Senate GOP adds Elian Gonzalez case to questions for Holder

McClatchy NewspapersDecember 17, 2008 

US NEWS CAMPAIGN-ELIAN 4 MI

Photos of Elian Gonzalez are displayed during a press conference by Delfin Gonzalez, great uncle of Elian.

ROBERTO KOLTUN — Roberto Koltun/El Nuevo Herald/MCT

WASHINGTON — Elian Gonzalez could play a role in next month's confirmation hearings for Barack Obama's nominee for attorney general.

Senate Republicans have asked the Clinton presidential library and the U.S. Justice Department for details of Eric Holder's role in the 2000 seizure of the Cuban boy in Miami.

Last week, eight Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee fired off letters to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Ark., and Attorney General Michael Mukasey seeking any documents prepared by Holder or his staff on a variety of Clinton-era controversies, including "the April 22, 2000, raid in Miami, Fla., by Border Patrol agents to take Elian Gonzalez into custody."

Holder's confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin Jan. 15.

Among other matters, the senators ask for information about the Justice Department's investigation into fundraising activities by Vice President Al Gore during the 1996 presidential election and Holder's role in Clinton's controversial pardons of billionaire financier Marc Rich in 2001 and several Puerto Rican nationalists in 1999.

They also want records on the Justice Department's investigation of the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, Texas, as well as death-penalty approvals, rejections and disputes that Holder handled.

Holder served as the deputy attorney general during the raid in Miami. His role as an Obama presidential-campaign adviser prompted a small contingent of Cuban exiles to protest outside Obama's speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Miami in June.

A Senate Democratic aide suggested that the scope of the requests appeared to be unprecedented for an attorney general candidate. However, the senators said in the letter to Mukasey that the request was consistent with information sought on previous nominees.

A spokesman for Obama's transition team said that it would be "up to the Department of Justice to determine what documents should be produced, but we believe that requests for nonprivileged relevant documents should be honored promptly."

Obama was an Illinois lawmaker when Elian was sent back to his father in Cuba and didn't take a public position on the international custody battle that pitted the boy's Miami relatives against his father.

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