Recently retired U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, according to a report Wednesday in TPM Muckraker, is the focus of a federal grand investigation of the U.S. Attorney scandal, along with several Bush White House officials.
However, Domenici’s attorney on Wednesday denied Domenici is at the center of the investigation.
“The investigation exists, but it’s not focused on Sen. Domenici to the exclusion of others,” Washington lawyer Lee Blalack told me.
According to the Muckraker report, the grand jury is investigating whether Domenici and others attempted to improperly press former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to bring a criminal prosecution against “New Mexico Democrats” — namely former state Sen. Manny Aragon — prior to the 2006 elections. This is attributed to unnamed “legal sources close to the investigation and private attorneys representing officials who prosecutors want to question”
“Investigators appear to be scrutinizing Iglesias' firing in the context of whether he was fired in retaliation because Domenici and others believed that he would not manipulate the timing of prosecutions to help Republicans,” the article said.
Iglesias has said he received phone calls about the Aragon investigation from both Domenici and former Congresswoman Heather Wilson shortly before the election in which Wilson was facing a tough challenge. Wilson didn’t seek re-election in 2008. Aragon eventually was indicted in a kickback scandal and eventually pleaded guilty. He’s awaiting sentencing.
Domenici, who did not seek re-election last year because of health problems, was heavily criticized in a Justice Department report for not cooperating with its investigation.
The grand jury investigation is currently being led by Nora Dannehy, the acting U.S. attorney in Connecticut, Blalack said. He declined to discuss details of the case.