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Posted by Hissyspit in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Wed Jul 28th 2010, 04:49 PM
Three related items follow in this post:

1) “.... if a Federal prosecutor isn’t filing or refraining from filing the cases you want, feel free to covertly conspire to get him fired."

Via Email from Gov. Siegelman:

Dear -,

In the spirit of keeping you updated on the developments in my case and related events, please read this insightful article by Roger Shuler.


After reading the report on the Bush Administration's involvement in the U.S. attorney firings, I checked to see if it was April Fool's Day.

The report, in from the Justice Department to Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), found that no criminal charges were warranted against Gonzales, Rove or other Bush officials for the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

A person who has tried to stay reasonably informed about the scandal is likely to read the report and say, "Is this a joke? Is it meant to be taken seriously?" The report, of course, is about matters of utmost seriousness. That should raise profound questions about the motivations and competence of the Barack Obama administration, especially Attorney General Eric Holder.

Scott Horton, legal affairs contributor for Harper's magazine, does not mince words about the report, which focused heavily on Bush-era attorney general Alberto Gonzalez. Horton calls the report a whitewash. Writes Horton:

The DOJ criminal review didn’t exonerate Gonzales –far from it. The Justice Department’s letter to the Judiciary Committee explained that they clearly engaged in improper conduct, but it focused on an absence of clear-cut evidence that would make out a criminal case. That’s curious. In a series of high-profile public-integrity prosecutions brought by the Bush Justice Department–those against Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, Mississippi attorney Paul Minor, and Georgia Senate Minority Leader Charles Walker, prosecutors acknowledged they lacked the direct evidence to make out their case, but said the facts were enough to allow jurors to decide for themselves, based on inference, whether corrupt motives were in play. When the tables are turned on the Bush Justice officials who drove those very decisions, we discover that the evidentiary bar has been dramatically raised.

Want to get heavily into "theater of the absurd"? Check out the full six-page letter that outlined the findings....,

  • Pressure is bad, firing is fine -- On obstruction of justice, Dannehy found that the statute penalizes only forward-looking conduct that endeavors to "influence, obstruct, or impede." According to Dannehy, firing someone does not amount to an effort to impede their work. Here are actual words from the report:

There was insufficient evidence that former Senator Pete V. Domenici, other New Mexico Republicans, persons in the White House, or anyone at DOJ attempted to prospectively influence Iglesias's actions. The weight of the evidence established not an attempt to influence but rather an attempt to remove David Iglesias from office, in other words, to eliminate the possibility of any future action or inaction by him.

If you can read that without spewing water across the room, you have a stronger constitution than I do. Nora Dannehy actually determined that an effort "to eliminate the possibility of any future action or inaction" by U S Attorney David Iglesias was not an impediment to his work.

What does it all mean? The Emptywheel blog at firedoglake puts the report in disturbing perspective:

I don’t think anyone would have predicted the cavalier way in which Holder’s DOJ reaches its seemingly predetermined decision, while providing a roadmap to other legislators who’d also like to get a prosecutor fired for political convenience. Dannehy and Holder explain to Members of Congress – if a Federal prosecutor isn’t filing or refraining from filing the cases you want, feel free to covertly conspire to get him fired. As long as you don’t make any misguided attempt to “influence” him before you get him fired, you’re good to go. Oh, and btw, phone calls to him at home to fume over his handling – not to worry, those doesn’t count as an attempt to influence.

Thank you so much!

Don Siegelman

Governor of Alabama 1999-2003

"America's # 1 Political Prisoner", The American Trial Lawyer Magazine

2) NOTE: Although Legal Schanuzer comes to some harsh conclusions here with which I essentially agree, I would offer the caveat that the Justice Department's actions on the Arizona immigration law is positive action, and cannot be characterized as 'nothing.' That said, there are serious reasonable concerns with DoJ, and this is an important read. - H'spit


Obama's Justice Department Appears to be Participating in a Coverup

Until last week, the best that could be said of the U.S. Department of Justice under Barack Obama was, well . . . nothing. That's because the DOJ, under Attorney General Eric Holder, had pretty much done . . . nothing.

But things changed last week with reports that the DOJ had found no criminal charges were warranted against Bush administration officials for the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

The news came in the form of a letter from DOJ official Ronald Weich to House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI). In those six pages, the Obama DOJ moved into dark territory. No longer was it just ignoring possible criminal acts by Bush officials; it was engaging in active deceit of the American public.

On top of that, we now know that the "investigation" was handled by a special prosecutor with ties to evidence suppression in an earlier criminal case. What, if anything, will the Obama DOJ do about this latest news, which comes courtesy of some splendid reporting by Andrew Kreig, of the Justice Integrity Project?

Scott Horton, of Harper's, called the findings a whitewash--and he was being charitable. I would call it a coverup. Our unsolicited advice for Conyers: Don't just quietly accept this steaming pile of horse feces.

The investigation into the U.S. attorney firings has emitted a foul odor from the outset. It was conducted by Nora Dannehy, who was appointed to a U.S. attorney position by . . . George W. Bush. Dannehy was tapped to lead the investigation by Michael Mukasey, who was attorney general for . . . George W. Bush. Did these apparent conflicts cause any concern for Eric Holder? Apparently not, because he allowed Dannehy to proceed--and accepted her findings seemingly without any questions.

The entire scandal involved the firings of nine U.S. attorneys. But Dannehy investigated only one case, that of New Mexico's David Iglesias. How can a scandal involving nine cases be declared resolved with the investigation of only one case? Eric Holder isn't saying.

Welch's letter about Dannehy's findings reeks because of what it says--and what it does not say.

A reasonable person might expect that such a letter would outline, right up front, the legal standard Dannehy was using to determine whether crimes were or were not committed in the firings. But the Weich letter says nothing about it.

A prosecutor's normal standard is called "probable cause." Here is one definition of probable cause:

Apparent facts discovered through logical inquiry that would lead a reasonably intelligent and prudent person to believe that an accused person has committed a crime, thereby warranting his or her prosecution.

How important is this concept to a prosecutor? The American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct state:

The prosecutor in a criminal case shall:

(a) refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause;

Dannehy's findings, as spelled out in Weich's letter, are filled with enough probable cause to choke an elephant. But Dannehy apparently was looking for more than probable cause, the usual prosecutorial standard. She appointed herself judge and jury, too, ensuring that the American people would be forever hoodwinked on at least one chapter in the book of Bush-era sleaze.

A reasonable person might also expect that Dannehy's findings, as relayed by Weich, would include some citations to applicable law. After all, the letter is filled with conclusions of law. But she and Weich never tell us what that law is, never cite case law to support their findings. That's almost certainly because there is no case law to support the findings.

What is a citizen to do? We are to take the word of Nora "Trust Me" Dannehy.
And we are to do that even though we now know there is reason to question Dannehy's supposedly impeccable credentials.

How might Dannehy's findings be summarized? Here is our best shot: Were the firings politically motivated? Yes. Did they violate department principles? Yes. Were they possibly criminal? No.

If those findings seem contradictory to you, join the crowd.

Absurdities pile one on top of another as you get into the specifics of Dannehy's findings. Consider just three findings, involving the possible criminal charges in the case--obstruction of justice (18 U.S. Code 1503), theft of honest services (18 U.S. Code 1346), and false statements (18 U.S. Code 1001):

* Causing a U.S. attorney to be fired for political reasons is not an impediment to his official duties - Dannehy/Weich say the statute on obstruction of justice penalizes only forward-looking conduct that endeavors to "influence, obstruct, or impede." But they conclude that causing David Iglesias to be fired did not impede his work. We can only assume that Dannehy/Weich actually wrote this with a straight face.

* Bushies did not engage in undisclosed, biased decision making - Dannehy/Weich found the effort to remove Iglesias from office was not "a scheme to get him to use his Office in return for anything of value, including his continued employment." That, however, is not the standard set out for honest-services fraud. In fact, honest-services case law specifically states that it does not hinge on whether "anything of value" changes hands. The actual standard, the one Dannehy/Weich obviously don't want regular Americans to know about is this: Did public officials, in this case members and allies of the Bush administration, engage in "undisclosed, biased decision making" when they sacked David Iglesias? Given that Dannehy admits their motivations were political, the answer obviously is yes.

* You can make statements to Congress that are "inaccurate" and "misleading" but are not "knowingly false" - This is what Dannehy/Weich found regarding Bush-era Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and his apparent false statements to Congress. How absurd is this conclusion? If a person makes a statement that is both inaccurate and misleading, that means it was made with intent, correct? After all, you can't unintentionally mislead someone. That means the statement was not just innocently inaccurate--it was knowingly false. And such statements are criminal.

For more details on Dannehy's legal conclusions please check out our earlier post:

Report on U.S. Attorney Firings Reads Like a Farce

All of this raises a disturbing question: Do Obama and Holder even want to be taken seriously on justice matters? Will Holder go down as "the most laughable attorney general in U.S. history"?

It could happen. But these are not laughing matters. And John Conyers should not treat them as such.

We don't pretend to be experts on Congressional authority, but it's our understanding that Conyers could decide to conduct his own investigation--looking not only into the U.S. attorney firings, but also political prosecutions under the Bush DOJ. Conyers already has indicated that he has serious problems with Dannehy's handiwork.

Congress has both oversight authority and the "power of the purse." Through much of the Bush presidency, evidence strongly indicates that taxpayer dollars were used not for legitimate justice matters but for political matters. Regardless of what "Trust Me" Dannehy wants us to believe, those actions were almost certainly criminal--there clearly is probable cause to bring criminal charges.

Conyers owes it to taxpayers and to Congress to conduct a broad and thorough investigation. If members of the Obama administration indeed have engaged in a coverup, that means some Democrats could get caught in Conyers' net?

Our response to that possibility? So be it.

The Obama administration has had some 19 months to show that it takes justice matters seriously. It has failed at every turn--and John Conyers should hold them accountable.

Americans simply must know the truth about the ugly deeds of the Bush Justice Department. It's critically important for us now, and it will be even more important for generations to come.

Scott Horton says Holder has helped set up a formula for disaster. And it must not be allowed to stand:

Dannehy’s decision not to proceed is an open invitation to future administrations: the White House is free to manipulate the Department for political purposes, and Justice Department officials are free to lie to Congress.

Mods: Reproduced in Entirety w/ Permission of Author.


TUESDAY, JULY 27, 2010

Prosecutor Who Cleared Bush Officials Has Connections to Misconduct

The special prosecutor who last week cleared Bush administration officials of criminal acts in the firings of nine U.S. attorneys was connected to evidence suppression in an earlier case.

Nora Dannehy led a team of lawyers that was found to have suppressed evidence in a major political-corruption case in Connecticut, according to a new report by Andrew Kreig at Nieman Watchdog and OpEd News.

The finding of evidence suppression against Dannehy's team dovetails closely with her appointment as special prosecutor in the U.S. attorney firings case. It also raises questions about a Justice Department investigation into a possible Bush-era coverup on torture.

Kreig, a veteran journalist and lawyer, is executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Justice Integrity Project. He reports:

In September 2008, the Bush Justice Department appointed career federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy to investigate allegations that Bush officials in 2006 illegally fired nine U.S. attorneys who wouldn’t politicize official corruption investigations.

But just four days before her appointment, a federal appeals court had ruled that a team of prosecutors led by Dannehy illegally suppressed evidence in a major political corruption case in Connecticut. The prosecutors’ misconduct was so serious that the court vacated seven of the eight convictions in the case.

The evidence-suppression story was covered in the Connecticut press, but it apparently never received scrutiny when Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey named Dannehy a special prosecutor. Does the public have reason to doubt Dannehy's judgment now that she has found criminal charges were not warranted in the U.S. attorney firings? The Connecticut case indicates the answer is yes. Writes Kreig:


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