Terry O’Donnell

Dick Cheney: Wanted for Bribery

Nigeria has made it official. Today, it charged Dick Cheney with 16 bribery-related charges.

While that’s not unexpected, I’m amused by Dick Cheney’s Defense-Attorney-on-Call Terry O’Donnell’s response to the charges:

Mr Cheney’s lawyer, Terence O’Donnell, said US investigators had “found no suggestion of any impropriety by Dick Cheney in his role of CEO of Halliburton”.

“Any suggestion of misconduct on his part, made now, years later, is entirely baseless,” Mr O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell suggests that because the US conducted its own investigation–mostly during a period when Cheney remained the most powerful man in government and when DOJ was clearly politicized–then Nigeria should be unable to do so, too.

Particularly given Mary’s very intriguing post about competing jurisdictions and missing millions in Switzerland, I find that response particularly notable.

Isikoff Doubles Down on His Anonymous Leak from Cheney’s Lawyer

Michael Isikoff’s coverage of Dick Cheney’s interview (h/t Leen) seems designed as much to defend his bad reporting on the CIA Leak case as to report the content of the interview itself. It’s not that I expected Isikoff to point out that Cheney refused to say things to Fitzgerald that Cheney’s own lawyer had been willing to say to Isikoff. Whatever the ethical and logical problems with reporting O’Donnell’s leak uncritically, Isikoff granted him anonymity and I fully expected Isikoff to continue to honor that pledge.

What’s pathetic about Isikoff’s coverage, however, is that he doubles down on the content of the leak O’Donnell gave to him!

Perhaps the most intriguing parts of the interview occurred toward the end, when Cheney was asked about President Bush’s decision in June 2003 to declassify portions of a National Intelligence Estimate about Iraqi WMD.  The federal investigators wanted to know what he had told Libby about the president’s decision.  (The declassification led to Libby’s selective leaking to New York Times reporter Judy Miller about some portions of the NIE that appeared to bolster the White House position about Iraqi WMD.)

Isikoff here repeats the several details from O’Donnell’s leak that almost certainly were invented in 2006 to fix the obvious, glaring logical inconsistencies in Scooter Libby’s story (but which, regardless of what O’Donnell said to Isikoff anonymously, remain glaring inconsistencies): the claim that the declassification occurred, the claim that it occurred in June, and the claim that the declassification led to the leak to Judy Miller. Note, the FBI didn’t ask Cheney about the date at all! The only one who mentions the day is Michael Isikoff, based on what Cheney’s defense attorney told him. And in fact, some of Cheney’s comments during this interview actually undermine that story (though his comments about the NIE declassification are thoroughly incoherent, which ought to make a reporter think twice about the NIE story itself). In other words, Isikoff’s reporting on this is actually Isikoff glossing Cheney’s interview with comments Cheney’s own defense attorney made anonymously to Isikoff at a time when Cheney had the need to shore up the inconsistencies in that part of the story.

And besides≤, don’t you think Isikoff should have thought seriously about what it meant that Cheney’s NIE story in his interview was so incoherent, but that Cheney’s defense attorney gave Isikoff such a coherent story?

Interestingly, Isikoff also goes out of his way to establish his cred here. He notes that Cheney claimed he had a low opinion of Newsweek.

Asked if he had authorized Libby to provide information about the issue to NEWSWEEK as well as Time, Cheney said “he could not conceive” of doing so because “he does not have a very favorable view of NEWSWEEK.”

Again, you have to wonder what went through Isikoff’s head when he wrote this. Such an unfavorable opinion of Newsweek that when they needed to plant a cover story about the NIE, they chose Isikoff? (Sort of like when OVP wanted to seed its “Libby was not the leaker” story in October 2003, they instructed Scott McClellan to go to Isikoff.) There are several ways to unpack this comment, but Isikoff revels in the claims Cheney made about Newsweek in an interview packed with lies, anyway, and in fact turns the story into “Cheney versus the press” rather than “Cheney using the press.”

Also, somewhat bizarrely, Isikoff appears to mis-attribute a comment Cheney made to the NYT. He said,

(Cheney appeared to have expressed similar views of The New York Times, although for reasons that are not clear, portions of the passage in which he discusses the newspaper are redacted.)

Continue reading

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. 

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Cheney’s Lawyer Already Leaked the Content of Cheney’s “Privileged” Interview

You know how Obama’s DOJ claims that we can’t see Cheney’s interview with Patrick Fitzgerald because it’s privileged? Well, Dick Cheney’s own lawyer already leaked the so-called privileged content three years ago.

It appears that Dick Cheney’s lawyer, Terry O’Donnell, attended the interview. When Ted Wells asked David Addington at the Libby trial when he realized he was going to be a witness in the case, Addington explained that he was not permitted to attend Cheney’s interview, but Cheney’s lawyer was.

The point at which I knew I was likely to be a witness in the case was when the government went to interview the Vice President and indicated they would prefer I didn’t come and that only his private attorney come.

I’m interested in that because we know that Terry O’Donnell spread a cover story on the NIE leak–precisely the content DOJ now claims is privileged–to Michael Isikoff.

One of the details that most surprised me in Scott McClellan’s account of the CIA Leak investigation and aftermath was his description of the White House response to the confirmation–on April 5, 2006–that Libby had testified he had leaked the NIE with the authorization of the President.

Now the fact that he himself had authorized the selective leaking of national security information to reporters made him look hypocritical.

[snip]

In time, we would learn that the president’s penchant for compartmentalization had played an important role in the declassification story. The only person the president had shared the declassification with personally was Vice President Cheney. Two days after the Fitzgerald disclosure, Cheney’s lawyer told reporters that the president had "declassified the information and authorized and directed the vice president to get it out" but "didn’t get into how it would be done." Then the vice president had directed his top aide, Scooter Libby, to supply the information anonymously to reporters. [my emphasis]

[snip]

But it all made sense when someone pointed me to the one piece of journalism he could find repeating that citation–would you believe it, a Michael Isikoff piece?

A lawyer familiar with the investigation, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, told NEWSWEEK that the "president declassified the information and authorized and directed the vice president to get it out." But Bush "didn’t get into how it would be done. He was not involved in selecting Scooter Libby or Judy Miller." Bush made the decision to put out the NIE material in late June, when the press was beginning to raise questions about the WMD but before Wilson published his op-ed piece. [my emphasis]

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Michael Isikoff’s Chat with Cheney’s Lawyer

One of the details that most surprised me in Scott McClellan’s account of the CIA Leak investigation and aftermath was his description of the White House response to the confirmation–on April 5, 2006–that Libby had testified he had leaked the NIE with the authorization of the President.

Now the fact that he himself had authorized the selective leaking of national security information to reporters made him look hypocritical.

[snip]

In time, we would learn that the president’s penchant for compartmentalization had played an important role in the declassification story. The only person the president had shared the declassification with personally was Vice President Cheney. Two days after the Fitzgerald disclosure, Cheney’s lawyer told reporters that the president had "declassified the information and authorized and directed the vice president to get it out" but "didn’t get into how it would be done." Then the vice president had directed his top aide, Scooter Libby, to supply the information anonymously to reporters. [my emphasis]

Granted, I was on a business trip in India when this all went down. But this was a detail I missed. "Cheney’s lawyer told reporters"? I was used to Libby’s lawyer prior to the indictment, Joseph Tate, telling reporters all manner of things under the cover of anonymity. Robert Luskin’s anonymous, wild spinning of reporters? Kind of goes without saying. But Cheney’s lawyer, Terry O’Donnell?

But it all made sense when someone pointed me to the one piece of journalism he could find repeating that citation–would you believe it, a Michael Isikoff piece?

A lawyer familiar with the investigation, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, told NEWSWEEK that the "president declassified the information and authorized and directed the vice president to get it out." But Bush "didn’t get into how it would be done. He was not involved in selecting Scooter Libby or Judy Miller." Bush made the decision to put out the NIE material in late June, when the press was beginning to raise questions about the WMD but before Wilson published his op-ed piece. [my emphasis]

I double checked with McClellen to make sure that’s the public statement he meant, and he said,

Dan Bartlett volunteered to me that the vice president’s lawyer was telling at least some reporters anonymously what I reference on page 295, which is specifically referring to the Newsweek article …

In other words, yes, Cheney’s lawyer was the one spreading that story to–of all people–Michael Isikoff. Now everything began to make sense.

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Cheney’s Lawyer Now Defending Haynes

We’ve discussed the quiet omnipresence of Terry O’Donnell on this blog several times before. O’Donnell is, of course, Dick Cheney’s long-time personal lawyer. We know that David Addington informed Cheney when he discovered the "meatgrinder" note in the evidence being turned over to the FBI in the CIA Leak Case. We also know that O’Donnell took the lead on efforts to convince DOJ not to indict James Tobin–even though O’Donnell was not one of the named Williams & Connolly lawyers representing Tobin.

If the Tobin example didn’t already make it clear that O’Donnell’s job is not just to keep Cheney–but to keep the entire top Bush Administration out of jail–consider this news.

Terry O’Donnell is now representing the former General Counsel for DOD, William Haynes.

The panel notified the Pentagon in early February that it wanted to question Haynes. Before receiving any response, investigators learned on Feb. 25 that Haynes was leaving for Chevron in San Francisco. "How often does somebody like that give two weeks’ notice and leave town?" said one government source familiar with the sequence of events.

Haynes’s departure initially raised concerns about obtaining his testimony without a subpoena, especially after the panel learned that he had retained top criminal defense attorney Terrence O’Donnell, who represented Cheney during the Valerie Plame leak investigation. But O’Donnell told NEWSWEEK that Haynes has agreed to be interviewed, adding that the committee’s probe "had nothing to do" with his resignation.

This mind-boggling news appears in an Isikoff story about a secret Senate Armed Forces investigation into abuses of detainees in DOD custody (recall that Carl Levin Chairs Armed Forces and John McCain is the ranking member–which itself is cause for discussion).

Not surprisingly, Isikoff doesn’t bat an eye about the fact that the Vice President’s personal lawyer is now representing the guy at DOD who is at the nexus of policies permitting torture, the guy who stands between the policies at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, and Rummy and Dick. Isikoff doesn’t consider the tremendous conflict that O’Donnell is likely to have, representing both the legal facilitator of the torture and the mastermind of the whole damned Unitary Executive itself.

Once again, this Administration appears to be defending itself as a collectivity. Continue reading

Dick Cheney’s Lawyer Spikes the Phone-Jamming Case

McClatchy has a long story out detailing how indictments for the New Hampshire phone-jamming case got stalled.

In early 2004, Hinnen got approval from John Malcolm, the deputy chief of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, in early 2004 to investigate Tobin. Malcolm left the department soon afterward.

Hinnen then sought approval from Malcolm’s successor, Laura Parsky, to prosecute Tobin but wasn’t told until late summer to write a formal, detailed prosecution memo, which he did in early September.

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.

Hinnen argued to his superiors that it was irresponsible for the department to allow Tobin to serve as a Bush campaign official when it had evidence that he’d hindered people from voting.

In late October 2004, Justice Department officials told Hinnen it was too close to the election to bring such a politically sensitive indictment, putting it off until late November.

In early 2005, Hinnen submitted a lengthy memo arguing for a criminal indictment treating the New Hampshire Republican State Committee as a corporate entity. Hinnen noted that the party lacked an ethics policy at the time of the phone jamming and that its officials had refused to share with prosecutors the results of an internal investigation of the scheme.

Craig Donsanto, the chief of the department’s Election Crimes Branch, objected to an indictment, arguing that the state GOP’s "shareholders” are the voters.

Ultimately, John Keeney, a career deputy assistant attorney general, directed Hinnen to drop the idea.

Which translates into the following timeline: Continue reading

Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel @zunguzungu Except. The logic of swiping gun for DNA sort of lost if you know Brown's blood is on it.
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emptywheel @zunguzungu Unless I'm mistaken, they didn't look for fingerprints on Wilson's gun, instead relying on DNA, exc Brown's blood was on it.
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emptywheel Back in 2010, FBI classified a 17-mo old @johnson_carrie article S/NF. https://t.co/D6tICmRJ8N She's no longer a state secret tho!
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emptywheel Reup: In Response to NYT Lawsuit, FBI Reclassifies 26 Words https://t.co/D6tICmRJ8N
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bmaz Hot Fussin. Been Killing it for hours. Only Claude Rains knew
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bmaz I saw Shawn Holley on the CN type of media tonight, and not in a way that brought any joy to my memory of Johnnie Cochran. RIP.
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bmaz Hot Fuss by the Killers is still one of the best albums, or whatever you kids want to call things these days, of the last decade.
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bmaz @foolintheforest The latter.
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bmaz @cnbintucson Indeed.
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bmaz @MasaccioFDL Wait, @rortybomb ?? I love that guy.
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bmaz @cnbintucson "think there is any danger to McCullough from DOJ investigation?" // None, sadly.
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emptywheel @theurbansherpa If only you knew anything about theater it would all make sense! ;p
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