The Department of Justice has pulled the plug on several high-profile investigations of members of Congress recently. But the DOJ sought to dispel any notion that it has become hesitant because of the disastrous episode involving the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska.)
As The New York Times recounted on Monday, the DOJ recently announced that it will not pursue charges against Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) who had been the subject of lengthy investigations. Ensign came under scrutiny for his efforts to help a former campaign aide with whom he had had an affair, while Lewis was in the spotlight for steering government spending to campaign donors.
Other investigations that ended without federal charges being lodged focused on Tom DeLay of Texas, the former House majority leader, and Rep. Don Young of Alaska, both Republicans, and Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.).
But Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division, rejected any suggestion that the DOJ has become “gun-shy” because of setbacks. “If a case cannot be brought, it’s because we’ve taken a hard look and made the determination that this case cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said, adding that behavior that might be labeled “reprehensible or immoral” is not necessarily criminal.
The DOJ’s biggest setback, and arguably the saddest, involved Stevens. He was convicted on corruption charges in 2008, but the verdict was later thrown out because of misconduct by prosecutors, who themselves came under investigation. One prosecutor committed suicide in September, several weeks after Stevens was killed in a plane crash.