ANCHORAGE — The abuse-of-power investigation of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was unraveling Wednesday, with most key witnesses refusing to testify, new legal maneuvering and heightened Republican pressure to delay the inquiry until after election day.
Palin initially welcomed the investigation, saying, "Hold me accountable," but she has increasingly opposed it since Republican presidential candidate John McCain chose her as his running mate.
In a reversal of position, a key Democratic lawmaker said Wednesday he might convene the committee that is conducting the investigation on whether Palin dismissed her public safety commissioner because he would not fire a state trooper involved in a bitter divorce with the governor's sister.
Some Republican members of the committee have asked for such a meeting to consider delaying the inquiry or to replace Democratic state Sen. Hollis French as its manager. The investigation's conclusions are supposed to be released by Oct. 10.
The Legislative Council, made up of 10 Republicans and four Democrats, had unanimously approved launching the inquiry.
A lawyer for five Alaska Republican legislators suing for a delay of the investigation said he would wait to see what the Legislative Council did before asking a judge for an injunction.
The council chairman, Democratic state Sen. Kim Elton, said he would poll other council members on whether to meet. In a letter Wednesday to House Speaker John Harris, Elton said the situation had become so politicized it was difficult to imagine it could get worse.
Elton also sent a letter to state Atty. Gen. Talis J. Colberg, a Republican appointed by Palin, who said Tuesday he would refuse to allow 10 subpoenaed state employees to testify despite assurances from Colberg's staff last week that they would testify if certain interpretations of state law were agreed upon.
The McCain campaign said Monday that Palin, who was not subpoenaed, was unlikely to cooperate.
One of the witnesses summoned last week, former Palin legislative director John Bitney, said he testified Tuesday.
Bitney said he felt he didn't have a choice. "If I had a publicly funded attorney telling me I didn't have to honor the subpoena, it might have been different," he said.