- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2001

ANNAPOLIS Maryland Republican lawmakers failed yesterday to derail in committee the appointment of U.S. Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia to the state's highest court.

The Senate Executive Nominations Committee approved Ms. Battaglia 14-1 with four members absent.

Only Sen. Timothy Ferguson, a Republican who represents parts of Frederick and Carroll counties, dissented.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening appointed Ms. Battaglia to the seven-member Court of Appeals. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the nomination Friday morning, and a swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for Friday afternoon.

Although Republican Sens. Christopher J. McCabe and Larry E. Haines voted for Ms. Battaglia's nomination, they said their votes could change if new evidence appears later this week.

Particularly, they are waiting to see if Mr. Ferguson is successful in his attempts to have Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents said to have been swept into a dispute between Ms. Battaglia and another agent come forward to give personal accounts.

ATF officials would have to authorize the agents' appearance, said Mike Campbell, Maryland ATF spokesman and one of the agents whose testimony Mr. Ferguson requested in a letter dated yesterday to ATF Deputy Director Patrick Hynes.

Mr. Campbell said ATF officials have not contacted the agents about a request from the senator to appear.

Before the hearing, Mr. Ferguson questioned why Ms. Battaglia, a prosecutor who once was a top aide to U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, would be elevated to the Court of Appeals over experienced judges.

But in the hearing, Mr. Ferguson spoke most of reservations about an appointee who according to an affidavit threatened the job of a federal agent for releasing, at a congressman's request, information she wanted to control.

At issue is an affidavit in which ATF Special Agent Larry D. Stewart, who oversees Maryland and Delaware, said Ms. Battaglia told him she would underreport the number of ATF cases submitted to her office.

Ms. Battaglia denied the charge, saying she called Agent Stewart to tell him she was "unhappy."

"Mr. Stewart accuses you of strong-arming him and threatening him," Mr. Ferguson said to Ms. Battaglia at the hearing.

"I've always denied that, senator, and I deny that under oath," Ms. Battaglia said.

Ms. Battaglia also distributed copies of a letter to her, also dated yesterday, from the U.S. Department of Justice inspector general, who, with the Treasury Department inspector general, looked into the matter at the request of Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In that letter, Justice Inspector General Glenn A. Fine stated: "Our investigation did not substantiate the allegations against you or other [U.S. Attorney's Office] officials… . We also concluded that [U.S. Attorney's Office] personnel did not request that ATF conduct an internal investigation of ATF officials to retaliate against them for disclosing gun-prosecution statistics."

Agent Stewart said Ms. Battaglia was angry that he had forwarded information requested by Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Maryland Republican. Mr. Ehrlich had been debating Ms. Battaglia about the best way to fight violent crime, particularly in Baltimore.

"Congressional oversight of the executive branch would be severely undermined if political appointees … could intimidate career officials from complying with legitimate congressional requests for information," Mr. Hatch told Treasury Inspector General Jeffrey Rush in a Sept. 18 letter.

In September, sources close to an ATF "inquiry" into the matter said, Agent Stewart and other agents whose actions were under scrutiny were ordered not to talk to reporters.


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