WASHINGTON – Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., made the following statement today in response to news that Attorney General John Ashcroft has recused himself from the Justice Department investigation into the leak of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity, and to the subsequent appointment of a special counsel.
“Attorney General Ashcroft’s recusal confirms what I have been saying for months: that the Justice Department has no business overseeing this highly sensitive investigation, which could well implicate the President’s closest advisers. Ashcroft shouldn’t have waited this long to recuse himself, and the resulting appointment of a U.S. Attorney as Special Counsel is insufficient. “Although Mr. Fitzgerald is an accomplished prosecutor, the public will not likely trust the results of an investigation headed by a political appointee, especially when the Special Counsel is constrained by Department of Justice regulations that severely curtail the prosecutor’s autonomy. The DOJ regulations in effect allow the Deputy Attorney General to block any investigative or procedural action, to limit the Special Counsel’s budget, and to remove the Special Counsel at any point. “Earlier this year I re-introduced the Independent Counsel Reform Act, to ensure that allegations made against top White House officials are investigated by truly independent prosecutors. Today’s appointment demonstrates the need for such a measure. In the absence of such a law, the Deputy Attorney General must immediately appoint as Special Counsel a respected former prosecutor from outside the Department of Justice, and give that Special Counsel a grant of authority that guarantees an independent inquiry.”