Palin's 'Troopergate' Investigation Facing Obstacles
The inquiry into the controversial firing of a state police commissioner in Gov. Sarah Palin's home state of Alaska has led to a highly politicized fight, observers say, including calls for subpoenas of Palin's staff and accusations that lawmakers are trying to sway the final report's findings.
Alaska legislators are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss whether at least seven members of the governor's staff should be formally questioned as part of the investigation, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Those staff members had previously agreed to meet with the independent investigator, former prosecutor Stephen Branchflower, but were later forbidden from any direct contact after Palin was selected as Sen. John McCain's running mate.
(Lawmakers decided not to subpoena Palin herself "as a gesture to calm what has become a tense standoff between the Legislature and the newly minted Republican vice presidential nominee," The Anchorage Daily News reported.)
The state legislative committee investigating the firing of former police commissioner Walt Monegan is set to release its findings Oct. 10, a few weeks earlier than its expected Halloween Day release.
Alaska House Judiciary Chairman Jay Ramras, a Republican, said the earlier date for the report was meant to avoid the appearance of a last-minute "October surprise," The Associated Press reported.
But questions over the potentially political nature of the probe have resulted in calls for at least one state lawmaker to step down from his post.
Alaska Rep. John Coghill wrote in a letter dated Friday that Democratic state Sen. Hollis French "appears to be steering the direction of the investigation, its conclusion and its timing in a manner that will have maximum partisan political impact on the national and state elections."
(French told Newsweek that he regretted some of his public comments but that he refuses to step down.)
Coghill, who is on the Alaska Legislature's Legislative Council, the body that appointed French to oversee the investigation, told Newsweek that he wrote his letter to French on his own and without interference from the McCain campaign.
But a "top McCain campaign official" told the magazine that a GOP lawyer had given the campaign a "heads up" about Coghill's letter and that it approved of the effort to remove French.
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