Monday, June 29, 2009

Dimora: Investigate the investigators

"Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire," Jimmy Dimora said this afternoon.

With that, he accused the "Rove-Gonzales" Department of Justice and the Republican Party of conspiring against him. Dimora announced he will ask U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Congress to investigate the federal investigation of him.

In a fiery press conference late today, Dimora charged that the Justice Department started its investigation of him as an attempt to discredit Democrats and lower the turnout in the presidential election. Many people, he said, "had an interest in making sure I am out of the way."

Dimora suggested that employees of the local U.S. Attorney contributed to the Cuyahoga County Republican Party in 2008.

The embattled county commissioner -- whose office was raided by the FBI last July, but who has not been charged with a crime -- compared the investigation of him to the U.S. Attorneys scandal, in which former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and senior presidential adviser Karl Rove were accused of masterminding the 2006 firings of several federal prosecutors for not pursuing voter-fraud investigations or investigations against Democrats.

At one point, Dimora suggested the FBI investigation of him was part of a pattern of probes of Democrats across the Great Lakes states. I asked him to name other examples. "There are 2,500 public corruption investigations in the country," Dimora replied. "Pick a state. Pick a Democrat."

Dimora said he believed the investigation of him began in September or October 2007. By early 2008, he said, he became aware that the feds were asking friends of his to wear wires and inform on him.

That would place the start of the investigation just after or right around Rove and Gonzales's departures from the Bush Administration. Their resignations took effect on August 31 and September 17, 2007, respectively.

Dimora attacked former county Republican chair Jim Trakas for saying yesterday, on Channel 3's Between the Lines political talk show, that Dimora should take advice from Michael Corleone of The Godfather films. "Italian-Americans should be outraged," Dimora said.

(Update, 6/30: "I had no idea that what I said on TV3 would be construed like that, because I use that phrase all the time," Trakas writes in an e-mail to me this morning. "I am really upset at myself for my poor choice of words." Trakas says he's written Dimora a letter of apology.)

Dimora also repeated his suggestion from last Thursday's commission meeting and April 2008 that Brent Larkin and Susan Goldberg of the Plain Dealer and former state Republican chairman Bob Bennett hatched a plan to attack Dimora over lunch in February 2008. He referred back to the April 2008 meeting where three Plain Dealer reporters -- Mark Puente, Joe Guillen, and Henry Gomez -- confronted him about the hiring of the late Rosemary Vinci, an auditor's office employee. Dimora claimed the paper's reporting of that incident "started the motivation for county reform."

Puente and Guillen attended the press conference, and Puente raised his hand in greeting as Dimora mentioned his name. Both reporters questioned Dimora aggressively after his statement. Guillen tried unsuccessfully to get Dimora to express an opinion about the investigation of auditor Frank Russo.

"I'm not looking at Frank Russo's issues," Dimora said. Acknowledging reports that the two officials are friends, Dimora said that he and Russo campaign together because the auditor is the other county official up for reelection at the same time as him.

No comments: