Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani has issued apologies for recommending that the White House nominate Bernard Kerik as Homeland Security secretary. But the apologies have not staunched the flow of embarrassing revelations.
New questions have surfaced about why Kerik's nomination was withdrawn less than a week after it was announced. The White House said a "nanny problem" killed Kerik's nomination because Homeland Secretary is the nation's top immigration law enforcer. But nonpublic law-enforcement records obtained by NEWSWEEK suggest that Kerik was worried about other issues: around the time of his nomination, Kerik spoke by phone with two people with whom he had a potentially embarrassing history. According to the records, on Dec. 2, 2004, one day before President George W. Bush announced Kerik's nomination, three phone calls were logged between Kerik and New Jersey businessman Frank DiTommaso. A few weeks earlier, DiTommaso's construction firms had been described in court testimony as mob connected. (DiTommaso and his company have denied wrongdoing.)
Shortly after the nomination, Kerik exchanged several phone calls with Jeannette Pinero, a New York prison guard with whom he had an affair. "I don't know what they were discussing," says Pinero's lawyer, Andrew Laufer. "They were friends." At the time, both Kerik and Pinero were about to give depositions in a lawsuit which accused Kerik of retaliating, while serving as New York City prison chief, against a guard who crossed Pinero. Similar calls were made before the Dec. 10 announcement that Kerik's nomination would be canceled. Two days before the withdrawal, Kerik and DiTommaso exchanged three calls. On the day the nomination crashed, Kerik and Pinero exchanged three calls; the last one was about an hour before the White House pulled Kerik's nomination. The records also show more than a dozen calls between DiTommaso and Kerik after the withdrawn nomination.
Federal prosecutors in New York have informed Kerik that he is a "target" of a criminal investigation into possible tax problems, illegal wiretapping and making false statements in an FBI questionnaire connected to Kerik's nomination. Earlier this year, said two legal sources (who asked for anonymity due to the ongoing investigation), Kerik's lawyers agreed with prosecutors to extend the statute of limitations for the Kerik probe until next October. A lawyer for Kerik said he couldn't comment, a spokesperson for Giuliani had no comment and a lawyer for DiTommaso couldn't be reached for comment.