Frist aide forced out in an effort to assuage Dems
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's (R-Tenn.) top aide
on judicial nominees is expected to announce his resignation
at the end of this week -- a sacrifice offered by the GOP leadership in hope of persuading the Democrats to wind down the fight over leaked Judiciary Committee memos.
The aide, Manuel Miranda, had spearheaded the Republican effort to push President Bush's judicial nominees through the Senate in the face of fierce Democratic opposition.
Miranda declined a request for comment. But The Hill has learned that he agreed to resign under pressure from Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). The Democrats have not agreed to scale back their demands for wide-ranging punishments following a full-blown leak inquiry.
Miranda admitted to the sergeant at arms that he had read Democratic memos that a Republican staffer on the Judiciary Committee accessed through a glitch on the panel server. But it is unclear what rules if any Miranda broke. His defenders say that the files were openly available to Republicans through their desktop computers and that there is no such thing as a property right to a federal document.
Sergeant at Arms Bill Pickle's investigation of how internal Democratic memos were leaked to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times has halted the momentum Republicans built last year on judicial nominees. It has also generated bad publicity for Republicans.
Frist's staff told The Boston Globe two weeks ago that Miranda had been placed on paid leave pending the results of the investigation. But Miranda's fate may have been sealed by Pickle, who urged Frist chief of staff Lee Rawls to sack him, according to several Senate aides.
Miranda confronted Pickle in an e-mail last week.
"Do you think that it is appropriate to go to the GOP bicameral [retreat] today and lobby Frist staff and senators to have me fired, as I am told you have been doing? Do you think that will at all taint the report which you are soon to issue? Do you think it is proper?" Miranda demanded of the sergeant at arms.
"Right now I think that was pretty unfair," Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said of the probe's focus on Miranda. "I don't have the impression he did anything wrong and we just completely quit looking at was done and what was found [in the memos]. I don't know the details, but I would not be a friend in firing a highly qualified staffer."
uh, FRIEND TO WHO?!?!?!?!