Convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff improperly obtained a top-secret FBI document and tried to use the information to aid his clients in the Pacific Island territories, according to a report released Friday by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
The lobbyist feared information in the document could be damaging to his clients’ interests, the inspector general said, and he used his knowledge of its contents to warn them and to devise a counterattack.
“Abramoff’s e-mail records indicate that by late June 2002 he had obtained a copy of the report from an official of the Department of Interior,” the report said.
The leak has been referred to the FBI and the Interior Department’s inspector general for further investigation.
Abramoff earlier this year pleaded guilty to corruption charges, including conspiracy to bribe public officials and failure to pay taxes. He is cooperating in an investigation that has resulted in guilty pleas from top legislative aides and Abramoff’s lobbying partners.
The revelation that Abramoff had obtained the secret document was just one finding in the 41-page report into allegations that he had improperly influenced President Bush’s 2002 decision to oust the acting U.S. attorney for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, Frederick A. Black.
The inspector general’s report concluded that Abramoff actively advocated the ouster of Black, who had launched an investigation of the lobbyist and requested the FBI report. But the inspector general said the decision to appoint a new U.S. attorney, Leonardo Rapadas, had been made before Abramoff became involved.
The allegations by Black that he was pushed out of office to end the Abramoff probe were unfounded, the report said.
“We found no evidence to support a conclusion that the selection of Rapadas was the result of any retaliation against Black for raising allegations against Abramoff,” the report by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said. Instead, Fine concluded, once Abramoff learned of the impending decision, he attempted to take credit for it.
Black declined to comment Friday.
The FBI report, which focused on security concerns in the Pacific, warned of possible terrorist threats against U.S. military assets on Guam and the Northern Marianas. It was completed in spring 2002 and recently made public.
Abramoff, according to e-mails cited by the inspector general, worried the FBI report would prompt Congress to restrict immigration in the Northern Marianas -- cutting off a supply of low-wage labor for garment manufacturers who had hired Abramoff to protect their interests.
After seeing the FBI report, the lobbyist suggested an attack on Black. “We have to make sure that Black guy is smeared into the ground,” Abramoff wrote in an e-mail to his clients.
The inspector general’s investigation, which included an interview with Abramoff and a review of his e-mails, followed a Los Angles Times report on the circumstances surrounding Black’s replacement.
According to Fine’s report, Abramoff became actively involved in the efforts to oust Black at the behest of then-Guam Gov. Carl Gutierrez, a Democrat who was under investigation by Black’s office. Abramoff told investigators that he met with Gutierrez in February 2002 in an effort to land a $1.3-million contract with the government of Guam.
Abramoff, the report said, told investigators that the two came up with a plan to smear Black by releasing copies of a letter Gutierrez had written in 1995 to President Clinton. The letter referred to Black as “a good Democrat” and recommended he be reappointed as U.S. attorney. Black was originally appointed as acting U.S. attorney by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.
In one e-mail to Abramoff, Gutierrez referred to Black as “a total commie.... We need to get this guy sniped out of there.”
In another e-mail, Abramoff wrote: “We are opposed to Black. He has been screwing us for years.... So this is good payback. I don’t care if they appoint Bozo the clown, we need to get rid of Fred Black.”
Although the inspector general’s report said Abramoff had nothing to do with Black’s ouster, it did find that the lobbyist had a pipeline into the White House through which he learned of Rapadas’ impending nomination and other matters involving Guam.
Leonard Rodriguez, a Bush aide, told the inspector general’s office that then-White House political director Ken Mehlman “recommended or suggested that I reach out to make Jack aware” on Guam issues.
Once informed of Rapadas’ selection, Abramoff instructed his colleagues in an e-mail to take credit for the decision even though his favored candidate had lost out.