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Former Federal Prosecutor: DOJ Coerced Me Into Going Easy on Big Tobacco

Reported by Marie Therese - March 28, 2007 -

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been caught telling several different stories regarding his role in the abrupt termination of eight highly competent, productive U. S. Attorneys, all of them Bush appointees. His former chief of staff Kyle Sampson, who voluntarily resigned, is scheduled to testify on Thursday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Yesterday Gonzales' senior aide Monica Goodling's attorney announced that she will be taking the Fifth to avoid falling into a "perjury trap." In light of almost daily revelations, FOX News Sunday's Chris Wallace interviewed former U. S. Federal Prosecutor Sharon Eubanks regarding her allegations that specific employees of the DOJ compelled her to take it easy on Big Tobacco for political reasons. With video.

Ms. Eubanks, who resigned in protest after 22 years as a prosecutor, explained the issue this way: "When it became clear to all that we were going to win the case, that's when the heavy-duty interference began and we were asked to do things like lower the remedy, interfere with the witnesses' testimony ... they wanted to make sure, I believe, that the number, any number that the court came out with, was pocket change for the companies. You'd have to ask [the Justice Department] why that was important to them."

Eubanks, who for six years was the lead prosecutor in the government's case against the tobacco companies, explained that her bosses at the DOJ wrote the closing arguments and forced her to read their statement verbatim. In those arguments the government sought a far lower remedy ($10 billion) as opposed to the $130 billion that it was entitled to ask for as a remedy.

When Wallace tried to trap her into making a statement about how such treatment made her feel, she said that her feelings were not important. "It's not about how I feel," she said. "It was its effect on the American people, because we were representing the American people in that case. My feelings in that sense had nothing to do with it. I had a job and an obligation."

Then Wallace trotted out the argument that the Office of Professional Responsibility had issued a report absolving her bosses of any wrongdoing, but Ms. Eubanks shot back that the OPR is not an independent review group but is, in fact, a part of the administration's chain of command.

"That's a whitewash, that's what that is," Ms. Eubanks said.

After noting that she had been a prosecutor since the Reagan administration, Wallace asked her if "the atmosphere, when it came to political considerations, was different under this President than under any other President", to which she responded in the affirmative, saying "In fact the career people were edged out on a lot of decision-making processes. I never even met our General Gonzales during my time at the Justice Department - and I'm working on the largest civil case that they've ever prosecuted. I mean, that's highly unusual. The fact is that career people and their positions were something that this Department of Justice has not demonstrated that it's particularly interested in."

Chris Wallace ended the interview by asking Ms. Eubanks if she saw any parallels between her situation and that of the firing of the eight U. S Attorneys.

SHARON EUBANKS: "Yes. I don't serve at the pleasure of the President and most of the people who work at the Department don't, but they're being interfered with every day in their work."