Arizona Republican Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain have approved the Obama administration’s nomination for U.S. attorney in Arizona of John Leonardo, a former Arizona judge with a history of rulings adverse to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed to WND.
Beth Levine, judiciary panel press secretary for Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking minority member, said she could not be certain whether the Democratic majority on the committee would hold hearings regarding Leonardo’s nomination.
Leonardo, who retired last month as Pima County Superior Court judge, threw out an indictment in 2010 against Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, a Democrat and an outspoken critic of Arpaio. The Arizona sheriff has an investigative team probing Barack Obama’s eligibility that has found probable cause that Obama has presented a fraudulent birth certificate and Selective Service registration.
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In the Wilcox case, Leonardo declared that Arpaio had “misused the power of his office to target members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors for criminal investigations.”
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors oversees the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
Since Leonardo’s nomination, protestors outside the sheriff’s office have been touting the nomination, chanting “You’re gone!” and “Time to go to jail, Joe.”
On his Senate website, Kyl has posted a press release dated March 21 titled “Kyl and McCain Welcome Nomination of Judge Leonardo for U.S. Attorney.”
“The nomination of John Leonardo for U.S. Attorney is welcome news for Arizona,” Kyl and McCain said in the jointly released statement.
“With over a decade of experience as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona and nearly 20 years on the bench for the Pima County Superior Court, John Leonardo is well equipped to serve in a key post that has been left vacant for far too long.”
Had either Kyl or McCain objected to Leonardo’s nomination, they could have refused to “blue card” him with the Judiciary Committee, a procedure exercised as senatorial privilege to either approve or block a federal judicial appointment in their state.
Arpaio under attack
Obama’s nomination of Leonardo comes at a time when Eric Holder’s U.S. Justice Department has gained national attention for allegations that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office under the direction of Arpaio has engaged in a systematic policy of denying Hispanics their civil rights under federal law.
As WND has reported, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. DOJ under the direction of Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez is investigating Arpaio while the sheriff is investigating Obama’s birth certificate and eligibility to be on the state’s presidential ballot under Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution.
WND has also reported that political operative Randy Parraz, a self-described “organizer,” has pressured the Board of Supervisors to demand Arpaio’s resignation.
Parraz and the DOJ appeared to be coordinating efforts to discredit Arpaio ahead of the sheriff’s March 1 press conference in which he announced his investigative team had developed probable cause to believe Obama’s birth certificate and his Selective Service draft card are forgeries.
Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office at heart of Fast and Furious
The Arizona U.S. attorney position became vacant when Dennis Burke, a prominent Democratic Party operative in Arizona, resigned last July, just as the House Oversight Committee and an internal Justice Department investigation began focusing on the role Arizona played in the scandalous gun-tracing operation “Fast and Furious.”
As WND reported, evidence has mounted that the scandal stems from corruption and criminal activity in the Arizona branch of the U.S. Department of Justice.
In January, the House Oversight Committee was shocked when Patrick J. Cunningham, the head of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona, announced he would take the Fifth Amendment rather than testify before Congress regarding Fast and Furious.
Cunningham resigned Jan. 30 amid charges he gave inaccurate information to Burke that ultimately was included in a letter dated Feb. 4, 2011, to Sen. Grassley that the Justice Department was forced to withdraw.
Before taking the U.S. attorney position in Arizona, Burke had served as chief of staff to Janet Napolitano when she was the governor of Arizona and then as a senior adviser to Napolitano when she moved to Washington to become Homeland Security secretary in 2009 under the in-coming Obama administration.
Burke’s sudden resignation in 2011 followed by Cunningham’s decision to take the Fifth Amendment, was seen as an indication that criminal activity within the Arizona Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives – an agency under the management of the U.S. Attorney’s office under the Arizona Department of Justice – might be at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal.