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Will Gonzales protect Bush from the Abramoff scandal?

We’ve blogged several times on the Bush administration’s cover-up of its ties to corrupt former Republican super lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Mr. Bush has refused to release photographs of himself with Abramoff, or any records of Abramoff’s dealings with the White House, despite initial promises to the contrary by administration mouthpiece Scott McClellan.

Now, the story has taken a new twist, as 31 Senate Democrats have asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to remove himself from the Justice Department investigation of the Abramoff scandal. “FBI officials have said the Abramoff investigation ‘involves systemic corruption within the highest levels of government,’ ” the Democrats wrote in a letter to Gonzales. “In light of your previous service as White House Counsel and your close connection to many Administration officials, the appearance of conflict looms large.”

Gonzales’ response was the same as this White House’s answer to so many Congressional requests: No.

As head of the Justice Department, it’s not clear how Attorney General Gonzales might influence the work of the DOJ’s famously independent Public Integrity division, which is leading the investigation.

But we do know that Mr. Gonzales is a long time friend of Mr. Bush, and is extremely loyal to him. As White House Counsel Gonzales helped develop the legal “rationale” (if you can call it that) justifying torture, and Sen. Feingold (D-Wis.), along with others, has accused him of misleading Congress while defending another one of the administration’s most controversial programs, the warrantless domestic wiretapping. We also know the administration has disrupted the Abramoff investigation by appointing one of the lead investigators to a federal judgeship, thus removing him from the case. (Funny, isn’t it, how this administration will never publicly comment on ongoing investigations, but will gladly remove the investigators who are conducting them?)

And now, with the President refusing to release information on his relationship with Abramoff, his good friend Alberto Gonzales is refusing direct requests to remove himself from the investigation, for what would appear to be a potentially strong conflict of interest.

If you want to get to the bottom of this as much as we do, take an action today by urging your senators to demand release of all records regarding the White House’s relationship with Abramoff. If Republicans are suddenly so big on disclosure, following the Congressional corruption scandals, how about a little of the same from the White House?

-Gordon Clark