* From a rather disjointed Tribune editorial entitled “The mystery of the feds’ investigation”…
Even for those as angelic as newborns, few messages are as intimidating as, The U.S. Department of Justice would like information from you. Imagine the widespread angst, then, as federal prosecutors intensify their look at, and around, Gov. Pat Quinn’s defunct Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. That’s the botched anti-violence program on which Quinn, just before the 2010 general election, committed $54.5 million in public money.
Last Friday the Tribune reported that a federal grand jury has subpoenaed emails of key players in NRI, as it was known, including its former head and two former ranking members of Quinn’s administration. And on Wednesday we learned that the Department of Justice has requested a 90-day delay before Illinois lawmakers question seven former Quinn aides who have been subpoenaed to testify next week.
But Republican lawmakers said Thursday that they expect next week’s two-day hearing of the bipartisan and bicameral Legislative Audit Commission to proceed — and they expect the seven witnesses to obey the subpoenas.
What’s odd about the Justice request for state lawmakers to stand down is that it didn’t come from prosecutors, as has been customary in other investigations. Instead it came by phone to Illinois House and Senate lawyers from Justice’s Office of Legislative Affairs in Washington, D.C. That’s a liaison and lobbying office, not an office that typically has interjected itself into criminal cases here. What’s more, Justice is merely requesting a 90-day delay in legislative questioning, not pursuing legal action to demand that.
On Thursday a Justice official in Washington did get around to sending a letter to leaders of the Legislative Audit Commission. The letter requests that the lawmakers “refrain from conducting interviews or receiving testimony from any individuals” in connection with the anti-violence program: “… As we explained during the call, there is an ongoing related federal criminal investigation, and we believe such interviews and testimony during this (90-day) time period would pose substantial risks to our investigation.”
Various federal prosecutors, past and present, cautioned us Thursday not to draw conclusions about where the feds are focused: maybe on recipients of money, maybe on how the program functioned, maybe on something else. For a variety of reasons, including the absence of any crime, federal investigations sometimes lead to … nothing at all.
It looks like they were leading up to something - that maybe the Justice Department request was somehow tainted - then got talked down by “federal prosecutors, past and present.” I only mention that because of this tweet from an editorial board member yesterday…
The paper didn’t take a stand on whether the hearings should actually proceed.
Anyway, I had four posts on this issue yesterday and I didn’t really see anything in today’s coverage to warrant another one today, so let’s do this instead…
* The Question: Should the Legislative Audit Commission defer to the US Department of Justice and postpone any questioning of those under subpoena for 90 days?
Bonus Question: Should the Commission postpone all such testimony until after the election?
Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.