Attorney General Edwin Meese faces the prospect his own Justice Department will reopen its files on his conduct in office when a special prosecutor's inquiry concludes, a spokesman said Saturday.
The Washington Post reported Saturday the department's Office of Professional Responsibility is preparing to resume its investigation of the nation's chief law enforcement officer.The office, charged with investigating alleged misconduct by department officials, closed its probe of Meese to avoid conflicting with independent counsel James McKay's investigation, the Post said.
"That is a reasonable conclusion to assume that (the OPR) would be the office to refer to for any administrative reviews," said Mark Sheehan, a Justice Department spokesman.
But Sheehan added: "That office makes a practice of never commenting on investigations until it issues its annual report at the end of the year, when it describes completed investigations. I don't think there will be any comment forthcoming at all."
Friday, McKay said based on "the evidence developed to date, I do not intend to recommend that the grand jury return an indictment against Mr. Meese as to the `Aqaba Pipeline' matter (involving a failed scheme to build a $1 billion oil pipeline across Iraq) or as to the matters relating to Mr. Meese's investments, including the so-called `Baby Bells' matter," following the breakup of the American Telephone & Telegraph Co.
The pipeline investigation questioned whether Meese knew of a scheme to bribe the Israeli Labor Party for its support. The "Baby Bell" inquiry dealt with Meese's owning stock in regional telephone companies while critical decisions on the 1984 breakup of AT&T were pending in the Justice Department.
McKay emphasized his investigation of Meese, which began last May with a wide-ranging corruption probe of the defunct Wedtech Corp., would likely not conclude before the end of April.
"If at the end of that period of time there remains insufficient evidence to warrant a prosecution as to these or any other matters" McKay said he would issue a report.
Adding to the Capitol Hill clamor for Meese to resign was former Attorney General Elliot Richardson, who himself resigned in the "Saturday night massacre" under President Nixon rather than perform what he considered an illegal action.
Richardson, appearing on Cable News Network's "Newsmaker Saturday," said, "I think he should step aside. I think the situation has reached the point where ... the attorney general has forfeited confidence. And I think this is really not significantly affected by the statement yesterday by the independent counsel Mr. Mckay."
The Post report said the OPR can recommend sanctions that include a reprimand, docking one's paycheck and dismissal.
Sheehan issued a flat "no comment" on whether the office, within Meese's own Justice Department, could effectively recommend the attorney general's dismissal.
But a source familiar with the procedures involved told United Press International that it was expected as in past investigations of a sitting attorney general if the OPR reopened department files on Meese, that Meese would recuse himself and appoint an acting attorney general for an investigation into himself.