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Feds Move On Leak

Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor has personally opened negotiations with Senate officials to acquire evidence from the Judiciary Committee’s stolen memo case and is beginning to interview witnesses.

David Kelley, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, has been talking to the Senate’s Legal Counsel in recent weeks in order to craft the necessary resolution to obtain the evidence from a nearly four-month investigation into how GOP staffers improperly accessed more than 4,500 memos penned by Judiciary Democrats.

All documents, witness testimony and computer evidence from that internal probe, completed by Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Pickle in early March, are still in the possession of the Senate. A resolution approved by the Senate is required to transfer the evidence to Kelley, who was assigned the case by Justice Department officials in Washington eager to steer clear of any potential conflicts of interest in the case.

Pickle said last week that he is not involved in the talks because federal prosecutors were “dealing directly with Senate Legal Counsel.” David Carle, spokesman for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Judiciary’s ranking member, said that there was no timetable yet for putting a resolution on the floor that would give Kelley the materials to handle the case but that Democrats were pleased to see that the case is moving forward.

“The discussions are under way between Senate Legal Counsel and Mr. Kelley’s office, and that’s as it should be,” Carle said.

Kelley is not waiting, however, to get the evidence to begin a case that will examine the inner workings of the Judiciary Committee and how staffers deal with outside interest groups. He personally called one of the heads of the outside groups which published 14 of the memos last November, a sign that Kelley has taken the case seriously enough that he has not delegated all responsibility for it to his aides.

Kelley spoke with Kay Daly, head of the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary, and is in the process of setting up an interview with her to go over the case. Daly said Friday she was not subpoenaed and that Kelley gave no indication that there was a grand jury looking into the case.

Manuel Miranda, the former staffer for Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) who is at the center of the case, said Friday that he had not been contacted by any federal prosecutors. In addition, a lawyer for Jason Lundell — the former staffer who downloaded the majority of the documents and told Pickle’s investigators that he worked closely with Miranda on obtaining the memos — said his client also had not been contacted by Kelley or his deputies.

Daly said that Kelley told her he had “the unenviable task” of handling the memo case. She expects to set up an interview with Kelley, possibly this week, but is adamant that she will not reveal the source of the 14 memos she posted on her Web site.

“I’m not going to reveal my source, but I can tell you I didn’t get them from anyone on Capitol Hill nor did I get them from anyone in the media,” she said.

It is unclear if Kelley has spoken to other outside groups to set up interviews with them as well. Officials with the Committee for Justice, who were contacted by Pickle’s aides during his investigation, declined to comment on the situation because of the ongoing investigation.

Daly said Kelley was not dismissive of her suggestion that the interview also cover a complaint she has filed with the Justice Department regarding the content of the memos. Daly believes that the memos demonstrate that Judiciary Democrats colluded with liberal activists to determine which of President Bush’s nominees should be filibustered, particularly a memo that showed activists wanted to block one nominee to tilt a ruling on an affirmative action case in their favor.

“He said, ‘Yes, I do want to speak to you about that and the investigation as a whole,’” she related.

Democrats have said that they have seen no indications that Kelley nor other Justice officials are looking into an investigation on the memos’ contents.

Leahy and other Judiciary Democrats have charged that Lundell and Miranda engaged in criminal activity by accessing memos of Democratic staffers on the panel over an 18-month period, and that Miranda then disseminated them to conservative media outlets and activists. They further believe that he may have committed a crime by giving false statements to federal investigators — the Secret Service agents who were detailed to Pickle to handle the complex investigation.

Miranda has denied any wrongdoing, contending that Lundell used a computer glitch in the committee’s servers which allowed him to access the memos without any passwords. He has also denied that he gave the memos to the media outlets.

“I’m hoping that their inquiries bear the just results,” Miranda said Friday of Kelley’s latest moves.

Kelley’s office was closed Friday and could not comment on the ongoing investigation.

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