- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2004

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee said yesterday that they expect criminal charges to arise from the imbroglio over internal memos downloaded from their computers by Republican staffers.

“This is going to be a criminal matter,” Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said as he left a nearly two-hour meeting behind closed doors with the Senate sergeant at arms, who is investigating the matter.

Mr. Leahy and other Democrats in the meeting declined to share the specifics provided by Sergeant at Arms William Pickle.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, whose memos wound up in the pages of The Washington Times and Wall Street Journal, said he was startled by the briefing Mr. Pickle gave yesterday.

“The extent and depth of the theft far exceeded anything I had imagined,” he said.

The chief legal counsel for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who handled judicial nominations, resigned his position last week amid the two-month investigation into the matter.

Manuel Miranda told investigators that he had viewed the documents but was not responsible for distributing them.

He also said no hacking had been involved in downloading the memos. Rather, they were easily accessed through a glitch in the “fire wall” that separated Democratic and Republican documents stored electronically on the Judiciary Committee’s shared computer server.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, attended the meeting yesterday. He also had memos from his office downloaded.

He called the actions “highly improper, highly unethical and probably criminal.”

Mr. Miranda said yesterday that he is confident that he broke no laws.

“It is perfectly normal for Democrats to misstate the law in the pursuit of their aims,” he said.

In a farewell letter, Mr. Miranda warned that although 14 memos have floated into the public domain, thousands more Democratic memos had been viewed and downloaded.

“If thousands of documents were taken as Manny Miranda asserts in his memo, you have to wonder what is the nature of the other documents,” said one Democratic staffer. “There’s a great deal of sensitive information pertaining to individual nominees on that server.”

One line of inquiry among Democrats is whether the documents were shared with nominees before they testified. Among the documents routinely stored on Democratic computers are those that detail the line of questions they plan to ask nominees and other witnesses.

Providing such information to witnesses before they testify could lead to charges of “suborning testimony.”

“Such a prosecution would make for the most exciting discovery process in Washington history,” Mr. Miranda said.

Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, called a closed members-only meeting for this morning, ostensibly to discuss the investigation.

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