Monday, March 1, 2004

The Senate sergeant-at-arms is expected to deliver a final report to Senate leaders today on his investigation into how internal Democratic Judiciary Committee memos were seen by Republican staffers and wound up in print in The Washington Times and elsewhere.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and the committee’s ranking member, will get the report today, according to Mr. Hatch.

He said he hasn’t decided how he will disseminate the findings to other Judiciary members, but suggested a closed hearing sometime this week.

Manuel Miranda, a former top Republican staffer who resigned last month over the investigation, met with Sergeant-at-Arms William H. Pickle and his investigators last week as they finalized their report.

“I asked him directly if they had uncovered any evidence whatsoever of hacking and he said, ‘No,’” Mr. Miranda, who most recently handled judicial nominations for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, said last week.

Mr. Miranda and one other Republican staffer who has since resigned admitted at the start of the investigation that they had viewed Democratic documents stored on the computer hard drive that had been shared by Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee.

The Democratic memos showed collusion between Senate staffers and liberal interest groups to manipulate delays in the judicial-confirmation process.

One memo showed staffers for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, urging that a Bush nominee to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals be delayed until after the court had heard a case on racial preferences at the University of Michigan. The staff members were acting at the behest of a lobbyist for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund, which was a party to the Michigan case.

Mr. Pickle’s report will say that access was possible through a faulty “firewall” that left some electronic files of both Democrats and Republicans open to snooping by staffers from both parties, according to Mr. Miranda.

The report supports Mr. Miranda’s vehement denial, he said, of Democratic accusations that he had “hacked” into Democratic files or stolen secret passwords to access them.

Mr. Pickle’s office has declined any comment until the report is sent to Mr. Hatch and Mr. Leahy. Several Judiciary Committee staffers wanted to wait until seeing the report to comment.

Mr. Miranda said Mr. Pickle’s investigators told him that the entire report would “likely not be entirely released” to the public.

Whatever the final report says, Mr. Hatch maintains his early assessment that viewing the Democratic memos violated his sense of ethical behavior.

Mr. Miranda said Mr. Hatch’s early statements disapproving of his actions and the suspension of the other staffer involved “corrupted” the investigation by instilling such fear in other Judiciary Committee staffers who had viewed the memos that they never came forward during the investigation.

Mr. Miranda said last week’s meeting veered into the absurd when investigators asked him about an editorial that appeared in the Wall Street Journal about the memos.

“They asked me if I’d written the editorial, which was just hilarious,” Mr. Miranda said. “And they asked me if I had seen it before publication.”

He also said the investigators asked him not to speak to the press about their meeting.

“I told them that would make me the only person not speaking to the press,” Mr. Miranda said. “I refused.”

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