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Judiciary Will Hold Hearing on Flanigan’s Ties to Abramoff

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Oct. 18 to explore the ties between Timothy Flanigan, President Bush’s pick for the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department, and former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was indicted recently on federal mail and wire fraud charges. Abramoff is also under federal investigation over his business dealings with American Indian tribes.

At a Sept. 29 hearing of the Judiciary Committee, Flanigan, now a top executive for manufacturing conglomerate Tyco International Ltd., declined to answer questions from Senate Democrats over Abramoff’s work on behalf of Tyco, citing attorney-client privilege,

Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), also raised questions about Flanigan’s role in crafting the Bush administration’s interrogation policies for detainees while serving as in the White House counsel’s office, as well as Flanigan’s lack of prosecutorial experience, although the Abramoff-Tyco relationship was their most serious concern. Leahy and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) pressed Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) for a second hearing on Flanigan, and Specter, who expressed some reservations about Flanigan himself, has agreed to that request.

According to Senate GOP sources, Flanigan is expected to attend the Oct. 18 session to answer questions on his relationship with Abramoff. Tyco has waived its attorney-client privilege covering its dealings with Abramoff, these sources said, and that will free Flanigan to respond to Democratic inquiries. Democrats had complained that Tyco officials were discussing issues related to Abramoff with the media but that Flanigan himself refused to do so at his nomination hearing.

Abramoff reportedly told Flanigan, the company’s general counsel, that he would use his influence with Karl Rove, now White House deputy chief of staff, and then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), to derail proposed tax legislation targeting so-called “Benedict Arnold” corporations, according to information provided by Flanigan to the Judiciary Committee. Such companies move their official residences overseas in order to avoid U.S. taxes, and numerous lawmakers have sought ways to punish these companies by imposing higher taxes on them.

“Members of this committee have asked a number of questions of Mr. Flanigan about these incidents, but each set of responses leads to more questions,” Leahy said in a statement released at the Sept. 29 hearing. “Such information is directly relevant to Mr. Flanigan’s management capabilities.”

Abramoff convinced Tyco to pay another firm, Grassroots Interactive, roughly $1.5 million. These funds were later diverted to bank accounts controlled by Abramoff, which the company later determined were in violation of its agreement with Abramoff and his former firm, Greenberg Traurig.

Flanigan, who served as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ top deputy while Gonzales was at the White House, has been general counsel at Tyco since 2002. Flanigan has told Judiciary Committee officials that he had infrequent contacts with Abramoff while he lobbied for Tyco.

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