The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports: The former U.S. attorney in Kansas City testified Tuesday that he approved indictments against a voter-registration group four days before last year's hotly contested Missouri Senate election because he regarded Justice Department guidelines against such actions as "informal."
Bradley Schlozman, now a high-ranking Justice Department official, said he was not particularly familiar with the part of the Justice Department manual that discouraged such indictments just before elections, but added, "I believe I was probably aware of it."
Schlozman, a Republican, repeatedly told the Senate Judiciary Committee he did not recall conversations or events about various issues. But he firmly denied any wrongdoing, responding to sharp questioning by Democrats. He also said he had no role in the removal of his predecessor, Todd Graves.
At the same time, he defended filing the voter-fraud indictments. "I did not think it was going to influence the election at all," Schlozman said.
Graves had declined to open an investigation into the alleged voter fraud case before he was replaced by Schlozman. -- Political storm brews over testimony
Other coverage of the testimony: NPR's Morning Edition (no link yet)
The New York Times: The Democrats took turns holding up a manual of department rules, asking Mr. Schlozman, who left department headquarters for a year to become the interim United States attorney in Kansas City, Mo., why his office there filed a fraud case against former employees of a liberal group that registers voters just a week before the 2006 election.
The manual, the senators pointed out, said that “most, if not all, investigations of an alleged election crime must await the end of the election,” to avoid influencing the outcome.
Mr. Schlozman, 36, who kept his voice low and his demeanor polite through the hostile questioning, said he was aware of this rule. But he said he had been given approval by the head of the Justice Department election crimes section to move ahead.
“I didn’t think this was going to have any impact on any election,” he said.
Then Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, read a news release issued by the Republican Party in Missouri just after the case was filed, which accused the voter registration group of trying “to cause chaos and controversy at the polls in order to help Democrats to try to steal next week’s elections.” -- Panel Asks Official About Politics in Hiring
The Los Angeles Times: Schlozman, who is back in Washington at the Justice Department, said he sought the indictments after getting approval from department officials, who advised him that the case would not influence the upcoming election.
Schlozman said he was directed by Washington to release a statement about the indictments, saying in part that the charges were part of a national investigation into voter fraud. He added that several Republican groups immediately released their own statements about the indictments, suggesting that Democrats were "trying to steal the election" with voter registration abuse.
Several Senate Democrats expressed anger at how the episode played out in Missouri, with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the Judiciary Committee chairman, arguing that Republicans like Schlozman in the Justice Department ignored their own guidelines in order to advance their conservative ideology.
Holding aloft a copy of the handbook, Leahy told Schlozman: "You used this more for a doorstop that anything else." -- Indictments may have bent Justice's rules