No Comment — June 5, 2007, 7:57 am

U.S. Attorney’s Scandal—Birmingham and Montgomery

The evidence of corruption and misconduct in the U.S. Attorney’s offices in Montgomery and Birmingham related to the prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman continues to mount. Now Time Magazine joins the New York Times in characterizing the case as politically manipulated from the start; it fingers Karl Rove as the man pulling the prosecutors’ wires:

In the rough and tumble of Alabama politics, the scramble for power is often a blood sport. At the moment, the state’s former Democratic governor, Don Siegelman, stands convicted of bribery and conspiracy charges and faces a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. Siegelman has long claimed that his prosecution was driven by politically motivated, Republican-appointed U.S. attorneys.

Now Karl Rove, the President’s top political strategist, has been implicated in the controversy. A longtime Republican lawyer in Alabama swears she heard a top G.O.P. operative in the state say that Rove “had spoken with the Department of Justice” about “pursuing” Siegelman, with help from two of Alabama’s U.S. attorneys.

That’s a reference to Leura Canary and Alice Martin, the U.S. Attorneys in Montgomery and Birmingham, both known for their ferocious partisan engagement. And the affiant who provided the statement in question is a life-long Republican lawyer, close to the campaign of the Republican who ultimately unseated Siegelman. The affidavit quoted William Canary – one of the movers and shakers of the Republican Party in Alabama, and a close friend of Karl Rove – as saying that “his girls would take care of” Governor Siegelman, clearing the way for the Republicans to retake the Montgomery statehouse. Moreover, the moves against Siegelman came just after polling suggested that he would defeat his likely rival, and ultimate successor, Republican Bob Riley. In the election, Riley won a paper thin victory, and loudly hyped corruption accusations coming from the U.S. Attorney’s office, apparently acting with the aide and encouragement of Karl Rove, probably played the decisive role in his success. If the accusations prove true, and they certainly have all the markings of truth, the Justice Department was improperly manipulated in order to influence a key political contest.

The two U.S. Attorneys involved offer no meaningful rebuttal to the accusations – with Martin stating lamely and incredibly that the case was handled by assistants in her office. Obviously a special prosecutor should be appointed to examine the dealings of both Canary and Martin, as well as others involved in this extremely unseemly prosecution.

As Time’s Jay Carney notes in a separate piece, these disclosures now put the two Alabama districts front and center in the spreading U.S. Attorneys scandal. They provide one of the most convincing cases yet for coarse political manipulation of the prosecutorial functions.

Siegelman was convicted in June, but the accusations against him and the record in his trial are amazingly thin and look contrived. There were also serious allegations of jury misconduct which the judge handling the case – a Republican and a Bush appointee – swept aside. The case, from beginning to end, looks like a partisan political lynching.

It’s not unusual for a political figure facing indictment to cry “politics.” On occasion, however, these cries turn out to be true. And in the age of Gonzales and Bush these occasions are turning out to be alarmingly frequent.

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