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:

2003: Manchester police forward evidence against GOP to DOJ

Early 2004: DOJ starts investigating Tobin

Late summer, 2004: Laura Parsky (any relation to big-time CA donor, Gerald Parsky?) asks prosecutor Todd Hinnen to write a prosecution memo

September 2004: Hinnen writes the memo

October 1, 2004: Hinnen told to indict–but first he had to consult with Tobin’s lawyer

October (?) 2004: Hinnen’s supervisors tell him to ask a judge to halt the Democrats’ civil suit against the GOP

Mid-October, 2004: Tobin resigns as Bush-Cheney regional director

Late October, 2004: Craig Donsanto tells Hinnen it’s too close to the election to indict

December 1, 2004: Tobin indicted

December 2005: Tobin convicted

I’ll come back to the timing later. But what I noticed immediately is the name of the lawyer who successfully convinced the DOJ to hold off on the indictment: Terry O’Donnell.

The official said that Terry O’Donnell, a former Pentagon general counsel who was representing Tobin, was in contact with senior department officials before Tobin was indicted.


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.

Now, that Terry O’Donnell is the same Terry O’Donnell who is Dick Cheney’s long-time personal attorney–the guy who got calls when evidence directly incriminating Dick in the Plame outing showed up. Curiously, O’Donnell doesn’t show up on the docket for Tobin’s eventual trial (though Tobin was represented by a bunch of lawyers from Williams and Connelly, O’Donnell’s firm).

Does it strike anyone as odd that the regional chair for Bush-Cheney’s re-election campaign would have Dick Cheney’s lawyer calling around DOJ to postpone his indictment until after the election?

55 replies
  1. FrankProbst says:

    Giving credit where credit is due, they managed to plug an awful lot of holes in the dike before the 2004 election.

  2. FrankProbst says:

    Semantic point: “Spiking” isn’t quite the same as “delaying”.

    Question: “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.” Who was the ‘unidentified lawyer’? I didn’t follow Tobin’s trial at all, but I assume this came up. If your lawyer specifically tells you that something is legal, it seems like you’ve got a pretty good argument that you weren’t intending to commit a crime.

  3. mack says:

    Does it strike anyone as odd that the regional chair for Bush-Cheney’s re-election campaign would have Dick Cheney’s lawyer calling around DOJ to postpone his indictment until after the election?


  4. bmaz says:

    Ah, I see you have paged Captain Renault. Well, here I am; and I must say that, having read this post, I am shocked, SHOCKED that Deadeye Dick, and the Dick’s lawyer, have engaged in such abominable behavior! And another appearance by Craig Donsanto too! What a fun filled post. Link function is not working for me; seems screwed up. Here is url I wished to link with Donsanto’s name:

    EW – Here is some useless trivia for you: Art Linkletter’s son, Jack, just died (Crikey, who knew Art Linkleter was still alive?). Well, according to his obituary, apparently this Jack Linkletter hosted a TV show in the late 50s named “Haggis Baggis”. Who knew Haggis had such a history? Again, here is url:

  5. PJEvans says:

    I think Laura Parsky is Gerald’s daughter, but I’m not sure of it: that information seems to be kept under wraps. I’ve found one reference to ‘his daughter, Laura’ being a graduate of Boalt Hall, and Laura H Parsky, now a judge in San Diego, is such a graduate:

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Carolyn M. Caietti and Laura H. Parsky to judgeships in the San Diego County Superior Court.
    Parsky, 37, has served as a deputy assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice since 2004. Prior to that, she was the director of international justice and contingency planning with the National Security Counsel from 2003 to 2004 and counsel to the assistant attorney general of the criminal division for the U.S. Department of Justice from 2002 to 2003.
    Parsky earned a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of California, Berkley and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University. She fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Terry Scott. Parsky decline to state how she is registered.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “Spike” doesn’t necessarily mean kill permanently. Delaying prosecution until after Bush’s re-election in 2004 relegated a would be front-page prosecution to a page three correction. It demoted a potential obstruction of justice to a “resource management” issue, even a “respect for voting integrity” issue, since they avoided prosecuting – in line with DOJ guidelines – near an election. (Showing nominal respect for process and the voters that they violently discarded when it came to possible Democratic faux pas). Tactically brilliant, but deceptive, dishonest and legally questionable.

    It demonstrates that KKKarl, like Scooter Libby, has near total recall for political and legal facts, and he will go to the mat to get one more GOP vote, or deny it to his opponents. Because he knows how few votes it takes to swing elections. The power he can use from winning is all he cares about.

  7. mainsailset says:

    ‘Spiking’? – must be the approach of the holiday spirits, I was taking Spiking as in Spiking the Punch…mmm, kinda works with the post.

  8. radiofreewill says:

    Surely there’s another Shoe about to drop on this story?

    If Cheney’s Personal Lawyer’s Firm is handling the Phone-jamming Case against one of BushCo’s Politicos – Tobin – and Tobin’s Indictment gets smuggled right past the Election – Then, could Rove and PIN be the ‘unspoken’ ball-players on the inside of DoJ, working the timing of actions to ’steer’ the indictment around the Election?

    After all, this is the modern GOP…

  9. looseheadprop says:

    EW you did a timeline! For me? Is this my X-mas present? Gee, thanks, it’s just what I wanted!!!!

    And it’s just the right size and color, too!

    Now to screw up your theory, sorry honey.

    If your going to bring a case like that–where so many reputations and political careers are going to be potentially be destroyed–cause you KNOW that had to have caused some major damage to the GOP in the region–you have an obligation to be sure your going to win.

    This isn’t like bank robbery where all citizens agree a crime has bbeen committed, this is more like Libby. So, the credibility to prosecute this kind offense ever again is on the line. If you lose, it would be open season on political dirty tricks.

    Had I been his boss, I would have asked for a prosecution memo too. I would not have let the prosecution occer anywhere near any elelction day, not even an off year election for dog catcher.

    And the, let his lawyer have his say before you indict is a standard professional courtesy in white collar cases. Even in non typical violent cases.

    While the ID of the lawyer is very interesting, especailly considering the phone calls the defendat made to the WH during the jamming, the DOJ handling, same to be cautious, professional, and kinda by the book.

    • Rayne says:

      EW you did a timeline! For me? Is this my X-mas present? Gee, thanks, it’s just what I wanted!!!!

      And it’s just the right size and color, too!

      As soon as I saw the word “timeline” I knew you’d be sending EW an extra big Beamish.

      Too funny.

      I think there’s more to this entire case, though; the DOJ likely did both exercise greater caution AND walk it slow, given the circumstances. But NH was a nexus for some reason for troublemaking; I’ll bet dollars-to-donuts there’s more that went on in NH that hasn’t been reported or ended up in a prosecution.

      • looseheadprop says:

        I agree in all regards.

        EW’s right to focus on the case, it’s just I don’t see anything sinister in the slow walk.

      • bmaz says:

        I kind of agree. On the surface, it would appear that by October 2004, Donsanto was correct in relying on his own manual to say the charges were improperly close to an election, as LHP argues. However, the provision in the manual at the time provided:

        “most, if not all, investigations of alleged election fraud crime must await the end of the election to which the allegation relates.

        The election “to which the allegation relates” was 2002, not 2004; so that was not necessarily a valid position at all by Donsanto and DOJ. Secondly, as Rayne notes, what about all that time between the Manchester Police referring the fairly straightforward facts in 2003 and Donsanto saying it was all of a sudden to close to an election in October 2004?

        • looseheadprop says:

          Because if the case referred by the police was sufficiently “cooked” and ready to go, then it would have been possible to jump inot the GJ and get an indictment going and start the Speedy Trial Act clock running in early 2004. The trial could have been finished and the scandal, died down before election season.

          But this guy wasn’t ready to indict until Late Summer 2004. At that point, I would have considered already too close to the election b/c under the STA there must be a minimum of 30 days/maximum of 70 (unless defendantr waives) betweenthe indictment and the trial.

          So, and indictment in August or late Septmeber give you trial that might actuallbe occuring on Election Day itself! Th quote is from the DOJ Criminal Resources Manual

          Title I of the Speedy Trial Act of 1974, 88 Stat. 2080, as amended August 2, 1979, 93 Stat. 328, is set forth in 18 U.S.C. §§ 3161-3174. The Act establishes time limits for completing the various stages of a federal criminal prosecution. The information or indictment must be filed within 30 days from the date of arrest or service of the summons. 18 U.S.C. § 3161(b). Trial must commence within 70 days from the date the information or indictment was filed, or from the date the defendant appears before an officer of the court in which the charge is pending, whichever is later. 18 U.S.C. § 3161(c)(1).

          Moreover, in order to ensure that defendants are not rushed to trial without an adequate opportunity to prepare, Congress amended the Act in 1979 to provide a minimum time period during which trial may not commence. Speedy Trial Act Amendments of 1979, Pub. L. No. 96-43, Section 3, 93 Stat. 327. Thus, the Act provides that trial may not begin less than 30 days from the date the defendant first appears in court, unless the defendant agrees in writing to an earlier date. 18 U.S.C. § 3161(c)(2). In United States v. Rojas-Contreras, 474 U.S. 231 (1985), the Supreme Court held that this 30-day trial preparation period is not restarted upon the filing of a substantially similar superseding indictment.

          • bmaz says:

            I understand the speedy trial ramifications for the defendant(s), but they don’t, in and of themselves, have any bearing on any election. My point is that it appears that the provision the DOJ relies on to say they can’t indict in October of 2004 because it was “too close to the election” doesn’t necessarily apply here. That DOJ provision, by its wording, relates to not bringing charges that involve the upcoming election too close to that election. In this case, the upcoming election was the 2004 election, but the putative charges related to the 2002 election; so there is at least a cognizable argument that that DOJ provision is inapplicable. They could have simply charged him and afforded him his constitutional due process rights, including speedy trial provisions, same as with any other criminal.

            • looseheadprop says:

              You are confusing my argument. I am not arguing that they COULD NOT becasue of an absolute prohibition, such as one you cite.

              I am saying they SHOULD NOT because it creates an appearance of, and in reality would, effect the outcome of any election. It would have been just horrendously irresponsible.

              • bmaz says:

                Fair enough. But since they were out crucifying Democrats with investigations and charges, maybe it would blunt some of the horrendous irresponsibility to “fair and balance ” the equation by doing up some deserving Retuglicans too. I’ll be honest, I have never been a fan of withholding charges simply because an election was imminent, irrespective of when the overt acts were perpetrated. If the case is very strong, as this one was, the public citizen voters have a vested interest in, and right to know, material facts about the candidates and parties, regardless of which party is implicated. If you don’t want to be a drag on elections, don’t commit election fraud and crimes.

                • looseheadprop says:

                  The fact that they were breaking rules and exhibiting bad judgment in other cases, doesn’t change my opinion of this one.

                  Had I been asked, I would have BOTH wanted a prosecution memo–to be sure he had a winnable case AND wanted to wait until after any upcoming election

                  • bmaz says:

                    Agreed; but you would not have been talking up concurrent prosecutions of Democrats at the same time as the AGsquared DOJ was wont to be doing; so that is a whole different situation. I could be wrong, but it was my inference that the Fieger case was continued on the trial calendar to allow argument and resolution of the discovery motions and permit briefing and argument on the substantive motions (Rule 12 I presume) behind the requested discovery.

            • emptywheel says:

              Kind of like Geoffrey Fieger’s trial for campaign finance violations to John Edwards, which was scheduled (though it has been rescheduled) to start on the day of our primary here?

            • Rayne says:

              Yes, two years to prosecute this situation was entirely toooo long. Exactly one year between indictment and conviction? Did they have an alert set up for 11 months in their Outlook calendar or what?

              The Manchester police also notified the feds about the problem the first week of February 2003; that’s 10 months between notification and indictment, and in a non-election year, should have been pushed a little to ensure it didn’t end up in the election year at all.

              But what I meant by my comments about more going on in NH as a nexus of trouble-making is that the funding for the phone jamming op was suspect (some of it came from ARMPAC, remember?). And the Babs Comstock bit has always bothered me, even though I cannot draw firm lines between the dots that are Babs’ nasty work in lobbying and the phone jamming op. There’s more stink going on here, want that book by the former GOP operative so I can see if certain names pop up as anticipated.

              • looseheadprop says:

                2 years for a low profile, low stakes public corruption case is not unusual. For a high profile, high stakes case–it’s a rocket docket.

                I’m telling you, my profession moves at a glacial pace, which is why I can’t understand why I’m always so rushed????

  10. Hugh says:

    This is my entry from my scandals list on this:

    94. White House involvement in election day phone jamming of Democrats in New Hampshire November 5, 2002; Charles McGee, former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party pled guilty to conspiracy on July 28, 2004 and was later sentenced to 7 months in prison; James Tobin New England head of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee made two dozen calls to the White House over a three day period during this time. He was convicted for his participation on December 15, 2005. This was reversed on appeal March 21, 2007. His case was sent back to the district court and will be retried in December 2007. A major reason for the slow progress of the Tobin case to trial (3 years) was that the FBI assigned only a single agent part time to it.

  11. maryo2 says:

    When I read “Laura Parsky will become a Superior Court judge in San Diego County” I was reminded of Cheney’s interference in Bajagua.

    Parsky –
    “As for Parsky, her father is a GOP kingmaker in California with long-standing ties to President Bush. He’s currently a member of the UC Board of Regents and for years was a major power in the state Republican party.

    Laura Parsky, 37, has been working for the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., in recent years, where she was a protege of Michael Chertoff, the former high-ranking Justice Department official who’s now head of Homeland Security.

    The soon-to-be judge has been a regular on Capitol Hill, where as a deputy assistant attorney general she has been the government’s point person on such high-profile issues as cybercrime, electronic surveillance and other technology issues.”

    Bajagua –
    “the DOJ attorney originally assigned to handle the case was replaced in 2003 by DOJ attorney and liaison to the Office of the Vice President, Mary Neumayr”

    So I searched for the two names together “Mary Neumayr Laura Parsky” and two interesting things showed up which to me indicate that they are Administration tools:

    1. Both women received this Monday, January 23, 2006 email-
    General Hayden On The NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program (transcript of his speech)
    “Now let me make this point. These decisions were easily within my authorities as the director of NSA under and executive order, known as Executive Order 12333, that was signed in 1981. … Let me be clear on this point – except that they involved NSA, these programs were not related – these programs were not related – to the authorization that the President has recently spoken about.”

    2. And both women received this November 4, 2004 email-
    “If you would like to be considered for other opportunities, please let me know what position(s) and agency or agencies you are interested in and I will work together with White House Presidential Personnel on those matters.”

  12. emptywheel says:


    I’m going to make a wildarsed guess and say the “unnamed lawyer” is Ben Ginsberg, who was chief outside counsel for BushCheney in 2000 and 2004, until he resigned in 2004 bc he was also representing the Swift Boats.

    Just a WAG, mind you, but he’d be just the guy to approve GOP dirty tricks.

  13. bmaz says:

    Also, didn’t the AGAG DOJ claim that the manual provision on bringing charges near the time of an election was advisory and not mandatory? Because they sure were running around trying their damnedest to indict Democrats…

    • looseheadprop says:

      He claimed that. But as your quote correctly points out, that not how it’s worded.

      However, like all internal rules, it could be changed or waived by the AG–but their would need to be a paper trail showing that such change or waiver occured. Otherwise we are back in the land of Pixie Dust and other works of fiction.

  14. radiofreewill says:

    lhp – We’re all clamoring for a Gooper to chew on, and you walk through the room with Tobin on a Tray saying we can’t have him – it’s just not right!

    Throw me a Gooper!

  15. maryo2 says:

    Parsky’s dad’s background connects him with Carol Lam’s firing while investigating Rep. Lewis, as well as a ton of stuff like the Parsky Commission, bribing Rep. Lewis for defense contracts, privatization of Los Alamos National Laboratories, the law firm that hired former US Attorney Debra Wong Yang, and Aurora Capital:


  16. maryo2 says:

    1. Jim Rogan replaced Judge Susanne Shaw. What was Shaw working on prior to being replaced?
    2. Who did Laura Parsky replace, and what were they working on prior to being replaced?

    • PJEvans says:

      Shaw apparently retired.
      Caietti and Parsky replaced retiring Superior Court judges. (’Parsky will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Terry Scott.’)

  17. emptywheel says:


    Also, on Fieger (I’m hoping to get an update up before I leave for the East Coast tomorrow, but I’m not sure I will).

    In addition to asking Fieger’s lawyers whom they voted for in the primary/general in 2004, they also asked whether they voted for Granholm or not.

    Isn’t that nice?

    • Rayne says:

      You know, it’s so obviously wrong that I can’t figure out whether it’s teh stoopit or raw, naked criminal behavior.

      EW, you know anybody at Simon & Schuster who can get you an advance copy of “How to Win Rig an Election”?

      I think we’re going to find a bunch more pieces in that book, dying to know if all our assumptions about GOP ops are valid, as well as morbidly curious as to what raw, naked criminal behavior looks like in print.

      • emptywheel says:

        I can’t tell you what their face looked like at the time, sorry.

        But here’s the wacky thing (okay, one of the wacky things). The govt is refusing to give Fieger’s team the GJ transcripts of the witnesses who exonerated him. They’ve just handed over very short (short paragraph in length) summary of their testimony and told them to go get the witnesses’ testimony themselves. Now, that obviously sets up a bit of a perjury trap. But I also suspect they’re trying to prevent Fieger’s team from getting transcripts of these questions. Right now, they’ve just got the witnesses themselves who reported back that they were asked about whom they voted for, including WRT Granholm. But it’d sure make a more compelling presentation if you had the transcripts, huh?

        • bmaz says:

          What? You have got to be kidding. This comment box doesn’t have enough room for a list of all the reasons that is BS. That is a patently sanctionable spurious argument made in bad faith.

  18. radiofreewill says:

    WH lawyers involved in ‘03, Gonzo and Bellinger getting some explicit early cover on the Destruction of the Torture Tapes:


    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. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. Gonzales’ attorney, George Terwilliger, declined comment.

    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.”

  19. BayStateLibrul says:

    On Jim Tobin…

    The DOJ used harrassment as the vehicle to get Tobin. Could they have
    used violations of voting laws?

    • looseheadprop says:

      IIRC there was some issue about federal enforcement of state election law, but I thought it was a red herring. The calls were made from (was it Oklahoma?) so I argued at the time that it was wire fraud, but others (also former feds) thought the “fraud” part was thin.

      Also, since when is telephone a campaign HQ a violation of election law. The reason these mutts thought it was “legal” was they thought this particular technique danced in between the raindrops of various criminal statutes.

      At the time, lawyers with election law and/or public corruption experience were sending this guy suggestions about what should go in his indictment. We still do panel discussion on it

  20. looseheadprop says:

    I saw this panel on CSPan.( i had to wrap x-mas presents for office gift exchange and left house very ate this AM)

    I hope they replay it. It was a doozy. Try to watch it if they post on the website

  21. MarkH says:

    How can you say the legal profession moves at a glacial pace? If I was arrested I’d be before a judge within a day or two and indicted before week’s end and probably in court within a month.

    Maybe what you mean is that legal action where politics is involved is always scheduled to benefit the party in power.

    When it comes to the Bush mafia I always assume it was planned to be illegal and to suit their ends. To assume otherwise is not only stupid and not warranted by experience, but a danger to everyone.

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