One of last year's political loose ends--the sudden, unexplained resignation of the Senate Minority leader after only a year in his new term--is beginning to unravel today with Trent Lott's announcement that he is not a target of a judicial bribery investigation involving his brother-in-law.
Lott said FBI agents interviewed him earlier this year. "I may be called as a witness," Lott said, "but I've been assured that I'm not under investigation, and rightly so because nothing was done to justify that."
The Justice Department is investigating his brother-in-law, Mississippi attorney Richard Scruggs, for an attempt to get a lifetime appointment to the federal bench, with Lott's help, for a Circuit Court Judge in return for a favorable ruling in a lawsuit against Scruggs by another attorney over legal fees.
Lott admits talking to the judge about recommending his appointment but offers no further details because the case is still pending.
When Lott surprisingly gave up his job as the second most powerful Republican in the US Senate last November, there was speculation that his motive was to beat the new two-year limitation on lobbying that went into effect at year's end.
But the Scruggs case suggests a more plausible motive. Lott's preemptive attempt now to minimize his role will only add fuel to the speculation that it figured in his sudden decision to retire.