A February 23 Washington Post article asserted that it "would be a blow" to special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's "reputation as a nonpartisan prosecutor with a record of high-profile successes" if a jury finds Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, not guilty of perjury, false statements, and obstruction of justice. But the article never mentioned that Fitzgerald is a Bush administration political appointee. President Bush nominated Fitzgerald to his current position as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois on September 19, 2001. The Senate confirmed him by unanimous consent on October 23, 2001.
As U.S. Attorney, Fitzgerald has prosecuted or investigated officials of both parties. As Media Matters for America has noted, Fitzgerald charged former Illinois Gov. George Ryan (R) with steering state contracts to cronies in return for cash and gifts, misusing campaign funds, and rigging the Illinois inspector general's office to cover his tracks. Ryan was convicted on April 17, 2006, following a six-month-long trial. Fitzgerald has also been leading an investigation into the administration of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, a Democrat. Fitzgerald's office successfully prosecuted Daley's longtime aide Robert Sorich for, according to the indictment, "us[ing] fraudulent processes to award City of Chicago ... jobs and promotions on bases other than merit." Additionally, in October 2006, Fitzgerald's office charged a major fundraiser for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), Antoin Rezko, with multiple counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. At the time, Blagojevich said that Rezko "has been a friend and a supporter."
Further, former Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (IL), on the August 8, 2005, broadcast of PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, said he had recommended Fitzgerald's appointment as U.S. Attorney because of his political independence:
PETER FITZGERALD: The allies of the governor [Ryan] were pressuring me to try and put someone in office who would see things more favorably to the governor, and so I was very concerned that whoever I recommended as U.S. attorney be someone who is totally independent.
And in finding Patrick Fitzgerald, I found someone of unquestioned independence and integrity and truly top-notch ability.
The Post article also stated that "Fitzgerald's motives and credentials were challenged when his investigation homed in on top Bush administration officials, including senior White House adviser Karl Rove, as well as the Washington press corps." However, as Media Matters has noted, Bush, in an October 11, 2005, interview on NBC's Today, called Fitzgerald's investigation "dignified." Libby was indicted on October 28, 2005.
From the February 23 Washington Post article headlined "A Nonpartisan Reputation At Stake":
When the jury in I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's perjury trial returns with its verdict, its decision also will intensify the debate over whether Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald should have brought the case in the first place.
For Fitzgerald, who has led the CIA leak investigation for more than three years, an acquittal for Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff would be a blow to a reputation as a nonpartisan prosecutor with a record of high-profile successes. Some say it would vindicate critics who think Fitzgerald went too far by charging Libby with perjury when no one was indicted for the original offense investigated, the leak of an undercover CIA officer's name.
Fitzgerald's motives and credentials were challenged when his investigation homed in on top Bush administration officials, including senior White House adviser Karl Rove, as well as the Washington press corps. In a showdown with the New York Times, Fitzgerald went to the Supreme Court to force reporters to divulge their confidential conversations with government sources.