Ashcroft steps aside in leak probe

by on December 30th, 2003

A new prosecutor has taken over for U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who has excused himself from an investigation into who leaked the name of an undercover CIA agent to columnist Bob Novak. His replacement, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago, will be relieving Ashcroft in the leak probe, some speculate because of Ashcroft’s possible closeness to a suspected administration official.

Although this can be seen as a good thing–Ashcroft removing himself from the investigation because of the possible involvement of a senior administration official–there can be no real conflict of interest for the mere fact that Ashcroft has been heading the investigation for some time now. Were there real concerns about supposed conflicts of interest, Ashcroft could have excused himself from the get-go.

Maybe it’s an attempt to keep Ashcroft from indicting whoever’s at the end of the evidence trail. But as the attorney general, it is, after all, his job. For the anti-Ashcroft coalition, on the other hand, they will no longer be able to chastise him for whitewashing any investigation, and may be able to explain this most recent development. But the whole thing says more about a lack of respect for Ashcroft’s post than anything else.

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