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Nominee a Step Closer to Bench

Inquiry turns up no credible evidence tying Justice official to alleged misuse of informants.

June 05, 2003|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Wednesday that had it found no credible evidence linking U.S. Assistant Atty. Gen. Michael Chertoff to alleged misuse of government informants.

The panel's top Republican and Democrat said a bipartisan staff probe had effectively cleared Chertoff, whom President Bush wants to put on the federal court bench.

The allegations were made by Judicial Watch, a public watchdog group, on the eve of the panel's vote last month on Chertoff for a seat on the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

The panel ended up sending Chertoff's nomination to the full Senate but said a confirmation vote would be delayed until the staff examined what some lawmakers called questionable allegations of illegal activity.

In a letter to committee members, Judicial Watch said it had "important evidence concerning the misuse of organized crime operatives by the FBI and other government agencies" in New Jersey and surrounding states while Chertoff was U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey.

It did not specifically accuse Chertoff of wrongdoing, and a Justice Department official said he was not guilty of any.

Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, a Utah Republican, and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat, in a statement said there was "no credible evidence linking Mr. Chertoff with any of the wrongdoing alleged by Judicial Watch."

The confirmation could still be delayed, however, because Leahy wants it put off until Chertoff answers new questions about the detention of foreigners after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, an aide said.

In a report, the Justice Department's inspector general found "significant problems" in the detentions.

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