Will McCain Turn Over Requested Documents to the Renzi Prosecutors?

As the Hill reported this morning, John McCain’s (and John Kyl’s) staffers were interviewed in the Renzi investigation.

Federal agents interviewed staffers for likely Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) as part of their corruption case against Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.).

U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Diane J. Humetewa and fellow prosecutors disclosed the interviews with aides for McCain and fellow Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl in a written response to Renzi’s attorneys, who asked for the contents of the interview to help prepare for Renzi’s upcoming trial, which is scheduled for October.

But as the letter from the prosecution team to Renzi’s lawyers (and the Hill article) makes clear, the prosecution requested–but had thus far not received–more than that.

12. You have requested documents obtained from the offices of any U.S. Senator with respect to land exchanges. You will be provided with FD-302s of interviews of staffers of Senators McCain and Kyl. We have also requested documents from the offices of Senators McCain and Kyl, and if we receive documents we will make those available to you consistent with the rules and practices of the U.S. Senate.

13. You have requested documents reflecting communications between Resolution Copper or Petrified Forest and U.S. Senators. We will provide you with the opportunity to inspect and copy anything that we have received during the investigation on this topic. [my emphasis]

The prosecution team requested documents from the two Arizona Senators, documents that as of April 14, they had not yet received.

Now, to be totally fair to John McCain, these documents might show McCain in a good light. They might reveal that, after Rick Renzi allegedly tried to solicit a bribe from Resolution Copper and Petrified Forest, those companies appealed to the state’s Senators for help.

But John McCain has a history of sponsoring land swaps favored by his backers.

Sen. John McCain championed legislation that will let an Arizona rancher trade remote grassland and ponderosa pine forest here for acres of valuable federally owned property that is ready for development, a land swap that now stands to directly benefit one of his top presidential campaign fundraisers].

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How Is Rick Renzi Like a Gitmo Detainee?

A tiny bit of me (okay, miniscule) wishes that Rick Renzi were sticking around as a Congressman. That’s because, now that the government has tried to use wiretaps of conversations between him and his attorneys in his trial, Renzi might be motivated to champion legislation reaffirming the importance of attorney-client privilege.

Attorneys for Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), who has been indicted on 35 federal corruption charges, filed a motion today asking a federal judge to exclude from trial a series of "at least 50" cell phone calls by Renzi that were recorded by FBI agents.

Renzi’s legal teams says that the calls should be privileged under attorney-client privilege, as well as the Speech or Debate Clause, a constitutional privilege that protects lawmakers and aides from legal action for legislative activities. Renzi is not raising a Speech or Debate claim on these intercepted calls yet.

"These privileged calls include conversations between Congressman Renzi and his criminal defense counsel and an attorney representing him in a Federal Election Commission (‘FEC’) proceeding. The privileged calls reflect discussions regarding legal strategy and core work product, including the direction of the investigation, witness interviews, DOJ strategy, Congressman Renzi’s recollection of relevant issues, and legal advice regarding theories of prosecution and applicable defenses," Renzi’s lawyers wrote. They are asking that the audio files and transcripts of the calls should be returned to Renzi’s control and a protective order should be granted to prevent prosecutors or anyone else from reviewing the calls.

It’s a problem that extends beyond corrupt Congressmen. Many of the lawyers defending detainees at Gitmo believe they are being wiretapped.

One lawyer for Guantánamo detainees said he replaced his office telephone in Washington because of sounds that convinced him it had been bugged. Another lawyer who represents detainees said he sometimes had other lawyers call his corporate clients to foil any government eavesdroppers.

In interviews and a court filing Tuesday, lawyers for detainees at Guantánamo said they believed government agents had monitored their conversations. The assertions are the most specific to date by Guantánamo lawyers that officials may be violating legal principles that have generally kept government agents from eavesdropping on lawyers.

“I think they are listening to my telephone calls all the time,” said John A. Chandler, a prominent lawyer in Atlanta and Army veteran who represents six Guantánamo detainees.


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Preview: Book Salon on Spies for Hire

shorrock.jpgI wanted to give you all a heads up to a mid-week book salon I’ll be hosting today at 3PM ET over at the mother ship: Tim Shorrock’s Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing. I pushed to include Shorrock on the schedule because (as you’ll see in my post at 3) his book offers some key insights on FISA–and we seem to be gearing up for another FISA fight.

But there’s more than FISA that might interest you about the book (and about chatting with Shorrock). He gives the corporate back-story to:

  • Rick Renzi’s corruption
  • The domestic spying Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA)
  • CACI, the company whose contractors directed the torture at Abu Ghraib
  • Total Information Awareness
  • The domestic satellite surveillance Chertoff wants to use with DHS

Shorrock wraps that background story in a discussion both of the ideology behind the privatization of our intelligence function:

…as we’ve seen, money and profits are not the sole motivators for the corporations and executives who populate the Intelligence Industrial Complex. Because so many top executives are former intelligence officers themselves, many of their companies are motivated by politics as well. For CACI’s CEO, Jack London, that translates into a desire to "disseminate vital intelligence" for the fight against "Islamofascists." For ManTech CEO George Pederson, it’s a yearning for his company to be "on the battlefield," whether in Iraq, South Korea, or the Philippines. For the senior vice presidents of the big prime contractors, Booz Allen Hamilton and Science Applications International Corporation, it involves power, either as a way to influence future policy or make changes in the way the Intelligence Community is organized.

And a discussion of the subservience of public to private interest in such an Intelligence-Industrial Complex.

In the past, [former NSA Director Kenneth] Minihan said, contractors "used to support military operations; now we participate [in them]. We’re inextricably tied to the success of their operations." This new situation, he argued, presents corporations with "interesting opportunities" to create technologies that governments can take advantage of, "with all the complexities that exist in merging the interests of the private and public sector in the intelligence apparatus."

Merging the interests of the private and public sector. That astonishing phrase, which is now the mantra of the intelligence contracting industry, suggests the creation of a new mode of capitalism that specifically serves theneeds of government and its "intelligence apparatus." Read more

McCain Hearts Renzi

Not only is Rick Renzi unwilling to step down from the House, but John Straight Talk for Lobbyists McCain is unwilling to kick him out of his campaign.

Asked in Ohio today, however, McCain said “it doesn’t matter” if Renzi stays on his campaign or not. Watch it:

McCain has been staunchly loyal to his fellow Arizonian. After the FBI investigation into Renzi was first reported in October 2006, McCain vouched for Renzi’s “integrity” in a robo-call to Arizona voters:

This is Senator John McCain. I’m calling to urge you to support my friend, Representative Rick Renzi for Congress. Rick has represented the first district of Arizona with tenacity, honesty and integrity beyond reproach.

Perhaps the several AZ folks who hang around these parts will help me out. But isn’t Renzi one of the best known carpet-baggers in Congress? Further, don’t most of the ethical, um, exuberances that were not charged, but should have been, associated with him bringing pork to Daddy’s (RIP) boondoggle in Huachuca–outside of Renzi’s district. That is, Renzi’s been a great second Congressman for AZ’s 8th CD, but a piss poor one for its first district, the one that elected him.

Someone ought to confirm with McCain that he meant to invoke the first district in this statement.

Or even better, folks ought to ask McCain why it is that he’s so loyal to a spooked up Congressman who is so obviously violating the trust of his constituents (regardless of whether he committed a crime or not). I imagine this support for Renzi will grow more embarrassing for Mr. Straight Talk for Lobbyists, as he go forward.

So why is he risking that embarrassment now?

What Got Added to the Renzi Indictment Since October 2006?

I noted earlier that there was good reason to believe that the impending Renzi indictment is the most likely explanation for Paul Charlton’s firing in December 2006. A number of reports described the investigation stalling just before Charlton was fired. That raises the question of whether the investigation has progressed since the time Charlton was fired–or whether DOJ has simply stalled since then.

The chronology of Charlton’s firing and the Renzi investigation

A quick reminder of the chronology:

June 2005: Investigation into Renzi launched

Months before election day, 2006: Investigators ask for clearance to tap Renzi

September 13, 2006: Charlton’s name added to the firing list

Late October, 2006: Wiretap approved and put into place

October 26, 2006: News of the Renzi investigation leaked to the press; this alerts Renzi to wiretaps used in the investigation

Late October 2006: Renzi’s Chief of Staff, Brian Murray, calls Charlton’s office and asks about "pending indictment;" Charlton alerts DOJ

December 7, 2006: Charlton fired

Early 2007: Key witnesses first subpoenaed

April 19, 2007: Renzi’s insurance company raided

April 21, 2007: John Wilkes WSJ article lays out most of charges described in indictment

November 9, 2007: Mukasey assumes AG position

December 17, 2007: Diane Humetewa assumes AZ US Attorney position

February 22, 2008: Renzi indicted

In other words, after stalling the approval of wiretaps in 2006, after raiding Renzi’s business (technically owned by his wife) in April 2007, it still took until today to bring the indictment.

So was DOJ stalling, or were they conducting an ongoing investigation?

What DOJ knew by April 2007

As I point out, by April 21 of last year, the WSJ’s John Wilke was able to describe almost all of the counts laid out in the indictment. He described that investigators had found:

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Rick Renzi Indicted

From the AP

A 26-page federal indictment unsealed in Arizona accuses Renzi and two former business partners of conspiring to promote the sale of land that buyers could swap for property owned by the federal government. The sale netted one of Renzi’s former partners $4.5 million.

Here’s a post describing the deal from last year.

A big time mining venture, Resolution Copper Company, wants a parcel of land an hour east of Phoenix so it can mine the vein of copper that lies beneath it. Renzi offered to help them gain Congressional approval for a land swap that would give them that parcel of land, in exchange for some other pieces of land that would be preserved or used to decrease water consumption in the area. Only, Renzi wanted to throw in a little goodie for himself–he asked Resolution to buy an alfalfa field he owned to include it in the swap. The field was later purchased by another group (with ties to Bruce Babbitt) for $4 million dollars, just two years after it was purchased for $1 million.

Not a surprise, really. I’m just hoping the indictment finally reveals more about why Paul Charlton was fired to stave off precisely this indictment. From last year’s post:

And, lurking behind the scam, is the firing of Paul Charlton as US Attorney. In the Senate hearing the other day, Alberto Gonzales offered no good answer for why Charlton was fired. He claimed only that Charlton resisted Gonzales’ judgement on a death penalty case and that he used poor judgment in his efforts to implement taped confessions for investigations in his district. News of the Renzi investigation first got leaked in October, just before the election. And this scam involves a significant Native American interest (one of the commonalities among several of the fired USAs)–the San Carlos Apache Tribe opposes the mining project because it endangers some of their cultural heritage areas.