Saturday, October 08, 2005

Bush's pick for Justice Dept. job withdraws name


Bush's pick for Justice Dept. job withdraws name

By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Timothy Flanigan, who faced more questions from Senate Democrats about his links with indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has withdrawn his nomination for the Justice Department's No. 2 job, according to a letter to President George W. Bush released on Friday.

Flanigan, a senior lawyer for Tyco International Ltd. who had been chosen by Bush in May to be deputy attorney general, cited the continuing uncertainty over when he might be confirmed.

"Uncertainty concerning the timing of my confirmation affects not only the department, but also my family and my employer, who have been very patient in the intervening months," he said in his three-paragraph letter to Bush.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which had been considering Flanigan's nomination, had sought a new round of questioning of Flanigan about his contacts with Abramoff.

Democrats also raised concern about his nomination because of Flanigan's role in developing Bush administration policy allowing aggressive interrogation of detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq, and his lack of experience as a prosecutor.

Flanigan had initially said that due to attorney-client privilege, he could not speak about details of his relationship with Abramoff, a lobbyist whose firm, Greenberg Traurig, had been hired by Tyco.

But Flanigan later said Tyco had authorized "limited disclosures" regarding the company's relationship with Greenberg Traurig.

Abramoff, who has been under investigation by the Justice Department, pleaded not guilty last month to federal charges in Miami that he defrauded lenders in a casino cruise line deal.

Abramoff is a key figure in ethics probes involving former House Republican Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas congressman. DeLay faces charges in a separate case brought In Texas, and he stepped down from his House leadership position after he was charged.

Flanigan and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales worked together in the White House counsel's office after Bush was elected in 2000.

Gonzales called Flanigan's withdrawal disappointing. He was unable to say how long it would take to find another nominee. Flanigan had been nominated to replace James Comey, who left the Justice Department in August.

Democrats criticized the nomination because Gonzales, Flanigan and the head of the Justice Department's criminal division have never been prosecutors.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary Committee's senior Democrat, said there had been serious doubts about Flanigan's qualifications for the job.

"Mr. Flanigan has no experience as a prosecutor, a characteristic that has become all too common in the leadership of the Justice Department," the Vermont Democrat said.

Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, recommended that Bush nominate a career prosecutor with managerial experience.

"Hopefully the president realizes that this country needs individuals in government who are chosen on the merits, not on ideology or political connections," said Schumer, a Judiciary Committee member.