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Deputy Attorney General Nominee Withdraws

Flanigan cites a delay in the Senate. He had been under scrutiny for ties to an indicted lobbyist.

October 08, 2005|Walter F. Roche Jr. | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Faced with persistent questions about his relationship with indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Timothy E. Flanigan asked the White House on Friday to withdraw his nomination to be second in command of the Justice Department.

In a letter to President Bush, Flanigan, a former White House legal aide, cited Senate delay in acting on his nomination to be deputy attorney general.

"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," Flanigan wrote.

Flanigan, a top executive at Tyco International, was preparing for a second appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions about his dealings with Abramoff. He will remain with Tyco as general counsel, according to company officials.

"From our perspective he would have made a fine deputy attorney general, but we are delighted to have him remain with us," Tyco spokeswoman Sheri Woodruff said.

Flanigan was White House deputy counsel under Alberto R. Gonzales, now attorney general, before moving to Tyco as general counsel in late 2002.

He was reportedly traveling and unavailable for comment Friday.

White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said Flanigan "asked that his name be withdrawn, and we honored that request."

Flanigan supervised a lobbying campaign two years ago by Abramoff and the lobbyist's law firm to block legislation aimed at offshore companies escaping American taxes. Bills that could have required Bermuda-based Tyco to pay additional taxes did not pass.

Under questioning, Flanigan acknowledged that Tyco also had acted on Abramoff's suggestion to pay $2 million to a newly formed company called Grassroots Interactive. Tyco later learned that $1.5 million of that money had been diverted to entities controlled by Abramoff.

Abramoff's former law firm, Greenberg Traurig, has agreed to reimburse Tyco.

Abramoff, under indictment on unrelated fraud charges, is also the subject of investigations by a congressional committee and the U.S. Justice Department on allegations he bilked Indian tribes that hired him to protect their gambling interests.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee had raised a series of additional questions for Flanigan about his dealings with Abramoff.

In response, Flanigan disclosed that Abramoff had bragged to him about connections with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Karl Rove, the president's top aide and political advisor. Flanigan said he did not have regular contact with Abramoff but dealt primarily with one of the lobbyist's Greenberg colleagues.

Ranking Judiciary Committee Democrat Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont also had raised questions about Flanigan's lack of prosecutorial experience and about his role as a White House aide in developing interrogation policies for detainees.

Leahy charged Friday after the withdrawal that Bush's selection of Flanigan had been another example of "a culture of cronyism" in the administration, comparing it with Bush's choice of Michael D. Brown to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (Brown recently quit under criticism of his job performance and credentials.)

"The president," Leahy said in a statement, "should focus on helping the nation rather than his friends."

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), one of the first to raise concerns about Flanigan, said "troubling questions" remained about "Abramoff's dealings with the administration and the Republican leadership of Congress."

Flanigan's withdrawal was hailed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Flanigan has no business supervising prosecutors responsible for investigating and prosecuting torture and abuse that his own policies helped facilitate," Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU legislative counsel, said in a statement.

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