Christie Starts Paying Off His Campaign Debts

Wasting no time in paying off Ralph Marra for politicizing a bust of a bunch of Democrats this summer, Chris Christie has already indicated he will name Marra to be his Attorney General. (h/t Main Justice)

Knowledgeable Republican sources say that newly-elected Gov. Christopher Christie will name U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra as New Jersey’s new attorney general in January, after Christie is sworn in.

Any bets on which other AUSAs Christie will be bringing into state government as pay-off?

Did Michele Brown Quit Over FOIAs Naming Her Personally?

The Corzine campaign is ratcheting up the pressure on the US Attorney’s office to release a number of FOIAed documents. They’re calling on Christie to support full disclosure before the election.

But there’s a detail of their press release I find mighty interesting. The Corzine campaign FOIAed two items relating to Michele Brown just six days before she resigned, on August 19. They FOIAed:

  • Any written communications, emails, or any other records of communications since December 2001 between former U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie and Michele Brown that address or refer to the personal finances of either party, including, but not limited to, any loan or mortgage provided by Mr. Christie to Ms. Brown.
  • A complete history of all promotions and salaries since FY 2000 by Michele Brown, who is currently the First Assistant United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey.

DOJ refused both of those requests–though the Corzine campaign is appealing that decision.

The timing of these FOIAs adds a fascinating wrinkle to the NYT report from a few weeks ago. As the NYT reported, at almost precisely this time, DOJ told Ralph Marra to take Brown off of the FOIA response. And after DOJ insisted Brown be removed from the FOIA process, she quit.

In March, when Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s campaign requested public records about Mr. Christie’s tenure as prosecutor, Ms. Brown interceded to oversee the responses to the inquiries, taking over for the staff member who normally oversaw Freedom of Information Act requests, according to federal law enforcement officials in Newark and Washington. The requested information included records about Mr. Christie’s travel and expenses, along with Ms. Brown’s travel records.


News of Mr. Christie’s loan to Ms. Brown broke in August, dealing a blow to his candidacy, and he apologized for failing to report it on his tax returns and ethics filings.

Less than two weeks later, Justice Department officials told Mr. Christie’s interim replacement, Ralph Marra, to remove Ms. Brown from acting as coordinator of the Freedom of Information Act requests about Mr. Christie’s tenure because of the obvious conflict of interest, according to a federal law enforcement official briefed on the communications. Ms. Brown resigned from the prosecutor’s office the same day, the official said.


In August, Mr. Marra defended the office’s handling of the Freedom of Information requests and denied that Ms. Brown oversaw the process, saying she only supplied records relating to herself.

Now, as today’s press release reveals, Brown may have been trying to protect more than records of the travel scam she and Christie had going, whereby she approved of Christie’s excessive travel costs and he, in turn, approved of hers. In fact, she may have been trying to hide the financial terms of her relationship with Christie–both the mortgage that has been reported, but also bonuses and salary.

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More Proposed Oversight from John Conyers

John Conyers has been busy. In addition to drafting bills to improve FISA and PATRIOT (more on that later), he has introduced three more bills that would improve Congressional Oversight of the Executive.

The Department of Justice Inspector General Authority Improvement Act of 2009

This Act will authorize the Department of Justice Inspector General to investigate attorney misconduct within the Department of Justice. Under current law, all allegations of wrongdoing by the Department of Justice attorneys are required to be investigated by the by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, rather than the Inspector General. In contrast with the statutorily independent Inspector General, the Office of Professional Responsibility is supervised by the Attorney General.

This limitation on authority does not exist for any other agency Inspector General. The Department of Justice Inspector General Authority Improvement Act of 2009 will make the authority of the Department of Justice Inspector General consistent with that of all other agencies and will prevent future abuses and politicization within the Department.

DOJ’s Inspector General, Glenn Fine, has been pushing for this authority for some time (and not just because it would give him more authority). It fixes two problems that exist right now–one, that lawyers in DOJ are not held legally responsible in the same way as others might be, because they escape IG oversight (and often benefit from quiet settlements on complaints handled by OPR). And, more importantly, the current situation (in which OPR–which reports to the Attorney General–conducts investigations of lawyers) makes it almost impossible to investigate the actions of the Attorney General or his close allies. Alberto Gonzales was able to put off investigations into the US Attorney scandal for some time this way.

The Inspector General Authority Improvement Act of 2009

This Act will provide the Inspectors General of the various agencies the authority to issue subpoenas for the testimony of former employees or contractors as part of certain investigations. Under current law, a critical witness can avoid being interviewed by an Inspector General, and thus seriously impede an investigation, by simply resigning from the agency.

The bill contains important limitations on an Inspector General’s subpoena power in order to prevent abuse or damage to ongoing investigations.  Most prominently, an Inspector General cannot issue a subpoena if the Department of Justice concludes in a particular case that the taking of a deposition would interfere with civil or criminal litigation.

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Karl Rove’s US Attorney Project, Mary Beth Buchanan Edition

Remember the stated reason Karl Rove gave for firing a bunch of US Attorneys? He saw these US Attorney positions as a great stepping stone for rising political stars.

And now it looks like Mary Beth Buchanan, best known for her politicized prosecution of Dr. Cyril Wecht, may join Chris Christie and Tim Griffin in pursuit of elected office, in her case to run against Blue Dog Jason Altmire.

U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan is pondering a run for Congress to challenge Democrat Rep. Jason Altmire next fall.

Ms. Buchanan, a Republican and appointee of former President George W. Bush, has been considering a run for at least a month, Allegheny County Republican Party Chairman Jim Roddey said yesterday.


Mr. Roddey said he has met with her, and Ms. Buchanan is consulting with state and national Republican leaders to gauge support and her chances against the second-term Democrat from McCandless.

But remember. Buchanan is still the acting US Attorney. Which puts her in the same position Chris Christie got in when it came out he was working politics while still in office.

The county GOP leader said he did not see any ethical qualms with exploring a run while sitting as the chief federal prosecutor for Western Pennsylvania, and said Ms. Buchanan should step down only if she announces her candidacy.

Mr. Altmire, who said he has heard Ms. Buchanan’s name mentioned as a possible opponent, disagreed.

"She’s in a position that’s supposed to be nonpolitical," Mr. Altmire said. "If that’s true, I think it would be an inappropriate use of her time."

Who knows? Maybe like Christie she’ll go on to boast about discussing offering AUSAs political jobs when she wins (though a Congresswoman would have fewer patronage jobs than a Governor to dole out).  Or, maybe like Christie, it’ll become clear she has no platform (save, in Christie’s case, a plan to prevent women like Jane and me from getting mammograms) and her campaign will stall out.

In any case, it’s probably time to start tracking these races as a whole (including whatever race Troy Eid decides he’s going to run for) to monitor how effective the second part of Rove’s scheme to politicize US Attorneys turns out to be.

Michele Brown Gets the Payoff for her Role in Deferred Prosecution Agreements?

Guess where Michele Brown ended up, after leaving the US Attorney’s office to try to deflect attention both from Chris Christie’s inappropriate relationship with her as well as from Christie’s actions as US Attorney more generally? She’s gone to work for the law firm, McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter.

That’s interesting for two reasons. First, because one of the partners in the firm, Walter Timpone, is buddies with acting US Attorney Ralph Marra. But more importantly, Timpone is the guy who–as the Counsel for  DePuy Orthopaedics, signed the Deferred Prosecution Agreement that Chris Christie put through. And the Monitor who got big money for that DPA? Debra Yang, the woman who mysteriously got a sinecure at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher just as her US Attorney’s office was closing in on the ultra-corrupt Republican Jerry Lewis. 

We know from emails released this year during the House Judiciary’s hearing on Deferred Prosecution Agreements that Brown was intimately involved in the negotiations of these DPAs. 

It’s remarkable, don’t you think, how cozy all these DPAs end up being?

Gonzales’ Choice

This is what happens when a corrupt Administration doesn’t distribute the sinecures to all. (h/t MadDog)

Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales on Tuesday defended the decision of his current successor, Eric H. Holder Jr., to investigate alleged prisoner abuse by CIA interrogators over President Obama’s desire to look forward.

"As chief prosecutor of the United States, he should make the decision on his own, based on the facts, then inform the White House," said Mr. Gonzales, who was appointed to the post by President George W. Bush in 2005 and resigned in 2007.

(He goes on to say that if people exceeded guidelines, it is fair to punish them.)

And who can blame Fredo? Nora Dannehy is still investigating whether Alberto Gonzales politicized DOJ, picking and choosing cases and US Attorneys for political reasons. This offers an opportunity for him to defend the independence of the Attorney General, even if his statement contradicts all his actions in that position. It looks good, you know?

I’m particularly curious whether Gonzales’ statement is designed to forestall investigation in his role both in 2005 (when, the torture apologists claim, with only some accuracy, DOJ investigated but did not pursue these abuses) and/or his alleged role much earlier in the process, giving day to day approval for techniques used by the torturers?

I will say this though: welcome, AGAG! Let’s hear more from you on the importance of DOJ independence. Not because your words have any credibility. But because it suggests you might be willing to say more–much more–to defend yourself in the face of those who refused you a sinecure.

Random Thoughts On The Purgegate Document Dump

Eric Lichtblau and Eric Lipton have an article on the Purgegate document release in today’s New York Times. There were a few paragraphs by the two Erics that stood out to me:

Aides to former President George W. Bush have asserted that the Justice Department took the lead in the dismissals, which set off a political firestorm that lasted months. Mr. Rove played down his role in the firings in a recent interview and in closed testimony last month before Congressional investigators.

Well that was clearly a pack of lies; let’s call it what it is fellas.

“The amount of backstabbing and treachery involved is just breathtaking,” Mr. Iglesias said of the White House e-mail, in an interview on Tuesday. “It’s astounding that without reviewing the evidence or talking to the F.B.I. or anything, the White House would assume that these were provable cases and that I needed to file them for the political benefit of the party. That’s not what U.S. attorneys do.”

Hey Dave, they didn’t give a damn if the charges were provable, they just wanted them filed to prejudice Democrats before the election. Iglesias was wronged here, but he keeps consistently soft pedaling what occurred so as to remain a good Republican, and the distinction is a critical and clear one. It wansn’t that they "assumed provable cases"; they just didn’t care about the sufficiency of the charges. I really like Iglesias in a way, but this isn’t the first time he has treaded too lightly, he was all mushy over Scott Bloch too. Enough.

Robert Luskin, a lawyer for Mr. Rove, said the material released Tuesday demonstrated that there was “absolutely no evidence” the White House had used inappropriate political motivations to punish federal prosecutors. Mr. Luskin said Mr. Rove and other White House aides were legitimately concerned about voter fraud and were debating “completely reasonable and legitimate policy questions.”

Gold Bars is such a total tool. And man does he get around with the media outlets. Does he rent space at all of them or something?

Bush administration officials have publicly suggested that Mr. Iglesias was dismissed because of a subpar performance and absences from the office — he was a Navy reservist.

Those issues do not surface in the newly released e-mail. Rather, the dissatisfaction of New Mexico Republicans over the investigations was the focus in 2005 and 2006. Nonetheless, one message shows that the White House was told that the Justice Department planned to say the New Read more

The Rove Interview Materials, Working Thread

The House Judiciary Committee has just released all its materials from the Rove and Miers interviews. They are linked below.

I’m going to take a quick glance before I hop in the car to drive to Pittsburgh.  But I’ll take a closer look tonight.

BTW, here’s what HJC sent out in the press release.

Key new facts revealed in the materials released today include:[

•    2005 White House “Decision” to fire David Iglesias  – It has previously been known that New Mexico Republicans pressed for Iglesias to be removed because they did not like his decisions on vote fraud cases.  New White House documents show that Rove and his office were involved in this effort no later than May 2005 (months earlier than previously known) – for example, in May and June 2005, Rove aide Scott Jennings sent emails to Tim Griffin (also in Rove’s office) asking “what else I can do to move this process forward” and stressing that “I would really like to move forward with getting rid of NM US ATTY.”   In June 2005, Harriet Miers emailed that a “decision” had been made to replace Iglesias.  At this time, DOJ gave Iglesias top rankings, so this decision was clearly not just the result of the White House following the Department’s lead as Rove and Miers have maintained.1 

•    Iglesias criticized by Rove aide for not “doing his job on” Democratic Congressional Candidate Patricia Madrid  –   An October 2006 email chain begun by Representative Heather Wilson criticized David Iglesias for not bringing politically useful public corruption prosecutions in the run up to the 2006 elections.  Scott Jennings forwarded Wilson’s email to Karl Rove and complained that Iglesias had been “shy about doing his job on Madrid,” Wilson’s opponent in the 2006 Congressional race.  Just weeks after this email, Iglesias’ name was placed on the final firing list.2

•    An “agitated” Rove pressed Harriet Miers to do something about Iglesias just weeks before Iglesias was placed on the removal list – Karl Rove phoned Harriet Miers during a visit to New Mexico in September 2006 – according to Miers’ testimony, Rove was “agitated” and told her that Iglesias was “a serious problem and he wanted something done about it.”3

•    Senator Domenici personally asked Bush’s Chief of Staff Josh Bolten to have Iglesias replaced  –In October 2006, Senator Domenici stepped up his campaign to have Iglesias Read more

Gonzales and Bush Haven’t Spoken

It has been pretty apparent, given Alberto Gonzales’ utter failure to stumble on any wingnut welfare since resigning, that the Bush camp hasn’t been helping him out much.

But an interview in the NYT shows just how much relations between Gonzales and Bush have chilled.

Do you still talk to President Bush?
I have not spoken with the president since he left office.

Have you ever been tempted to pick up the phone and say hi to him?
I do, of course, think about our time together, and there are times when I think about doing that. But listen, I know that he has his life to live. I’ve got challenges and my life to live as well.

This of course means Gonzales has not been invited to Bush’s legacy planning meetings (not surprisingly). But it also means Gonzales hasn’t even bumped into Bush in over six months. That would be hard to do, if Gonzales were traveling normal Texas Republican circles.

I’m particularly interested in Gonzales’ representation of the timing of this: he says nothing about whether he spoke to Bush before he left office. I wonder whether something happened at the end to make Gonzales clam up? Did Gonzales, for example, ask for a little Bushie pre-emptive pardon, just like Cap Weinberger got?

Add in Gonzales’ whining about his legal bills–and the suggestion that Bush and Cheney have not been forthcoming to help with them–and it all seems to reinforce the notion that Bush has sacrificed Gonzales to legal problems he has at least partly because of larger Bush Administration actions.

Have you asked Bush or Cheney to help defray your legal bills?
I have not asked them personally.

I think you should ask them. They got you into this pickle. Shouldn’t they help get you out?
Listen, I have a group of supporters that are helping me fund-raise. They’re making decisions about how to do this successfully.

What are your legal bills like?
Substantial. I’ll say that obviously it’s been a burden. We did establish a legal-defense fund, and we have raised and are in the process of raising additional monies to pay for the lawyers.

But then, Gonzales has been whining about his bills for some time, to no avail. 

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Karl Rove: That’s Why They Call It a Limited Hang-Out

Corn and Isikoff took to Hardball today to treat the information that Luskin selectively leaked as credible and complete information on Rove’s role in the US Attorney firings (to Isikoff’s credit, he makes it clear that all this–including the emails–did come from Luskin), opining based on that information that Turdblossom’s probably not in any legal trouble.

Meanwhile, a number of people finally noted–after I kept insisting on this all afternoon–that the WaPo and NYT stories yesterday were just big spin from Luskin.  Some even judged that NYT got spun much worse than the WaPo (IMO they both got spun badly, and at least NYT made Luskin’s centrality to the story explicit–my favorite comparison, btw, was from a lawyer or law professor that I’ve since misplaced).

But few people seem all that interested in why. Why–after claiming, implausibly, that Rove couldn’t speak publicly for years–Luskin arranged this nice limited hang-out just in time to pre-empt anything from HJC. Luskin went to some trouble to orchestrate yesterday’s media blitz. Don’t you think that suggests he’s got something to pre-empt or distract from? Don’t you think that ought to be the story, the proper response to such a transparent ploy from a defense attorney?

Now, there are, I think, three factors here. First–note two things Isikoff and Corn don’t mention, taking as they did the scope laid out by Luskin. They don’t mention the Don Siegelman case (which was big news in the negotiations over this testimony). And they don’t mention the two sworn witnesses (plus another witness talking to the press) who said Rove was going to fire Pat Fitzgerald (which didn’t get much coverage, but for which Isikoff has been very accommodating to Luskin on in the past). Both were within the scope of questions permitted to be asked by HJC.

I don’t guarantee that either of these will come to any fruition in the HJC inquiry. I think GregCraig pretty much set up the Siegelman inquiry to go nowhere (thanks GregCraig). And I think the timing of the attempt to fire Fitzgerald may not work out, given the scope of the HJC inquiry (that is, much of the effort took place in 2004, before the scope of HJC’s questions were permitted). But they are two areas of potential questioning that Luskin left out of yesterday’s limited hang-out.

And then there’s this, from Scott Horton (who also compares the NYT and WaPo coverage of Luskin’s blitz and finds the latter appropriately skeptical).

Indeed, the headline tells the whole story: “Rove Says His Role in Prosecutor Firings Was Small.” Read more