A Bush nominee withdraws -- and it isn't that one

The president's pick for the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department pulls out amid questions about Jack Abramoff.

Published October 7, 2005 8:12PM (EDT)

If George Will was blunt about Harriet Miers earlier this week, his Washington Post colleague Charles Krauthammer can only be called brutal. In his column today, Krauthammer calls Miers' nomination "a joke" and a "sorry retreat into smallness," and he demands that Bush recall it.

The famously stubborn president isn't likely to do that, at least not publicly. Asked today whether he'd withdraw Miers' nomination, Bush said: "She'll be confirmed, and when she's on the bench, people will see a fantastic woman who is honest, open, humble and capable of being a great Supreme Court judge." And Bush's surrogates -- who continue to insist that opposition to Miers is based mostly on elitism -- say that Miers isn't the kind of person who shies away from a fight.

But people can have a change of heart, a fact brought home to the president today when his nominee to the second-highest position in the Justice Department took himself out of the running. Timothy Flanigan, a top lawyer for scandal-ridden Tyco International, Ltd., said in a letter obtained by the Associated Press that he was withdrawing his name because of "uncertainty concerning the timing of my confirmation."

Maybe that's the real reason, but Flanigan's withdrawal comes amid questions about his relationship with Jack Abramoff -- questions he hasn't been able to answer to the satisfaction of some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Flanigan hired Abramoff to lobby on behalf of Tyco, and he told the Judiciary Committee, before he withdrew his name, that he would have to recuse himself from any involvement in Justice Department decisions about the investigation into Abramoff's dealings. Flanigan also said that Abramofff had bragged to him about his contacts with Karl Rove.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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