Prosecutor in Rep. Lewis probe cites rules, not politics in exit

A federal prosecutor tapped to help revive the criminal probe involving Rep. Jerry Lewis said Friday his impending departure, though unwelcome, is more likely prompted by bureaucracy than politics.

Michael Emmick said he was asked this spring to get involved with the investigation -- after he learned his current one-year appointment at the U.S. Attorney's Los Angeles office would probably not be renewed.

"It was unlikely that I was going to be re-upped for the next year," Emmick , 54, said.

Emmick, who has worked for the Justice Department for 25 years, took early retirement in 2004. Since then, he has returned in one-year appointments.

He said he was aware of Department of Justice policy to limit the number of such appointments to two or three for a prosecutor in his situation, but he requested to continue his work in hopes that an exception would be made.

"The DOJ stuck to their guns," he said.

Officials from the Justice Department in Washington and the U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles did not return calls seeking an explanation of policies about personnel moves.

Emmick's statements came days after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced he would resign amid questions about whether personnel moves in the department were motivated by politics.

Reports in the Los Angeles Daily Journal and The Associated Press questioned whether Emmick's departure was linked to his role in the Lewis inquiry.

Emmick declined to discuss specifics of that case.

The investigation, which involves Lewis, R-Redlands, and his dealings with a once-prominent lobbying firm, came to light last May when a federal grand jury issued subpoenas seeking information about the dealings from several Inland agencies and cities and both counties.

Lewis has not been formally accused of wrongdoing. On Friday, his spokesman, Jim Specht, again said investigators have not directly contacted Lewis.

"Congressman Lewis had no knowledge of which U.S. Attorney officials might be involved in case," Specht said. "We have no comment on any internal management decision by their office."

Lewis has spent about $1 million in legal fees since reports surfaced about the investigation, campaign finance records show.

The 72-year-old lawmaker, the ranking Republican member on the House Appropriations Committee, announced last week that he will seek a 16th term in next November's election.

Emmick handled several high-profile cases, including the espionage case of accused double agent Katrina Leung. He was involved in the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinski investigation in the late 1990s.

He is scheduled to leave his post at the end of September.

Reach Ben Goad at 202-661-8422 or bgoad@PE.com

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