Doolittle: FBI leaked news of raid to take heat off Gonzales
Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), who has been under a cloud of suspicion related to his association with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, says the leak revealing that the FBI had raided his home last month in connection with an investigation of his wife's business was little more than a stunt to draw attention away from the investigation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Writing in his hometown newspaper, Doolittle said the search was "an attempt to intimidate us and garner media attention," noting that news of the search emerged in a Capitol Hill newspaper just before Gonzales was to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"I do not believe it was a coincidence that the leak came the day before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before Congress on charges that his office was overly partisan in its firing of eight U.S. Attorneys," Doolittle wrote in the Auburn Journal, "especially considering Gonzales specifically cited his recent prosecution of Republican members of Congress as evidence to the contrary."
Doolittle noted that next month will mark three years since the FBI first contacted his wife, Julie, regarding her work with Abramoff, but he provided little in the way of details as to why the government is so interested in her work.
Abramoff and his clients donated $140,000 to Doolittle, who hosted a fundraiser in the lobbyist's exclusive Washington sports skybox, according to press reports.
Doolittle received a total of $14,000 from Abramoff himself in 1999. Those donations -- $4,000 to Doolittle's campaign and $10,000 to his political action committee -- came at the same time Doolittle helped Abramoff secure a lobbying contract with the Mariana Islands and later route federal aid to the islands, the Sacramento Bee reported last year.
In part because of his association with Abramoff, Doolittle emerged politically bruised following the 2006 election, in which he won with 49 percent of the vote. It was the first time in 14 years that less than 60 percent of the voters in Doolittle's district had supported him, and Democrats say he will again be among their top targets in 2008.
For his part, Doolittle says he has done nothing improper and that all of his wife's work with Abramoff was legal. In the letter, Doolittle assailed "irresponsible speculation and sensationalized reporting by the media," based on government leaks designed to damage his reputation.
"I now believe that the search of our home was in large measure an attempt to strong arm my wife in order to get me to admit to a crime – a crime that I did not commit," Doolittle wrote Saturday.
The search of Doolittle's Northern Virginia home, which was first reported in April, was thorough and systematic. Agents were "removing every book, turning over every couch cushion and every pot and pan, and rummaging through every drawer, file cabinet, cupboard and closet," Doolittle wrote.
Doolittle said agents took many "personal items" unrelated to the investigation, including his wife's cell phone and iPod but failed to take a file with information about Julie Doolittle's work for Abramoff.
The government's investigation of Abramoff, who was convicted on fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion charges, has led to the convictions of 11 Republican aides, administration officials, former Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) and others, according to press reports. Abramoff is cooperating with congressional investigators in their ongoing investigation.
EXCERPTS FROM DOOLITTLE'S LETTER:
Next month will mark three years since the government first contacted Julie with questions about her work for Jack Abramoff. Since then, Julie has been responsive to every request that the government has made of her. Despite that fact, we have been subjected to leaks by the government, which in turn have led to irresponsible speculation and sensationalized reporting by the media, which in turn has led to the erosion of support and trust of my constituents.
All of this activity culminated in last month's unnecessary search of our home which I am convinced had much more to do with an attempt to intimidate us and garner media attention than the pursuit of the truth.
In fact, the search occurred after my attorney had a meeting with the government, and I now believe that the search of our home was in large measure an attempt to strong arm my wife in order to get me to admit to a crime - a crime that I did not commit.
During the search, Julie was sequestered in the kitchen and not allowed to move without an escort. She was not even allowed to use the bathroom in our own home without an FBI agent escorting her there.
Then, the agents systematically searched our home, removing every book, turning over every couch cushion and every pot and pan, and rummaging through every drawer, file cabinet, cupboard and closet.
I do not believe it was a coincidence that the leak came the day before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before Congress on charges that his office was overly partisan in its firing of eight U.S. Attorneys, especially considering Gonzales specifically cited his recent prosecution of Republican members of Congress as evidence to the contrary.
In my mind, these events clearly indicate that there was more behind the search of our home than the pursuit of justice. As such and while my political opponents work to exploit this incident to further propagate speculation of my guilt, I ask my constituents to withhold judgment and stand with me in protecting my right and that of my wife to the presumption of innocence while we work to ensure that the truth is revealed.