Attorney General Michael Mukasey on Thursday issued a strong commitment to prosecuting public corruption cases, and said the number of FBI investigators working on such cases has nearly doubled since 2002.
In remarks prepared for delivery at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, Mukasey said: “The investigation and prosecution of public corruption is … among the highest obligations of law enforcement, and it should come as no surprise that I consider it to be one of the top priorities of the Department of Justice. In recent years, the Department’s career prosecutors and criminal investigators have been engaged in a renewed effort to pursue corruption at all levels and in all branches of government.”
Mukasey went on to say: “The Department’s renewed commitment to the investigation and prosecution of public corruption is reflected not so much by an increased case load — though the Department has, in fact, brought more public corruption cases in recent years — as in the quality, complexity, and profile of the cases we have successfully pursued. In investigating and prosecuting these cases, the Department works closely with the FBI — which currently has more than 600 agents dedicated to public corruption matters, up from 358 in 2002.”
Mukasey also promised that he would not allow politics to interfere with the prosecution of public corruption cases, in an apparent reference to the dust-up last year over the firing of federal prosecutors which ultimately led to the resignation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
“Let me be clear: Politics has no role in the investigation or prosecution of political corruption or any other criminal offense, and I have seen absolutely no evidence of any such impropriety in my time at the Department, and would not tolerate it,” Mukasey said. “I consider it one of my paramount responsibilities to ensure that the Department continues to handle its public corruption investigations and prosecutions in a consistent, non-partisan, and appropriate manner throughout the nation.”
The Justice Department also issued a fact sheet indicating that corruption cases pursued by its public integrity section have increased during the Bush administration, with 365 defendants charged between 2001 and 2006, compared with 240 defendants charged during the eight years of the Clinton administration.
On Wednesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sent Mukasey a letter concerning “serious questions about the future of public corruption cases” in California in the wake of the department’s decision to eliminate the public corruption section in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California.
— Paul Singer