DOJ PIN Head Steps Into More Malfeasance Poo

Central to the prosecutorial misconduct directly resulting in the criminal charges against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens being dismissed was Brenda Morris, the Principal Deputy Chief of the DOJ Public Integrity Section (PIN). The misconduct was so egregious, and the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) so infirm, the trial judge, Emmet Sullivan, appointed a special court investigator to handle a criminal contempt probe.

Has the DOJ itself taken any action in light of the heinous conduct? No, of course not, they never do at the Roach Motel that is the OPR. Instead, the DOJ banished Morris to the Atlanta USA office apparently still as some kind of functioning authority in the Public Integrity (PIN) section. The DOJ is nothing if not consistent, whether under Bush or Obama.

Morris has promptly inserted herself into another high charged political mess, and done so with questionable ethics and curious basis for involvement. From Joe Palazzolo at Main Justice:

Brenda Morris, a veteran trial lawyer in the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, was among a group of federal law enforcement officials who met with Alabama legislators on April 1 to inform them of the probe, which is related to a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would legalize electronic bingo.

The investigation has inflamed tensions between state Democrats and Republican-appointed U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, who prosecuted former Gov. Don Siegelman (D) and whose husband has close ties to Republican Gov. Bob Riley, who strongly opposes the amendment. Canary’s office and the Public Integrity Section are jointly investigating bingo proponents’ quest for votes in support of the amendment, which the Senate passed on March 30.

The state House of Representatives has yet to vote. Alabama Democrats sent a letter to the Lanny Breuer, the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, charging that the “unprecedented” disclosure of the investigation was meant to have a “chilling effect” on state legislators who otherwise might have voted for the amendment.

Here, from the Alabama Press Register, are a few quotes from local Alabama legal experts familiar with the facts and history:

Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney now in private practice in Birmingham, called the private meeting a “virtually unprecedented” break from standard FBI procedures.

“I can’t think of a legitimate law enforcement purpose to do something like this,” said Jones, who represents members of the Alabama Democratic Caucus.

“I have never, in all my years of practicing law, heard of an event like what happened (on Thursday)” said Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr. “It was stunning to me.”

Former U.S. Attorney William Kimbrough of Mobile said he’d seen nothing like it in a legal career that spans nearly five decades.

So what in the world was Brenda Morris doing smack dab in the middle of such a contentious political mess and how could the Obama/Holder DOJ think it appropriate? The answer is hard to fathom. Morris was supposed to have been tasked to the Atlanta US Attorney’s office as a litigation attorney while she is being investigated by the court for criminal contempt from her last case. You really have to wonder who is running the asylum at DOJ Main to think that there could ever be positive optics from Morris being involved in anything politically contentious.

You also have to wonder how exactly it is the Obama Administration has seen fit to leave Leura Canary, the Karl Rove acolyte who persecuted Don Siegelman, in office as the US Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. Local blogs are not amused; from Legal Schnauzer:

According to press reports, representatives from the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama played a key role in Thursday’s meeting. Bush appointee Leura Canary, who oversaw the prosecution of former Democratic governor and Bob Riley opponent Don Siegelman, remains in the charge of that office. Alabama’s two Republican U.S. Senators, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, have scuttled various Obama nominees for the position, and the White House, so far, has chosen not to fight for the two candidates (Michel Nicrosi and Joseph Van Heest) favored by Democrats.

Canary’s lingering presence in office almost certainly is driving the bingo investigation. Angela Tobon, an FBI special agent in Mobile, Alabama, told The Birmingham News that the Public Integrity Section (PIN) of the Justice Department is leading the inquiry. Tobon refused to elaborate when contacted by a reporter from the Montgomery Advertiser.
Does that mean Leura Canary was able to take advantage of a leaderless organization, contacting “loyal Bushies” still embedded in the Justice Department to help get PIN involved in a bogus Alabama operation?

It sure looks that way.

I honestly do not know enough to make the call on the underlying electronic bingo investigation, but the locals sure look to be raising a lot of very good questions about how it is being used to manipulate the local political landscape. Irrespective of the merits of the underlying investigation, leaving tainted authorities, of questionable ethics, like Leura Canary and Brenda Morris to be the face of this unusual and politically charged matter is simply inexcusable.

48 replies
  1. BoxTurtle says:

    If a USA had screwed up a major prosecution as badly as Morris, you’d think that person would be dismissed….UNLESS they were following orders.

    I still find it very believeable that the Stevens prosecution was intentionally botched.

    Boxturtle (puts on tinfoil hat and looks forward)

  2. klynn says:

    End of first graph

    …appointed appointed a special court investigator…

    I’m with BoxTurtle. “Intentional botchiness.”

  3. scribe says:

    Setting aside the potential for, let alone the actuality of, political chicanery created by allowing political appointees from a prior administration to remain in those jobs post changing parties and administrations in control, one is compelled to point out the astonishing ineptitude this evinces on the part of the incoming administration. The US Attorneys’ jobs are, for lack of a better term, one of the best patronage and spoils jobs left. They almost always go to those attorneys who have devoted a lot of time, effort and money(raising) to bringing the appointing administration into office. Only rarely, usually in large cities, do they go to professionals from DoJ and then usually after it has become clear that prior political appointees have gotten the office too dirty with protecting or punishing local factions.
    Chris Christie was, when appointed as the US Attorney in NJ, derided (in polite terms) as being both a lightweight, inexperienced, and insufficiently mature to handle the job. But he had raised a mountain of cash for Bushie and was in all things a loyal Bushie. So he got the nod over possibly a dozen or more highly experienced loyal Republican lawyers in NJ who would have done at least as well as Christie did.

    I have been simply marveling in astonishment at the lassitude and indifference the current administration is exhibiting in filling appointments. Failing to get rid of the republican US Attorneys, failing to use the “Acting” appointment power, and failing to use the recess appointment power in the face of senatorial obstructionism is not just lazy and setting the administration up for all sorts of embarrassments, but it is also a profound slap in the face of the local party people who spent their time, money and effort in getting the current administration elected. Moreover, keeping republicans in these offices exposes those same local Democrats to continued persecution at the hands of the same republicans who they were working to get out of office. Why should anyone spend any effort on electing an ineffectual clown who won’t back them up and won’t dole out what little patronage there is still left?

    I thought that Harvard Law didn’t admit, let alone graduate, idiots. I’m coming to the conclusion I erred in allowing that belief.

    In Alabama, one has to wonder just how much Obama hates Artur Davis from law school, b/c he’s undermined Davis and left him vulnerable to the Republicans at every turn.

    • bmaz says:

      Setting aside Morris, who really should have serious professional misconduct charges already okayed by OPR independent from Sullivan’s criminal contempt; Obama leaving Leury Canary in that post in such a festering cesspool borders on criminally insane.

      • PJEvans says:

        I don’t know about ‘insane’ (no other signs that I’ve seen), but ‘corrupt’ and ‘incompetent’ seem to cover his actions. ‘Clueless’ seems to fit in also.

        I knew he wasn’t a knight in shining armor, even before the election (FISA was a sign), but I expected better of him.

        • bmaz says:

          Yeah, okay, insane was definitely hyperbole; but it is rather unconscionable when you know what has gone on down there. Even if you can’t get a nominee confirmed, you remove Canary. It is a no-brainer.

        • PJEvans says:

          Yes, that’s why ‘corrupt’, ‘incompetent’, and ‘clueless’ come to mind.
          Not just Canary (who really should have been fired on day 1), but all the other stay-behinds who are causing problems, and are being allowed to continue.

          (Bipartisanship should have been buried a year ago; it was DOA.)

      • mattcarmody says:

        Obama is a caretaker president, in place to push through things Republicans can’t get done like drilling off the Outer Banks and ANWR, setting up a commission to eviscerate Social Security and bailout major banks and, in the case of Citigroup, a fantastically wealthy Saudi shareholder.

        He is just keeping the seat warm for the fascist who is being groomed to replace him right down to leaving in place Bush executive orders that set the groundwork for implementation of martial law. This is more than kabuki, it’s treason that we are seeing, the complete betrayal of the country.

        • bmaz says:

          It is NOT that Republicans cannot get those things done; it is that after a while in power doing those things, even the rubes out there in “real America” realize that they are getting hosed. At that point Democrats are placed in power and strangled, demeaned and blamed for the catastrophes of the predecessor Republicans for a sufficient period the same blithering idiots who put the last Republican regime in power put another one in power. It is as predictable as Old Faithful or Haley’s Comet.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      You have to realize the difficulty ObamaLLP is in with those appointments. They must meet three minimum criteria:

      1) They must be democrat.
      2) They must be competent enough not to attract legitimate questions about their qualifications.
      3) They must agree that BushCo did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING worth investigating or indicting.

      That’s gotta be a pretty small list. :-)

      Boxturtle (And we haven’t even got to the background check yet!)

  4. Arbusto says:

    “Poor judgment” seems the minimum standard at Justice, as set by Margolis in Yoo/Bybee, instead of that passes for misfeasance or malfeasance in country’s that observe the rule of law.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    One would think that the DoJ would want to keep a prosecutor who was the subject of a court-appointed special investigation into her possible criminal contempt of court away from all criminal proceedings. The Stevens case was especially egregious. Having Morris anywhere near a criminal case would be a boon to competent defense counsel; it would wholly and unnecessarily threaten what might be an otherwise valid case against a defendant.

    To have Morris anywhere near the despicable proceedings in Alabama – and Leura Canary and dozens like her are still USA’s? – is fighting an ethical firestorm with a can of gasoline. It’s another indicator of how ObamaRahma have taken over the DoJ and changed little but the names on the doors. Harvard scholar and constitutional lawyer my ass.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “Simply inexcusable”. It’s like writing the Obama administration’s epitaph after only its first year in office.

    • bmaz says:

      Don’t fret Earl, the new head of DOJ’s Human Rights Enforcement Unit, who will be responsible for torture investigations worldwide, is busy hunting Nazis – from World War II. So, we got that going for us…..

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Unless the likes of Leura Canary are included in those Rosenbaum has authority to investigate, we’re not likely to see much improvement. Besides, it’s not the operational types like her who should be the sole targets of investigations; they may pull legal “triggers”, but someone higher up stamps their priorities with their seal of approval and gives them money and authority to execute them. That would seem to be Holder, Rahm and Obama. “Simply inexcusable” still seems right to me.

  7. watercarrier4diogenes says:

    Is anyone keeping a “Top 10” list of Marcy’s best titles? I’d put this one at 2nd behind the recently mentioned ‘blew’ post.

  8. Gitcheegumee says:

    Why does this seem similar to a Vatican view of simply shuffling corrupt
    malfacteurs around, to continue to pollute their new environment…with no accountability for their former transgressions?

      • watercarrier4diogenes says:

        Fine by me! Excellent post, and a timely reminder that ObamaRhama’s ‘monodirectional bipartisanship’ is having easily foretold negative consequences.

  9. JTMinIA says:

    You guys really don’t get it, do you? Maybe the change is juts too big for you to grok. “Look forward, not back” applies at all time-scales. She’s not doing anything bad (that you know about) right this minute; this was last week. Forget it, then. Look forward.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Here is more on the Alabama gambling investigation farce from Ken Silverstein:

    This case presents a stunning and heavy-handed use of the prosecutorial power to influence the course of legislation, in defiance of basic constitutional ground rules. Who stands behind it? The U.S. attorney involved, Leura Canary, is the wife of Karl Rove’s long-time friend Bill Canary—a Bush-era U.S. attorney, she still has not been replaced. Canary and her husband are both close to Governor Riley, and Canary was appointed to an Indian gambling commission by Riley. Her deputy who handled the prosecution of Don Siegelman, Louis Franklin, led the effort. Several other figures from the Siegelman prosecution also appear involved in the matter. This case offers an excellent opportunity for Main Justice to examine the way federal prosecutorial authority is wielded in the Heart of Dixie.

    • bmaz says:

      There are several stunning aspects to this story:

      1) That Brenda Morris is publicly involved in anything, much less a politically sensitive Public Integrity matter.

      2) That Leura Canary is still in office at all, not to mention unrestrained by the DOJ.

      3) That the matter was handled in such a stunningly heavy handed and inappropriate manner; there were much more timely, subtle and fair ways to apprise the legislature there was an investigation pending.

      4) That there appears to be evidence of heavy handed intimidation by DOJ officers going on below the surface.

      5) That no one was awake at the wheel in order to see just how awful the optics of this are.

      6) That the OPR has once again completely failed to address clear misconduct by its own DOJ attorneys; DOJ self regulation of accountability is clearly infirm, incompetent and hopelessly corrupted and conflicted.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Who could have predicted that Mr. Holder could have so much in common with John Ashcroft?

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Juan Cole summarizes a discussion from, to which he links:

    1. The cover-up of the pilots’ mistake in killing the Reuters cameramen and mistaking their cameras for an RPG is the worst thing about this episode

    2. While the pilots who fired at apparently armed men (and at least 3 were actually armed) thought they were saving US ground troops who had been pinned down from men with small arms, they had less justification for firing on the van. Indeed, the latter action may have been a war crime since the van was trying to pick up the wounded and it is illegal to fire on the wounded and those hors de combat.

    3. While many actions of the pilots may not have been completely wrong under their rules of engagement, nevertheless they often acted inexcusably, and their attitude is inhuman and deplorable.

    In my view, the worst mistake seems to be the assumption that any gathering of Iraqis in their own neighborhoods constitutes a threat to the American army of occupation, justifying immediate death, and that any objects carried on their persons are assumed to be weapons, especially if one weapon can be seen among them, never mind that the observed behavior of these men, obviously being observed by two attack helicopters, seemed peaceful.

    I agree that gleefully firing on the van – as it turns out, driven by a good Samaritan and family man who stopped to help mortally wounded neighbors – does most to illustrate the mindset that develops in our soldiers.

    The callousness of the dialogue is obvious. How many tours of duty, I wonder, how many deaths of their own comrades, how much modeling of such behavior did they learn from peers and superiors did it take to acquire that callousness.

    Scott Horton
    cautiously observes that the video is only possibly authenticate and accurate.

  12. orionATL says:

    ff @15 @18

    i was thinking the same.

    bmaz put up a winning shot.

    a sweet title that skewers (if not pins) doj.

  13. orionATL says:

    how does this matter relate, if at all, to gambling
    interests within or outside ala?

    when i hear republican and bingo in the same sentence i can’t but think
    influence peddling.

    • bmaz says:

      the underlying legislation being contemplated has everything to do with gambling in Alabama including the way gambling is taxed and regulated as well as where casinos are placed and how many there are, not to mention what games they can offer. It is hugely important.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        To coin a phrase, follow the money, in this case, from the Indian tribes-cum-casino operators that are assisting the current governor with his election costs.

        No doubt, there’s a ghost of Jack Abramoff buried in their somewhere, too.

        • Gitcheegumee says:

          Legal Schnauzer: Riley, Abramoff, and Presidential PoliticsMar 5, 2008 … Huffington Post reported last week that in the summer of 2006 McCain hid an e-mail that showed Riley’s ties to the Abramoff …
…/riley-abramoff-and-presidential.html – Cached

  14. Gitcheegumee says:

    Legal Schnauzer has done some wonderful work over the years on the evolution of the Segilman case;and, having immediate,personal ties of long standing to Alabama, the attendant issues have been of particular interest to me for a long while now.

    Especially the Abramoff/Rove/ Indian tribal gaming background and its role in the Riley vs. Siegelman Governor’s race a few years back.

    In the leadoff to this thread, mention was made of the Ted Stevens of Alaska botched prosecution.

    Here,from is an interesting piece:

    DOJ attorney removed from Abramoff case
    Friday, June 19, 2009
    Filed Under: Abramoff Scandal

    A top Department of Justice attorney has been removed from the case of a former Jack Abramoff associate.

    William Welch, the head of DOJ’s Public Integrity Section , won’t be involved in the prosecution of Kevin Ring, who used to work with Abramoff. Welch is under investigation for his actions in the botched case against former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

    Ring is scheduled to go to trial in September on bribery and obstruction of justice charges. He refused to testify before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee about his role in the Abramoff scandal.

    Get the Story:
    Investigated prosecutor removed from case (AP 6/18/09)

    Note: Ring’s trial has been rescheduled for June,2010 according to my understanding,after a mistrial declared last fall. has all of the latest reportage on the current electrinic bingo issue involving Riley, and the the FBI’s ongoing investigations in relation to that imminent issue.

  15. Gitcheegumee says: > Politics > Jack AbramoffA federal prosecutor has been removed from the case of a Jack Abramoff associate due to ties to the botched trial of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), … › Politics – Cached – Similar

  16. JohnLopresti says:

    The acronym Pin seemed stretched, public integrity section, pis, or Pins; must*ve been a monkier conferred by congress thru some binding legal construct. Perhaps, too, there might be a private integrity section, Prins, nah, sounds too much like the first syllable of Principle.

    The Gitc commenter mention, supra, of the pope seems to strike a chord, as well. What nonsecular institution stands to lose most income if bingo goes secular electronic incrementally, casino state by casino state? Curiously, bingo was invented mostly in Italy and France, imported to the carnival circuit in the American South. I think some businesspeople have recognized the potential in bingo, as casinos begin to bootstrap native peoples* reservations to do the remedial work of land cleanup which private industry shunned in the pell mell race to extract natural resources; e.g. in New Mexico*s Church Rock mine.

    One of the lessons I learned in quasipolitics is moderates appoint slightly less corrupt individuals to serve in the most corrupt nexa, thereby earning campaign contributions from both sides later when It*s Time To Vote Again. Consider the following illustrative appointment to the Fairfax County elections board, DOJ voting expert von Spakovsky a few weeks ago.

  17. Gitcheegumee says:

    Crime & Federalism: Ted Stevens Prosecution; Brenda Morris …Promising to get tough on prosecutors, Attorney General Eric Holder has given …. That includes William Welch II, chief of the Justice Department’s Public ……/ted-stevens-prosecution-brenda-morris-william-welch-ii/ – Cached

    NOTE: This link is a virtual mother lode of several articles re: Morris, Welch and the fallout of Steven’s botched prosecution.

    According to one of the articles,Welch was relocated to Massachusetts,if memory serves me correctly.

  18. orionATL says:


    so spakovsky’s back in republican politics.

    we can expect lots of fake indignation about fake voter fraud from virginia republicans in the future

    together with efforts to make voting more difficult and to discourage low ses dem voters from registering.

  19. jdmckay0 says:

    Irrespective of the merits of the underlying investigation, leaving tainted authorities, of questionable ethics, like Leura Canary and Brenda Morris to be the face of this unusual and politically charged matter is simply inexcusable.

    That (leaving tainted authorities) is a big rub alright.

    I’ll try and keep this short. Among all the layers of financial malfeasance and it’s many tentacles, I (nor anyone I know personally, including a lot of finance/econ bulldogs) paid any attention to details of FDIC bank closures… more or less assumed there was (for most part) good reason (failed mortgage and/or CDS). Also possible playing of favorites in high places (Timmy, Hank etc.), as after-the-fall pecking order seems to have been decided before the fall, followed by who would fall, etc. etc.

    In any event, in January a local (New Mexico: ABQ/Santa Fe) bank was “seized”, Charter. There is a story here, got very short shrift in our local papers. I’ve had conversations w/Sen Udall’s office, and both counties US congressional reps… no further investigation planned I’m told, none of ’em really expressed any interest (ho hum).

    From link above, FDIC simply announced Charter as a “failed bank.” However, it’s hard to figure out why. We have (at least) 2 others here that have “failed” in far, far larger ways: mortgage defaults over 20%, subsequent write downs on assets that have rendered their stock as junk.

    Charter, on the other hand, had default less than .5% of total mortgage loans. They were one of the few who did their homework on lending, and that reputation was well known around here. CEO was also owner, and (I believe) son of founder. In business here, they had an impecabble reputation for honesty, something which for those of you who’ve ever had to navigate the minefield looking for good banker, well… it’s worth a lot.

    Without breaking it all down in minute detail, after takeover was announced Charter’s employees took out $10k full page ad thanking & acknowledging owners, full of quotes (literally) praising the family. I dun’o, I’ve known a lot of bankers over the years. I’ve had more than a few $$k stolen by some of ’em. And I’m damn sure the employee loyalty quotient… particularly when said employees are about to be handed a pink slip (lose income) w/banking jobs not exactly dropping out of the trees… is not sufficient to have ’em fork in that kind’a $$ for a heartfelt tribute on their way to unemployment line.

    Digging deeper, Charter’s assets were in fact quite sound… I can dig up some #’s if anyone’s interested. Long and short:
    * In a sea of failing banks, one of few really good bankers here: honest, did their homework, and rare reputation state wide for integrity.
    * Balance sheet magnitudes better than other local banks left intact by FDIC.
    * And, in particular… assets with value: by any comparison in any market, Charter’s portfolio was in the black.

    So, days after seizure, FDIC quietly announces Charter takeover by BEAL CORP, owned by a Plano Texas high roller Billionare named: Andy Beal.

    Beal got Charter very, very quietly. There is no documentation anywhere of process by which any of this happened: decision to seize Charter, nor how Beal was chosen. Beyond that, a few press releases from Beal subordinates that they will probably sell Charter assets and liquidate.

    Beal is (among other things) known as “finance” guy, but he’s not a banker. Rather, he’s a deal maker… takeover specialist: he buy’s entities, strips ’em clean, pockets profit, and disposes/writes of skeleton remains. Mitt Romney kind’a finance guy.

    More then anything, in this “financial crisis”, there was a failure of bankers large and small to do what bankers are supposed to do: due diligence in loans, due diligence in investment (almost none of ’em knew anatomy of mortgage CDO/CDS, nor took time to peel the layers and find out), and in fact (at least in our state) a number of best placed bankers were instrumental in lobbying various key state investment managers into repurchasing CDS recirculated from NM >> WS >> CDO >> CDS >> RANAMEd >> SOLD ACROSS “THE STREET” >> BACK FOR SALE TO NM FUNDS AS AAA.

    If would be fair to say these guys not only did not do their job, they actively participated in the fraud.

    So how, who, by what process did one of NM’s really good, honest bankers… a guy who should be poster child in Banking for how to do it right… how does strong assets of CHARTER end up going to Texas Billionaire Financier who operates in shadows bigtime, gets FDIC discounted price on these assets, further thins out reliable NM banking infrastructure, and accomplishes little more than moving those assets out of the state and into the pocket of (…)

    This one wreaks of BushCo appointee remnants doing as you describe, and has really smelled things up around here. I know a lot of people w/some means, who’ve been around and done good things here, very very pissed off about this for reasons I mention: a number of ’em hardcore Repubs, beginning sentences with: “I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but”…

    Ok, just saying…

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