March 23 2007 - Appointees said to weaken tobacco case

U.S. Justice Department appointees repeatedly weakened the case of the federal prosecutor in a lawsuit against the tobacco companies, the prosecutor said.

Sharon Eubanks told The Washington Post that political appointees in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' office rewrote her closing arguments, ordered her to drop specific arguments and told her to instruct witnesses to change their testimony in the 2005 trial.

"The political people were pushing the buttons and ordering us to say what we said," Eubanks told the Post. "And because of that we failed to zealously represent the interests of the American public."

She said the interference in the racketeering case came from Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum, Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler and his deputy at the time, Dan Meron, the Post reported.

Eubanks, a 22-year Justice Department veteran, retired in December 2005 and told the Post she was speaking about the case because of the "overwhelming politicization" shown in the firing last year of eight U.S. attorneys.

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