to protect others. The long, costly investigation diverted attention from the real connections that would have linked Cheney, Rove, and, probably, Bush to the illegal outing of Plame. This could not have been done without the collusion of Fitzgerald and a lapdog media. We know from the Nixon Watergate scandal, where layer after layer of fall guys were peeled away before Nixon's role was revealed, that this is a common practice with bourgeois politics. But the media "watchdogs" have short memories.
It should be abundantly clear that Fitzgerald is a political operative, willing to serve his political allies even at the expense of the appearance of judicial propriety. His career since his appointment to the Northern Illinois position has been one of immediate and persistent legal investigations of Democratic elected officials in line with the directives of the Bush Justice Department that are now well documented. Nonetheless, he has been emboldened by the lack of resistance from either a vigilant media or a combative Democratic Party.
There should be no doubt that this is more than a move against Governor B. In reality, its a shot across the bow of President-elect Obama and his administration, signaling a willingness on the part of the rabid-Right to insure that Obama's heralded bi-partisanship will be decidedly one-sided. Because of Democratic Party spinelessness in this affair, they have likely already conceded the vacant Illinois Senate seat to the Republicans. It seems unfathomable that Governor B has been pilloried by his Party and the media before a hysterical prosecutor has called a Grand Jury or achieved an indictment.
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