Posts

DOJ Holds Big Presser to Make It Clear It Will Use Title III Wiretaps to Prosecute Leaks

John Demers, the Assistant Attorney General who did not think Donald Trump’s extortion by using congressionally appropriated security funding to pressure Ukraine into providing him with campaign propaganda merited an investigation, just had a big press conference to announce the arrest of Henry Kyle Frese, a DIA counterterrorism analyst accused of leaking information about a specific country’s weapons systems to two journalists who work at related media outlets (NBC is one outlet that would fit the presumed arrangement, but there are surely others; Update–it appears this is one of the stories). It sounds like a journalist Freese lived with asked him first to help a more senior journalist from the related outlet, then published a story herself, based off the allegedly leaked materials.

The leak doesn’t sound all that serious, in the grand scheme of things.

What was serious is the warning this press conference was meant to send to journalists. Demers bragged about the sentence imposed on Reality Winner, and boasted of the 6 people the Trump DOJ has prosecuted for leaks. He raised the Jeff Sessions’ speech announcing DOJ would target leaks.

When asked if DOJ was considering prosecuting the two journalists, the speakers on the press conference deferred, as they did about any ongoing investigation. That is, they may well be intending to do so.

Perhaps one of the bigger pieces of news about this arrest is not that DOJ arrested an analyst trying to do a favor for his girlfriend. Rather, it’s that DOJ decided to use a Title III wiretap to intercept Freese’s calls to the journalists, something that would be more proportional to the mob, not journalists.

But that’s where the national security priorities of Trump’s DOJ are. Not investigating him, or at least his personal lawyer, for schemes that obviously make our country less safe. But instead to use wiretaps to go after journalism.

In Days before Robert Mueller Got Hired, DOJ Immediately Forwarded Bill Barr’s Op-Ed Approving of Comey’s Firing to Rod Rosenstein

Judicial Watch released another set of files, from the days leading up to his appointment of Robert Mueller, that they think are incriminating for stupid reasons that aren’t.

There’s two emails that might, actually, be damning. The very conservative former Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip emailed Rod Rosenstein asking him to call. Rosenstein answered, first, by saying that “Mukasey” was going to call, and imploring Filip to listen to him. That’s scandalous in any case, because the son of Michael Mukasey (who was Filip’s onetime boss) was representing affiliated players here. Then Rosenstein wrote back and seemed to tell Filip he was hiring Mueller. Was Filip the other candidate Rosenstein considered?

The more interesting detail is how DOJ treated Bill Barr’s May 12, 2017 op-ed applauding Trump’s decision to fire Jim Comey. In it Barr condemned how Comey handled the Hillary investigation, then said that his firing wouldn’t affect the Russian investigation (but not addressing Trump’s comments about that being the purpose of firing Comey).

Jeff Sessions’ spox, who received it from the “RNC War Room,” sent it to Rosenstein’s office the morning after the op-ed was posted, during the weekend he was contemplating hiring Mueller.

But even before that, DAG employee (and current EDVA US Attorney) George Terwilliger forwarded it (though not the RNC War Room version) as well, telling Rosenstein it was the most important thing for him to read that weekend.

At the very least, the close attention the op-ed (which largely parroted the ginned up reasons Rosenstein gave for firing Comey) received are intriguing, as is the choice from the RNC War Room to send it out.

But it’s also a hell of a way for Rosenstein to meet his future boss.

“We all benefited” from Margolis’ tenure

A bunch of former DOJ bigwigs just wrote a seemingly pointless letter to Pat Leahy to assure him that David Margolis does not have a partisan–and they mean Left-Right partisan–bias. (h/t Main Justice)

I say “pointless,” to begin with, because after last Friday’s flaccid hearing on the OPR report, is anyone actually imagining that Pat Leahy is going to make a stink because the OPR Report got spiked?

And besides, no one thinks Margolis is a flaming political partisan. He’s a DOJ partisan, always putting the Department first, even ahead of justice. Hearing from a bunch of former DOJ bigwigs claiming he has no bias isn’t going to allay those concerns.

What’s particularly pathetic about this document, though, is the number people with a vested interest making the following weak claims:

we all benefited during our tenures from the wise counsel and good judgment of David Margolis

[snip]

While we do not comment here on the merits of the decision regarding the discipline of John Y00 and Jay Bybee, we are certain that it was reached conscientiously and wholly without partisan purposes.

[snip]

As those who have benefited from David Margolis’s counsel, we know he remains a great asset to the Department and the country for the present and future.

Let’s start with Alberto Gonzales, who gave approval for the use of torture techniques long before OLC did, and who was therefore perhaps the person most in need of the Get Out of Jail Free card that John Yoo wrote him. He signed this document.

So did George Terwilliger, Alberto Gonzales’ defense attorney, representing him on a number of ethical and potentially criminal issues, and therefore, presumably, on torture, if it ever came to that.

There’s Michael Mukasey, about whom Mary wrote a 2,000 word post describing his many conflicts on this issue. And Mark Filip, who helped Mukasey try to spike this report from the start. And Craig Morford, who was Acting DAG when Mukasey reviewed the Steven Bradbury memos and found them reasonable, which was itself a key part of spiking this investigation.

And how about John Ashcroft, huh? He wants you to know that he’s sure that Margolis judged correctly when Margolis determined that Ashcroft’s subordinates did not willfully do wrong when they shredded the Constitution eight years ago under Ashcroft’s inattentive watch. The same Ashcroft who reportedly pushed for some kind of “advance pardon” for the torturers. I sure trust him to tell me whether Margolis judged rightly or wrongly.

Then there’s Paul McNulty who, as US Attorney for Eastern District of VA, declined to charge people who engaged in torture and murder pursuant to these memos. The same guy whose decision to decline prosecution was reconsidered, given all the damning evidence in the OPR Report. Do you honestly believe that McNulty doesn’t want to have his decisions–which shortly preceded his promotion to be Deputy Attorney General–scrutinized that closely?

There’s Jim Comey, who may be one of those refusing to comment on the merits of the decision here (well then, why comment?), but who, when he lost the battle on the torture memos, expressed sadness “for the Department and the AG.” But not, it should be said, for the rule of law.

Add in Larry Thompson, who is another of the lawyers who, at least according to the OPR Report, reviewed and approved of the Bybee Memos. He thinks Margolis did the right thing too.

And, finally, David Ogden, who got fired not long ago, perhaps because he was happy to put politics above the law.

Now I’ll leave it for comments to unpack why people like lobbyist hack Jamie Gorelick wants to boost Margolis. But for now, just know that when at least 10 of these 17 bigwigs say they benefited from Margolis’ “wise counsel and good judgment,” they may well be talking about personal–and significant–benefit.

Shorter Terwilliger: Don’t Extend the Investigation Past January 20

We interrupt the focus on the auto industry to look briefly at the subpoenas Nora Dannehy–the special prosecutor investigating the US Attorney firings–has sent out.

A prosecutor who is investigating the dismissals of nine U.S. attorneys has been meeting with defense lawyers, dispatching subpoenas and seeking information about the events, according to legal sources familiar with the case. 

[snip]

Dannehy, a longtime assistant U.S. attorney in Connecticut, in recent weeks has met with lawyers and government officials involved in the case. A grand jury in the District has issued subpoenas, the sources said. 

There are two worthwhile details here. First, the news that Kyle Sampson has taken a leave from his law firm.

D. Kyle Sampson, who served as the chief of staff to Gonzales until his March 2007 resignation, recently took a leave from his job as a partner at the law firm Hunton & Williams while the investigation proceeds. A spokeswoman for the law firm said he is on leave "pending admission to the D.C. bar." 

I can see how a swank firm wouldn’t want one of its partners indicted on its payroll.

The other, amusing, tidbit comes from George Terwilliger, Alberto Gonzales’ lawyer, making a pathetic case that the investigation–at least as it pertains to Gonzales–should end now. 

George J. Terwilliger III, an attorney for Gonzales, said that his client had engaged in no wrongdoing, "making it patently unfair and unwarranted to prolong an investigation that has no substantive justification. By the department’s own standards, this matter should be closed now as to Judge Gonzales." 

You don’t suppose he wants this to end yesterday because an Obama Administration might be less willing to shield Gonzales’ role by sustaining Bush’s executive privilege claim, do you?