Flanigan Withdraws as Nominee for Deputy Attorney General

By Dan Eggen and R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, October 8, 2005

The Bush administration's choice for deputy attorney general has withdrawn his nomination amid mounting questions from Senate Democrats over his dealings with indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff and over his role in shaping controversial interrogation policies.

Timothy E. Flanigan wrote President Bush on Thursday that he was dropping out as a candidate because of "uncertainty concerning the timing of my confirmation," which has been delayed several times since Bush nominated him in May.

But members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said they were surprised by Flanigan's decision, given that the panel had just scheduled a second hearing on Oct. 18 and had agreed to vote on Flanigan Oct. 20. Aides said that a new nominee will take longer than that to vet and approve.

If Flanigan had appeared to testify at a second hearing, he was likely to face additional questioning from Democrats in two areas of recent controversy: the administration's decision-making on the treatment of detainees in the war on terrorism; and links between senior administration officials and Abramoff, who is the subject of a broad federal investigation of his lobbying activities and has been indicted on bank fraud charges in an unrelated case in Florida.

Many of the committee's Democrats had accused Flanigan of dodging questions and said his withdrawal should not be used to close off further inquiries.

"While Mr. Flanigan's nomination has been withdrawn, troubling questions remain about the Bush administration's torture policies and Abramoff's dealings with the administration and the Republican leadership of Congress," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.).

Several Democrats had also complained about Flanigan's lack of experience as a courtroom prosecutor. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, compared Flanigan to the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael D. Brown, who resigned amid complaints over the U.S. response to Hurricane Katrina.

Flanigan is a senior vice president and general counsel to Tyco International. Company spokeswoman Sheri Woodruff said he will remain at the company in those positions.

Justice Department officials declined to comment publicly about Flanigan's withdrawal because it involved a personnel issue. One official said it had nothing to do with concerns over torture policies or possible disclosures in the Abramoff case, but was the result of persistent delays in the confirmation process that had complicated Flanigan's professional and personal life.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales -- who was confirmed amid his own controversy earlier this year -- has struggled to fill many key slots and has complained to Senate leaders about delays in the nomination process. The head of the Criminal Division, Alice Stevens Fisher, was recently given a recess appointment by Bush after her April confirmation stalled.

Flanigan served as Gonzales's deputy in the White House counsel's office, where he participated in White House discussions about an Aug. 1, 2002, memo prepared by the Justice Department suggesting strategies that officials could use to defend themselves against criminal prosecution for torture.

The memo, drafted at the request of the CIA, contended that only physically punishing acts "of an extreme nature" would be prosecutable, and that those committing torture with express presidential authority or without the intent to commit harm were probably immune from prosecution.

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