Emmet Sullivan

Court Dismisses Suit on Constitutionality of Filibuster

Among the hottest issues looking forward to the beginning of the 113th Congress is the status of the filibuster. Will it remain in the status quo of recent decades, the 60 vote Senate roadblock, or will there be movement to return, or at least move closer towards, a majority vote Senate?

One of the more interesting tacts in the filibuster reform fight has been an effort by a group of people, led by Common Cause, and including members of Congress such as Representatives John Lewis, Keith Ellison, Michael Michaud and Hank Johnson, to have the filibuster declared unconstitutional by a federal Article III court. They filed their complaint on May 15th of this year and issued a press release describing their effort.

Very early this morning, the effort came to a screeching halt with an order from the DC District Court dismissing the case pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This decision was, quite unfortunately, absolutely certain to have been made, and today was so ordered by Judge Emmet Sullivan.

The plaintiffs’ goal was described by the court thusly:

They bring this suit against representatives of the United States Senate seeking a declaratory judgment that Rule XXII (the “Cloture Rule” or the “Filibuster Rule”) — which requires a vote of sixty senators to proceed with or close debate on bills or presidential nominations and a two-thirds vote to proceed with or close debate on proposed amendments to the Senate Rules — is unconstitutional because it is “inconsistent with the principle of majority rule.” In the alternative, Plaintiffs challenge Senate Rule V, which provides that the Senate’s rules continue from one Congress to the next, unless amended.

An admirable goal if there ever was one, but, alas, of the Don Quixote nature perhaps. And so the court found. The first cut was on standing, and none of the plaintiffs made it:

First, the Court cannot find that any of the Plaintiffs have standing to sue. Standing is the bedrock requirement of an Article III court’s jurisdiction to resolve only those cases that present live controversies. While the House Members have presented a unique posture, the Court is not persuaded that their alleged injury — vote nullification — falls into a narrow exception enunciated by the Supreme Court in Raines v. Byrd. And none of the other Plaintiffs have demonstrated that this Court can do anything to remedy the alleged harm they have suffered.

But standing was, by traditional justiciability analysis, the least of the plaintiffs’ concerns; the real problem lay in Separation of Powers between the branches and the historical refusal of federal courts to intrude on the Article I legislative prerogative. And so it was viewed by Judge Sullivan:

Second, and no less important, the Court is firmly convinced that to intrude into this area would offend the separation of powers on which the Constitution rests. Nowhere does the Constitution contain express requirements regarding the proper length of, or method for, the Senate to debate proposed legislation. Article I reserves to each House the power to determine the rules of its proceedings. And absent a rule’s violation of an express constraint in the Constitution or an individual’s fundamental rights, the internal proceedings of the Legislative Branch are beyond the jurisdiction of this Court.

For those reasons, Judge Sullivan dismissed the complaint. There has been no announcement yet made as to appeal by Common Cause et. al, but honesty dictates the conclusion that if you cannot get past Emmet Sullivan, you stand no chance whatsoever in the ultra conservative DC Circuit. By the way, by the time this case could hit the DC Circuit, it will be down and vacant four judges, from a slated eleven seats to only seven filled seats, due to the taking of senior status by Chief Judge David Sentelle, and there is little to no movement or concern by Barack Obama on ameliorating the situation.

The concerns of the DC Circuit health aside, the filibuster lawsuit is going nowhere. Remedy for the Senate blockage will have to come from within the Senate itself, pursuant to Senate Rules modification. As Joan McCarter at Daily Kos reported on Monday, there is some evidence Harry Reid would have the 51 votes necessary to get it done.

Let’s hope Harry Reid has the famed pugilistic cajones he likes to claim, and sees to it that the Senate is returned to a functioning body. There are not just the legislative goals that hang in the lurch, but also a full slate of critical Executive Branch nominations for the coming new term for Obama and, of course, the state of emergency in the Federal Judiciary. Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats can solve that if they have the guts. They can expect nothing but spiteful obstructionism from the Senate Republicans after the election and the “fiscal cliff” showdown.

The Democrats need to govern in the absence of a responsible GOP effort to do so. It starts with fixing the filibuster problem.

Anonymous DOJ Statement: “Trust Us”

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing today to review the results of the Schuelke report on the prosecutorial misconduct in the Ted Stevens case and to entertain the Lisa Murkowski bill requiring disclosure. In response, DOJ submitted a statement for the record, opposing any legislation enforcing its discovery obligations.

When concerns were first raised about the handling of the prosecution of Senator Stevens, the Department immediately conducted an internal review. The Attorney General recognized the importance of ensuring trust and confidence in the work of Department prosecutors and took the extraordinary step of moving to dismiss the case when errors were discovered. Moreover, toensure that the mistakes in the Stevens case would not be repeated, the Attorney General convened a working group to review discovery practices and charged the group with developing recommendations for improving such practices so that errors are minimized. As a result of the working group’s efforts, the Department has taken unprecedented steps, described more fully below, to ensure that prosecutors, agents, and paralegals have the necessary training and resources to fulfill their legal and ethical obligations with respect to discovery in criminal cases. These reforms include a sweeping training curriculum for all federal prosecutors and the requirement–for the first time in the history of the Department of Justice–that every federal prosecutor receive refresher discovery training each year.

In light of these internal reforms, the Department does not believe that legislation is needed to address the problems that came to light in the Stevens prosecution. Such a legislative proposal would upset the careful balance of interests at stake in criminal cases, cause significant harm to victims, witnesses, and law enforcement efforts, and generate substantial and unnecessary litigation that would divert scarce judicial and prosecutorial resources.

In short, DOJ is saying, “trust us. We don’t need a law requiring us to do what case law says we need to.”

Right off the bat, I can think of 5 major problem with this statement:

No one has been held accountable

We are three years past the time when Stevens’ case was thrown out. Yet none of the prosecutors involved have been disciplined in any meaningful way.

No doubt DOJ would say that it will hold prosecutors responsible if and when the Office of Professional Responsibility finds they committed misconduct. But in the interim three years, DOJ as a whole has sent clear messages that it prefers protecting its case to doing anything about misconduct. And–as Chuck Grassley rightly pointed out at the hearing–thus far no one has been held responsible.

This statement may claim DOJ is serious about prosecutorial misconduct. But its actions (and inaction) says the opposite.

Even after this training, discovery problems remain

As the DOJ statement lays out, in response to the Stevens debacle, DOJ rolled out annual training programs for prosecutors to remind them of their discovery obligations.

And yet, last year, Leonie Brinkema found that prosecutors in the Jeff Sterling case had failed to turn over critical evidence about prosecution witnesses–one of the problems with the Stevens prosecution. The prosecutor involved? William Welch, whom Schuelke accused of abdicating his leadership role in the Stevens case (note, DOJ says the CIA is at fault for the late discovery; but Welch is, after all, the prosecutor who bears responsibility for it).

If William Welch can’t even get discovery right after his involvement in this case and, presumably, undergoing the training DOJ promises will fix the problem, then training is not enough to fix the problem.

Eric Holder won’t run DOJ forever

The statement focuses on Holder’s quick decision to dismiss the case against Stevens, as if that, by itself, guards against any similar problems in the future. But before Holder was AG, Michael Mukasey was–and Judge Emmet Sullivan grew so exasperated with Mukasey’s stonewalling on this case, he ordered him to personally respond to questions about the case.

Continue reading

The Full Text of the Schuelke Report on DOJ Misconduct

Earlier this morning, we posted A Primer On Why Schuelke Report Of DOJ Misconduct Is Important that laid out all the legal and procedural background underlying the Schuelke Report into prosecutorial misconduct in the Ted Stevens criminal case.

The full 500 page report has now been released, and is titled:

Report to Hon. Emmet G. Sullivan of Investigation Conducted Pursuant to the Court’s Order, dated April 7, 2009

I wanted to get the post framework and document link up so everybody could read along and digest the report together. Consider this a working thread to put thoughts, key quotes – whatever – into as we chew on the report. Then after having been through it, Marcy and I will; later do smaller stories on specific angles raised.

We know the irreducible minimum found:

The investigation and prosecution of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens were permeated by the systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence which would have independently corroborated Senator Stevens’s defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government’s key witness

You would think the involved attorneys would be ducking and apologizing for their ethical lapses that terminated the career of the powerful chairman of the Appropriations Committee on the US Senate. You would, of course, be wrong.

The mouthpiece for Brenda Morris, Chuck Rosenburg, is already clucking:

Brenda is a woman of tremendous integrity and an exceptionally talented prosecutor—she was fully honest with the investigators and always hoped that one day this report would be made public so that the facts of her individual role would be known.

Um, no, Ms. Morris does not smell like a rose here Chuck. Edward Sullivan, one of the AUSAs had this statement by his lawyer already this morning:

Mr. Sullivan is a diligent attorney, with strong character and integrity, whose conduct comports with the Department’s highest ethical standards. Mr. Sullivan was rightfully exonerated by Mr. Schuelke and the Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, and his vindication is evidenced by the fact that he continues to prosecute cases in the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section

Well, yeah, sure, you betcha Ed Sullivan. I guess that is why as late as yesterday you were personally in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals trying to have the whole matter both stayed and sealed and were arguing you would be harmed if it wasn’t. Today, Edward Sullivan is suddenly a spring flower of purity.

So, yes, all these spring flowers in bloom must be operating off some pretty fertilizer, and the manure is indeed rather deep. So, let us dive in and see what we find. Put your thought, comments and opinions in comment as we work. See you there!

William Welch Probably NOT One of the Attorneys Who Engaged in Gross Prosecutorial Misconduct in Stevens Case

As Ryan Reilly reported, Judge Emmet Sullivan is moving forward with his plan to release the scathing report on the Ted Stevens prosecution showing the prosecution was “permeated by the systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence.”

Back when descriptions of this report first surfaced, I asked, “Why Is William Welch, Whose Team Is Accused of Intentional Prosecutorial Misconduct, Still at DOJ?

Given Sullivan’s latest order, I think the answer must be that Welch is not one of the four DOJ lawyers most badly implicated in the report. That’s because DOJ, which after all still employs Welch to prosecute whistleblowers, had no objection to the report being released on March 15.

The Department of Justice’s Notice advised the Court that it “does not intend to file a motion regarding Mr. Schuelke’s report” and that “[t]he government does not contend that there is any legal prohibition on the disclosure of any references in Mr. Schuelke’s report to grand jury material, court authorized interceptions of wire communications, or any sealed pleadings or transcripts that have now been unsealed.” Notice of Dep’t of Justice Regarding Materials Referenced in Mr. Schuelke’s Report, at 1-2 (“DOJ Notice”). In addition, the Department of Justice informed the Court that it was not asserting any deliberative process or attorney-work product privilege with respect to the information contained in Mr. Schuelke’s Report.

Criminal Division head Lanny Breuer has already proven himself more than willing to hide the misconduct of his prosecutors; I have no doubt he’d do so here if it badly implicated any of his current attorneys.

So I’m guessing–though that is a guess–that Welch is not one of the four fighting to prevent this release.

Lanny Breuer Rewards DOJ Lawyers for Winning Impunity for Prosecutorial Misconduct

I always like reading DOJ’s various expressions of their investigative and prosecutorial priorities–because they usually show a disinterest in prosecuting banksters, a thorough waste of resources on entrapping young Muslims, and an ongoing fondness for Anna Chapman.

Lanny Breuer’s choice of DOJ lawyers to recognize yesterday was, in some ways, an improvement over the trend. I’m happy to see prosecutors rewarded for taking down the “Lost Boy” website. Rather than fixating on Anna Chapman and entrapping young Muslims, Breuer recognized prosecutors who entrapped older Muslims who attempted to smuggle someone they believed to be a Taliban member into the US. And Breuer even celebrated the rare prosecution of a bankster, Lee Bentley Farkas.

And while Breuer’s multiple awards to people seemingly making it easier to shut down the InterToobz in the guise of IP violations concerns me, it’s this bit that I found disgusting.

The Assistant Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service was presented to Kirby Heller and Deborah Watson of the Criminal Division’s Appellate Section for their exceptional work in the successful appeal of sanctions imposed upon federal prosecutors in the case of Dr. Ali Shaygan.

Effectively, Lanny Breuer is rewarding two appellate section lawyers for winning an 11th Circuit Court decision overturning sanctions imposed on DOJ for gross prosecutorial misconduct. Breuer’s priorities, it seems, include ensuring that DOJ pays no price when it abuses its prosecutorial power.

The case goes back to February 2008, when Ali Shaygan was indicted for distributing controlled substances outside the scope of his medical practice; one charge tied that distribution to the death of one of Shaygan’s patients. Shaygan ended up hiring a defense team that included one attorney who had had a run-in with the prosecutors in his case. In addition, the lead prosecutor, Sean Paul Cronin, was admittedly buddies with the lead DEA Agent, Chris Wells. After Shaygan’s lawyers attempted (ultimately, successfully) to suppress a DEA interview with Shaygan on Miranda grounds, Cronin threatened the team.

AUSA Cronin warned David Markus, Shaygan’s lead attorney, that pursuing the suppression motion would result in a “seismic shift” in the case because “his agent,” Chris Wells, did not lie.

Nine months later, during the trial, one of the prosecution’s witnesses alluded in cross-examination that he had tapes of conversations–failed attempts to bribe Shaygan’s lawyer–at home.

During the cross-examination of Clendening on February 19, 2009, Shaygan’s counsel, Markus, asked Clendening if he recalled a telephone conversation in which Clendening told Markus that he would have to pay him for his testimony, and Clendening responded, “No. I got it on a recording at my house.”

This revelation led to exposure of the government’s collateral, failed investigation of Markus for witness tampering, as well as a significant number of discovery violations. In short, it became clear the government tried, unsuccessfully, to catch Markus bribing witnesses for favorable testimony and then hid all evidence they had tried. The prosecutor in the case was not properly firewalled form that investigation and even personally claimed to give authorization to tape the conversations. And in the days before the trial, the prosecutor checked in on the witness tampering investigation, apparently hoping to force Markus to withdraw from the case just as it went to trial. In the end, Shaygan was acquitted of all 141 charges against him.

After the trial, Miami District Court Judge Alan Gold held a sanctions hearing against the government for its gross misconduct. He held the government in violation of the Hyde Amendment. He had them pay all reasonable costs after a superseding indictment he judged was filed as part of the “seismic shift in strategy.” And he publicly reprimanded the prosecutors involved in the case.

Now, the government admitted that it committed significant errors.

The United States acknowledges that it initiated a collateral investigation into witness tampering and authorized two witnesses, Carlos Vento and Trinity Clendening, to tape their discussions with members of the defense team in violation of United States Attorney’s Office policy; that, although there were efforts made to erect a “taint wall,” the wall was imperfect and was breached by the trial prosecutors, AUSA Sean Paul Cronin and Andrea Hoffman, at least in part, because the case agent, DEA Special Agent Christopher Wells, was initially on both sides of the wall; and that, because the United States violated its discovery obligations by not disclosing to the defense “(a) that witnesses Vento and Clendening were cooperating with the government by recording their conversations with members of the defense team, and (b) Vento’s and Clendening’s recorded statements at the time of their trial testimony.” Finally, the United States “acknowledges and regrets” that, “in complying with the Court’s pre-trial order to produce all DEA-6 reports for in camera inspection on February 12, 2009 (Court Ex. 6), the government failed to provide the Court with the two DEA-6 reports regarding the collateral investigation, specifically Agent Wells’ December 12, 2008 report (Court Ex. 2) and Agent Brown’s January 16, 2009 report (Court Ex. 3).”

After the sanctions hearing, the government agreed to pay some legal fees associated with their misconduct. They just objected, and appealed, to the public reprimand and the requirement they pay for all fees after the superseding indictment.

But the appeals court not only threw out the entire financial sanction, it also vacated the public reprimands of the lawyers.

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At About the Time He Subpoenaed Judy Miller, Patrick Fitzgerald Interviewed Cheney a SECOND Time

When I recover a bit more from having finished Dick Cheney’s infernal tome, I will have more to say about it.

But I wanted to point to this piece of news in it that no one has yet noted:

I participated in two lengthy sessions with the special counsel. The first was in my West Wing office in May 2004. The second was in Jackson Hole Wyoming, in August 2004. The second session was conducted under oath so that my testimony could be submitted to the grand jury.(408)

That is, Patrick Fitzgerald interviewed Cheney not just the one time we knew about–on May 8, 2004. But he also interviewed Cheney sometime during August 2004 (at least according to Cheney), apparently in anticipation of submitting that testimony to the grand jury.

The timing of this is pretty telling.

On August 12, 2004, Fitzgerald subpoenaed Judy Miller to testify. And on August 27, 2004, he wrote an affidavit justifying his subpoena, focusing closely on Scooter Libby’s claims that he had been ordered by Dick Cheney to leak material to Miller. And we know from Cheney’s first interview that he hung Libby out to dry, denying any knowledge of such things.

The Vice President does not recall any member of his staff, including Scooter Libby, meeting with New York Times reporter Judith Miller during the week of 7/7/03, just after publication of Joe Wilson’s editorial in the New York Times.

[snip]

The Vice President advised that no one ever told him of a desire to share key judgments of the NIE with a news reporter prior to the NIEs declassification on 7/18/03.

[snip]

The Vice President cannot specifically recall having a conversation with Scooter Libby during which Libby advised the Vice President that he wanted to share with the key judgments of the NIE with Judith Miller. Although if it did occur, he would have advised Libby only to use something if it was declassified. He believed Libby would have told him about any attempts to put something out to the media prior to its declassification and the Vice President cannot recall such a discussion.

When asked if he ever had a conversation with Scooter Libby wherein Libby informed the Vice President that certain material within the NIE needed to be declassified before it could be shared externally, Vice President Cheney advised he does not recall.

To a large degree, Cheney’s first answers–assuming they remained substantively the same in the second interview–necessitated Judy Miller’s testimony, since Libby had clear notes about being ordered to leak material to Miller that had been effectively hidden by his lies about Russert. Libby’s notes made it appear like he might have leaked Plame’s identity to Miller (which turned out to be the case). And Cheney’s refusal to claim he had authorized that leak put Libby at real risk of an IIPA indictment.

This interview raises a few more questions. First, in his first interview, Cheney did not release the journalists he had spoken with from their pledge of confidentiality. Bob Novak testified on September 14, 2004; though Fitzgerald’s affidavit makes it clear much of that discussion was about his conversation with Richard Armitage, Novak spoke with someone at OVP on July 7, 2003, so it has always been possible he was hiding a Cheney conversation.

In addition, Judy Miller explained away the “Aspens connected at the roots” comment by relating a chance encounter with Libby in Jackson Hole in August 2003 (not 2004). Though when I asked her if she had seen Cheney on that same trip, she did not answer. Is it possible the reference to Jackson Hole was a coded reference to Cheney?

Finally–and critically importantly–when CREW FOIAed this interview, they asked for “all transcripts, reports, notes and other documents relating to any interviews outside the presence of the grand jury of Vice President Richard B. Cheney that are part of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation into the leak of the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson.” In other words, this second interview would have been squarely within the terms of their request. This interview should have been released under their FOIA, but was not.

This previously unreported Cheney interview would appear to go right to the heart of why Patrick Fitzgerald subpoenaed Judy Miller to find out whether Scooter Libby leaked Valerie Plame’s identity to her. And for some reason, it appears the Bush and Obama DOJ didn’t want us to read it.

What Judge Sullivan’s Opinion Means

As I reported, Judge Emmet Sullivan has issued his ruling in the Dick Cheney interview FOIA, ruling partly for and partly against CREW. Sullivan has ordered DOJ to turn over the documents in question by October 9. He has directed DOJ to redact the information exempted in two earlier filings. So, as I suggested, we’ll get some new information. But we won’t learn how Cheney answered when asked whether Bush authorized him to leak classified information (which ended up including Valerie Wilson’s identity).

Here’s some more detail on what the ruling means.

A Rebuke to Obama’s Executive Power Grab

While Judge Sullivan accepted all of Ralph DiMaio and David Barron’s specific exemptions based on national security or deliberative grounds, he rejected the laughable DOJ argument that releasing Cheney’s interview materials would dissuade other high level White House officials from cooperating in investigations. That’s important, because it rejects a theory that would shield a great deal of information on White House criminality. Here’s Sullivan’s description of everything that would be shielded under such a theory.

In this sense, the category of proceedings that DOJ asks this Court to conclude are “reasonably anticipated” could encompass any law enforcement investigation during which law enforcement might wish to interview senior White House officials. Such proceedings might include an investigation into alleged criminal activity that physically took place in the White House; financial wrongdoing by a White House official that took place before or during his or her tenure in the executive branch; misconduct relating to official responsibilities, such as the breach of national security protocol that formed the basis of the Plame investigation; or even an event occurring outside the White House with only tangential connection to one or more White House officials. Thus conceived, it becomes clear that the scope of the proceedings described by DOJ is breathtakingly broad.

I’m guessing, but unless the parts of Cheney’s interview Sullivan has ordered to be released are a lot more scandalous than I think they are, I don’t think Obama’s DOJ will appeal this because it’s unlikely the Appeals Court will agree with them, and as we’ve seen, Obama’s Administration tends to go to great lengths to avoid letting Appeals Courts issue rulings in relatively unimportant cases that reign in executive power. 

Continue reading

Judge Sullivan Rejects DOJ’s Expansive Claims to Protect Cheney Interview

Judge Sullivan has rejected DOJ’s most expansive claims they used to try to protect Dick Cheney’s CIA Leak case interview.

I am reading this now for more detail, but the key graph is this one.

For the reasons stated above, the Court concludes that the agency has met its burden of demonstrating that certain limited information was appropriately withheld from disclosure to protect the well-recognized deliberative process and presidential communications privileges under Exemption 5, personal privacy under Exemptions 6 and 7(C), and national security interests under Exemptions 1 and 3. The Court cannot, however, permit the government to withhold the records in their entirety under Exemption 7(A) on the basis that disclosure might interfere with some unidentifiable and unspecified future law enforcement proceedings. The purpose of Exemption 7(A) is to protect specific ongoing or reasonably anticipated law enforcement proceedings. There are no such proceedings at issue here. Neither congressional intent nor well-established precedent supports the application of the exemption under the circumstances in this case, and the Court declines the government’s invitation to create a new, per se FOIA exemption for any and all law enforcement interviews involving high level White House officials. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment. An appropriate Order accompanies this
Memorandum Opinion.

I suspect this will still shield the key information about whether or not Bush authorized Cheney to leak classified information–up to and including Plame’s identity. 

I’ll confirm that after I’ve read more carefully.

Update: Here’s Sullivan’s order. He’s ordering DOJ to turn over a redacted document by October 9. It seems that Sullivan has permitted DOJ to shield everything listed under the CIA and DOJ declarations, which will shield whether or not Bush explicitly authorized Shooter and Scooter to go leaking classified information to shut Joe Wilson up.

Does Lanny Breuer Have a Conflict in the Cheney Interview FOIA Case?

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer’s background has been a key topic of discussion in CREW’s lawsuit to force DOJ to release Dick Cheney’s interview with Patrick Fitzgerald. The problem is, DOJ forgot to reveal that Breuer had represented one of the people involved with issues directly related to Cheney’s interview.

DOJ needed an expert on investigations of White House officials–so they got Breuer

During a hearing on whether or not DOJ should release Dick Cheney’s interview with Patrick Fitzgerald back in June, Judge Emmet Sullivan suggested that DOJ ought to have someone with actual experience in investigations of high level White House officials make their argument that releasing Cheney’s interview would make such investigations more difficult in the future.

MR. SMITH: In this case I don’t see — the law enforcement issue here is very unique and it’s very different than I think in Sussman and in most other cases. It’s an interest, it’s basically a chilling interest that if the Vice-President’s interview is released, that could have a chilling effect on future senior leadership.

THE COURT: Says who?

MR. SMITH: Says the Attorney General Mukasy [sic], that was his conclusion.

THE COURT: He didn’t file a declaration. Mr. Bradbury filed a declaration. He didn’t base it upon any experience, he didn’t base it upon anything. He didn’t articulate the bases for his declaration. Other than he was designated to follow declaration. So it wasn’t Mr. Mukasy [sic] who filed the declaration which arguably could have carried great weight. If the chief law enforcement officer says based on my experience and experience of others in law enforcement, it could have but that’s not the case here. Bradbury was a political appointee. I don’t know what his experience was. He was appointed to, maybe he was appointed to file this declaration. I don’t know what else he did. He’s no longer there at OLC. And essentially the government in footnote says I should defer to his declaration.

This is not a deferential review. I want to be clear I’m not suggesting that the Attorney General should sign a declaration. I’m not ordering, certainly not ordering him to do anything, but I’m just saying in response to what you just said arguably it could have carried greater weight for such a declaration to come from a law enforcement official based upon his or her experiences with respect to this chilling effect. Otherwise, it’s just an assumption this man makes based upon nothing he can point to. [my emphasis]

So rather than have the discredited Steven Bradbury submit this declaration, DOJ got Breuer to do so. After Breuer submitted a statement arguing that release of Cheney’s interview will present some new disincentive for high level White House officials in the future to cooperate that thirty years of routine release don’t already present, CREW questioned what basis Breuer had to make that claim.

The only experience plaintiff is aware of Mr. Breuer having with law enforcement investigations involving the White House is his tenure as special counsel to President Clinton during the Independent Counsel’s “Whitewater” investigation. Continue reading

“Protecting” President Cheney, Too

In today’s second installment on ways American taxpayers are wasting money to protect Dick Cheney from embarrassment, Josh Gerstein has a report on today’s hearing on CREW’s FOIA of Cheney’s interview in the CIA Leak Case. And DOJ is unabashedly making the argument that it should not release Dick Cheney’s interview because it might embarrrass him. (h/t MadDog)

Smith said the Justice Department’s view was that a delay of five to ten years was appropriate, marked from the time the official or his or her administration left office. “It’s a judgment call,” Smith acknowledged.

Smith suggested that such a delay would make it more likely that the information was used for historical purposes and not for political embarrassment. “The distinction is between releasing it for historical view and releasing it into the political fray,” Smith said.

Funny, DOJ claimed it was arguing for the longer-than-statutes-of-limitation delay because of concerns that future Vice Presidents wouldn’t cooperate willingly with investigations. As time goes on an their arguments look shittier and shittier, I guess, they become more and more truthful. Thus their invention of a new FOIA embarrassment exemption.

It sounds like Emmet Sullivan is not buying that argument–though he is also unwilling to just order the release of the interview without giving Obama’s DOJ an opportunity to waste more money protecting Cheney from embarrassment.

As the hearing concluded, Sullivan said he thought Congress had drawn a “bright line” with language in the Freedom of Information Act that generally exempts information about pending investigations from disclosure, but not closed probes, like the CIA leak case. He also said he would stay any ruling so the government could appeal before he released any documents.

President Obama? Attorney General Holder? This nonsense has gone on long enough. As I noted, Cheney’s participation in this probe is proof enough that the investigative concerns are bunk. It really is high time to stop wasting money preventing taxpayers from learning what Cheney did in our name.

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz @JasonLeopold Well, I know it's early and all, but Merry Christmas! I have ordered a gift subscription for you!
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bmaz @Sherry_Reson @JayAckroyd Wait....birthday?
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bmaz RT @azcentral: NEW DETAILS Director at Barrow Neurological Institute arrested with AR-15 rifle at Sky Harbor http://t.co/IgGYMXpTyR http:/…
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bmaz @azcentral @brahmresnik Is this guy one of the 2nd A gun nuts who go to businesses with assault weapons just to belligerently show they can?
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bmaz @jeff_kaye Agree.
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bmaz RT @dcbigjohn: Truly fantastic @AramRoston story: How A One-Time Pig Peddler Helped The U.S. Flood War Zones With Guns http://t.co/fL6eBdl1
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bmaz @pbump T-Mobile, not Verizon
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bmaz @ColMorrisDavis @jaketapper It is patently false, and it is reckless to disseminate that.
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bmaz @ColMorrisDavis @jaketapper Let's be honest, Bob Baer in that article is either ignorant or he is lying about war crime status of mistake.
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bmaz @ColMorrisDavis @Krhawkins5 I think they are willing to make noise, but never have the guts to pull the trigger or go full Mike Gravel.
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bmaz @ColMorrisDavis @Krhawkins5 Not impossible, but remember all the noise Wyden+Udall made re NSA and, yet, never really did anything big.
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