The senior aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist who resigned in the investigation of leaked Democratic Judiciary Committee strategy memos has filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee.
In a letter delivered to the committee Friday morning, Manuel Miranda says he has read “documents evidencing public corruption by elected officials and staff of the United States Senate.”
Miranda says the evidence of wrongdoing is contained in previously undisclosed Democratic memos obtained by Republican staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Fourteen of those memos were leaked to the press last November. Two sources familiar with the memos tell NRO there were dozens of additional memos–perhaps as many as 100–that were downloaded by Republicans but never made public.
Those memos are now in the possession of the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms, who is investigating how Republicans obtained the documents. He is expected to reveal his findings to Senate leaders next week.
Miranda’s letter, addressed to Ethics Committee chief counsel Robert Walker, says the still-unpublished memos contain evidence of “a violation of the public trust in the judicial confirmation process on the part of Democrat senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee. This includes evidence of the direct influencing of the Senate’s advice and consent rule by the promise of campaign funding and election support in the last mid-term election.”
Miranda’s letter did not describe any details of the alleged wrongdoing.
Miranda says the proof of his allegation is contained in Democratic documents downloaded between 2001 and 2003 by a young GOP Judiciary Committee staffer. Those documents are on a computer hard drive which was seized by the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms as part of the investigation into the leaked memos.
The memos that were leaked last year showed Senate Democrats working in close consultation with groups like People for the American Way, the Alliance for Justice, NARAL, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in an effort to defeat President Bush’s judicial nominees.
One memo, from a staffer to Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, dated April 17, 2002, detailed how the NAACP Legal Defense Fund asked Democrats to delay the confirmation of Julia Scott Gibbons to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Legal Defense Fund officials did not want her on the court when the University of Michigan affirmative action case was decided. Members of Kennedy’s staff conceded they were “a little concerned about the propriety of scheduling hearings based on the resolution of a particular case.” But they nevertheless worked to delay the confirmation.
Another memo, from a staffer to Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin, dated November 7, 2001, described a meeting with the liberal interest groups in which the groups “identified [Bush nominee] Miguel Estrada (D.C. Circuit) as especially dangerous, because he has a minimal paper trail, he is Latino, and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment.” The staffer continued: “They [the groups] want to hold Estrada off as long as possible.”
When the memos were leaked to the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Democrats cried foul, accusing Republicans of stealing the documents and calling for an investigation of how the memos came into GOP hands.
The sergeant-at-arms’ investigation has apparently found that a low-level Republican staffer, whose name has not been released, discovered that Democrats had failed to secure some documents on the committee’s shared computer system, making those documents available to anyone who clicked the correct icon.
The young aide no longer works in the Senate. The investigation has increasingly focused on Miranda, who says he saw the memos but did not violate any laws, Senate rules, or legal ethics.
This week, under pressure from superiors, Miranda offered his resignation.
It is not clear precisely what is in the so-far unreleased memos, but two sources familiar with the documents say some of them are consistent with the tone and content of the memos that were leaked last year.
It is also not clear whether those unreleased memos will ever become public. There has been no decision whether to keep the results of the sergeant-at-arms investigation secret or whether to release some or all of its findings to the public.