Dick and Ed and the NH Phone-Jamming

Now that we know that Dick Cheney’s lawyer was working DOJ to make sure that James Tobin would not be indicted until after the 2004 election, it’s probably worth returning to another few aspects of this story that involve the White House.

First, recall that the RNC paid for Tobin’s legal bills–to the tune of $3 million, most of that to Cheney’s lawyer’s firm.

The Republican National Committee, in turn, has paid $3 million in legal fees in criminal and civil cases growing out of the controversy. The RNC has paid at least $2.8 million to Williams & Connolly and other firms for Tobin’s defense, and about $150,000 to Covington & Burling to defend the RNC in a civil suit brought by the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

The RNC’s legal fees exceed the $2.4 million spent by Sununu, the winner of the U.S. Senate race.

Also recall that the NH GOP was on the phone with the White House just as the phone-jamming scandal was blowing up in its face.

Most tantalizingly to Democrats, evidence filed in Tobin’s trial in December shows 22 phone calls from Tobin to the White House between 11:20 a.m. Election Day, two hours after the phone jamming was shut down, and 2:17 a.m. the next day, four hours after the outcome of the election was announced.

Obviously, both details would seem to point to direct White House involvement. But conveniently for the White House, Ed Gillespie hid the White House’s direct involvement by claiming he made the decision to have the RNC pay Tobin’s bills.

Former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie decided to pay Tobin’s legal fees. "He was accused of doing something in his capacity as an RNC consultant, and we believed him to be innocent," Gillespie said. While the RNC had no contractual obligation, "it’s the custom, not written anywhere, that you covered your people," Gillespie said.

Gillespie said he informed the White House, but did not seek formal approval, before authorizing the payments. Mehlman said that under his chairmanship, consulting contracts now explicitly declare that independent contractors must be prepared to pay their own legal costs in civil and criminal cases.

Though, the New Hampshire Union Leader (from their paid archives; story date is May 19, 2006) notes that Gillespie’s story about whether he informed the White House before or after he authorized the payments changed a bit.

The former Chairman of the Republican National Committee remembers telling someone at the White House that he had decided to have the RNC pay the legal defense bills for convicted phone-jamming conspirator James Tobin, but he can’t remember who.

Ed Gillespie told the New Hampshire Union Leader yesterday he informed the White House after he decided to authorize payment.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Gillespie told its reporter that he had "informed the White House, without seeking formal approval, before authorizing the payments."

Gillespie told the Union Leader the two accounts were "consistent" because he decided to authorize the payments before telling the White House and actually authorized the payments after telling the White House.

[snip]

Gillespie yesterday told the Union Leader he could not remember who at the White House he informed of his decision to pick up Tobin’s legal bills. "I’m not going to guess," he said. "It was years ago, but as a matter of routine, I would have told somebody over there."

If someone at the White House had expressed displeasure with his decision, Gillespie said, "It was too late. I had made the decision and they were not involved in it."

Gillespie’s story stank, long before the news that Cheney’s own lawyer was involved in the defense, and long before Gillespie got brought in to replace Dan Bartlett and Karl Rove in the era of exploding scandals. But now that we know Cheney’s lawyer was involved, it gets stinkier.

One thing that’s unclear is when Gillespie made this decision–in 2002 or 2004? In 2002, Gillespie was working for Liddy Dole. Gillespie was appointed RNC chair in July 2003 (and served until January 2005). So if he made the decision to pay for Tobin’s defense while Chair (a reasonable assumption), then it may well have been in 2004, just as the election season was heating up. In other words, this conversation that Gillespie conveniently can’t remember? It may well have been a discussion held during the campaign to pay Dick’s personal lawyer (and friends) to postpone the indictment until after the election.

Finally, there’s this tidbit from McClatchy’s story.

On Oct. 1, 2004, Hinnen got the green light to prepare an indictment, but was directed to first give Tobin lawyer O’Donnell a chance to make his client’s case. O’Donnell requested delays and then told Hinnen, Parsky and other senior officials that an unidentified lawyer had advised Tobin that the jamming was legal. [my emphasis]

I irresponsibly speculated that this unidentified lawyer is Ben Ginsberg, who was Bush-Cheney’s outside Counsel in 2000 and 2004–until he had to step down in 2004 when it was revealed he was working for the Swift Boaters at the same time as he was advising Bush-Cheney, which amounts to illegal coordination between the two campaigns. He also regularly represents the RNC and the NRSC (remember, the election in question was the Sununu Senate election). In short, Ginsberg is both the kind of guy who is happy to straddle between official campaigns and dirty tricksters, as he did in 2004. And he’s a man with a proven appreciation for dirty tricks. Then again, perhaps the person who approved the program was in the White House–though that would be astonishing even for the Bush thugs.

So imagine, if you will, that either Ben Ginsberg or someone very like him had given Tobin the legal green light to do the phone jamming. It would sure change the implications of that $3 million legal defense the RNC bought Tobin. Not only would that $3 million be an attempt to protect whomever it was at the White House involved in the scandal. But it would protect the decision-makers who approved of the phone jamming ahead of time–people who likely were and are central figures in RNC circles.

John Conyers is calling on DOJ to start answering some questions about this investigation. Which may well implicate top Republicans faster than the USA Purge, not least because it goes through the RNC to get to the White House. 

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

17 replies
  1. looseheadprop says:

    John Conyers is calling on DOJ to start answering some questions about this investigation. Which may well implicate top Republicans faster than the USA Purge, not least because it goes through the RNC to get to the White House.

    So back to those RNC email accoutns then, aye?

    • emptywheel says:

      Yes, but there’s also the guy who did jail time who is all chatty about this stuff. And how much fun would it be to subpoena Gillespie to appear, who as RNC Chair wouldn’t have privilege issues. We’d finally get a key WH person in Congress, even if only for things he did before he got to the White House.

  2. MadDog says:

    John Conyers is calling on DOJ to start answering some questions about this investigation.

    I would be surprised if Conyers’ call produces anything from Mukasey’s DOJ but a deafening silence.

    I am willing to be surprised, but I’m likely to spy Santa and his reindeer flying overhead before I glimpse a responsive DOJ.

  3. MadDog says:

    OT and duplicated in EW’s 2004 post:

    Some updated info on the briefings timeline from the AP:

    Congress Reviews CIA Videotape Documents

    …At the Justice Department, investigators were combing through CIA e-mails and other documents and planning to interview former agency officials. One official familiar with the investigation said the review so far indicates that Alberto Gonzales, who served as White House counsel and then attorney general, advised against destroying the videotapes as one of four senior Bush administration attorneys discussing how to handle them…

    ~snip~

    Another of the administration attorneys, John Bellinger, then a lawyer at the National Security Council, has told colleagues that administration lawyers came to a consensus that the tapes should not be destroyed, said a senior official familiar with Bellinger’s account of the 2003 White House discussion. Bellinger could not be reached for comment.

    “The clear recommendation of Bellinger and the others was against destruction of the tapes,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “The recommendation in 2003 from the White House was that the tapes should not be destroyed.

    ~snip~

    Muller, who headed the CIA’s legal office from 2002 to 2004, advised agency officials against destroying the tapes, according to former government officials familiar with the situation who are not authorized to speak on the record.

    So, it appears from spin of the WH vested-interest leaking, that the consensus was not to destroy. The consensus being Fredo, Bellinger, Scott Muller, and purportedly, Harriet Miers.

    And since the NYT earlier reported that some were actually interested in destroying the tapes, one could ask who could that possibly be?

    The only lawyer attending the meeting who has not be reported to be against destroying the tapes is David Addington.

    But the meetings definitely started in 2003.

  4. maryo2 says:

    Where did the other $13,000 that NHGOP gave to GOP Marketplace go? What did that money purchase?

    House Judiciary Committee testimony
    http://a9.g.akamai.net/7/9/808…..mittee.pdf

    Wiki says “During that state’s 2002 election for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Robert C. Smith, the NHGOP hired GOP Marketplace, based in Northern Virginia, to jam another phone bank being used by the state Democratic Party and the firefighters’ union for efforts to turn out voters.”

    Then House Judiciary Committee testimony says “The Republican State Committee paid GOP Marketplace $15,600 on Nov. 1.”

    But Allen Raymond said “He paid the vendor, which the Manchester police have identified as Milo Enterprise of Idaho, $2,500 to make the repeated calls, according to court documents. On Nov. 5, 2002, Milo made about 800 calls between 7:45 and 9:10 a.m., when the phone company unblocked the lines.”
    http://www.cmonitor.com/apps/p…..001/NEWS01

  5. nolo says:

    O/T, but definitely BREAKING!:

    judge kennedy’s clerk has just
    cleared — for security — the
    filings for tomorrow’s torture
    tape destruction hearing. . .
    very few redactions in the
    first set — and i have the full-
    text up! click this to see ‘em
    .

    i’ll be posting the exhibits to
    the pleadings, later this evening,
    but this is going to be very explosive,
    tomorrow. take a look at the assertion
    that more tapes likely exist, even now,
    at gitmo! yeowza!

    we now return you to dick-lawyers’ jammin’. . .

    p e a c e

  6. radiofreewill says:

    OT Does anyone remember a story back around Aug/Sep about a Private Contractor to the Intelligence Community, who hand-delivered Tapes and a Transcription of the Arabic directly to the White House (which was unusual,) regarding the internet chats of Al Qaeda?

  7. radiofreewill says:

    May 2004, The West Wing…

    “Well, David, there’s really no question here, the Tapes must be preserved.”

    “What the fuck, John!? That’s horseshit! Those are fucking Training Videos!”

    “Training Videos? Excuse me, but David, you call that Training? Fredo, what kind of Training does that look like to you?”

    “It’s looks to me like we’re Training ‘em to do teh Kickin’ Chicken!”

    “You think that’s funny, dontcha? Well, that just got you two pussies Compartmentalized! From here on out, I’m dealing directly with Jose through Scooter! In the meantime, you two just tell everyone that we came to a ‘concensus’ not to destroy the fucking Tapes…and I’ll take care of the rest.”

  8. BayStateLibrul says:

    “Gillespie said he informed the White House, but did not seek formal approval, before authorizing the payments. Mehlman said that under his chairmanship, consulting contracts now explicitly declare that independent contractors must be prepared to pay their own legal costs in civil and criminal cases.”

    Coudn’t you argue that Tobin was an “employee” rather than an independent
    contractor?
    Wouldn’t that change the dynamic?

  9. JohnLopresti says:

    With a likely debilitated DOJ voting rights section, though at last news Tanner had vacated in a lateral transfer and employees had a bye fest after work, only to learn the next few days Tanner had returned with laptop to occupy same desk in room devoid of files and usual supplies; as well as a lameduck mostly expired terms or ‘recess’ appointees FEC; it is important to examine phoneJamming with respect to the future election process. I have found little time to examine any regulatory relief from the clearly illegal jamming enterprise; but will do some of that research. Yet, with the denatured tenor of FCC pronouncements, as well as those of Commerce Dept with respect to hyperpolitical areas like jamming would be, I expect little oversight from this crew. A quick searchengine review reminds that many of the prominent investigative websites are on this story; it is nice to see the recently daring McClatchy post material. My instaReview reconjured events as far back as Rollin Post’s escapades on Whitman’s behalf, and a penumbral case in NJ. Also, there were several videoconference glitches in a liberal’s campaign for SecyOfSt in CA, that may have been isdn or some more political malfunction other than that notoriously unstable comms protocol. To me, it is one area in which entities like Mueller’s outfit as well as US attys could do yeoperson work if the blaster apparatuses were to go into action in the approaching electoral season. Thor Hearne recently has submitted an amicus brief in pro per instead of attempting to re-invent the evanesced ACVR, in re the repressive IN voter ID law case Scotus is to hear soon. A lot of the same demographic profiling folks who employed these kinds of dirty tricks to repress Democratic party constituents remain interested in promulgating their slippery way of tangentializing the voting process.

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