Conspiracy-minded Capitol Hill insiders are saying the probe of SenateMajority Leader Bill Frist smells of politicalretribution—from the right.
Frist’s suspiciously timed decision to unload shares in hisfamily’s company, Hospital Corporation of America, only days before thefirm announced it would not meet projected earnings last July did raiseeyebrows. But the fact that the investigation was spearheaded by AttorneyGeneral Alberto Gonzalez, Bush’s legal crony, and SECChairman (and former Republican congressman) Chris Cox, hasobservers on both sides of the aisle wondering if it’s an effort to kneecapthe senator before he can announce his 2008 presidential bid. (Cox has sincerecused himself).
Frist, after all, was once a loyal enforcer of the Bushagenda—famously sacrificing his own medical cred to give Terri Schiavo aclean bill of health—but has recently incurred the ire of his formerhard-line comrades by embracing stem cell research and calling for anindependent look into the federal bungling of Katrina. Which, in Rove-speak, oneHill insider says, means its open season on Frist.
“We were hearing murmurings of this happening weeks ago, but everyonewas so involved in Katrina and no one believed it,” a Republican Senatestaffer tells us. “Why would the Bush administration investigate their ownsenate leader? It just seems preposterous until you look at Frist’sbehavior of late and Rove’s new allegiance to [Kansas SenatorSam] Brownback.”
While legal experts agree that insider trading will be nearly impossible toprove—Frist, after all, swears he requested the sale in April and had itapproved in advance by two ethics committees—the probe can only cripplethe senator’s presidential ambitions, we’re told.
SEC spokesman John Heine said “no comment” whenasked about the possible political motivations behind the investigation, andreps for Frist and the White House did not return calls by press time.
Previously: Behind Bill Frist’s Stem Cellout