I was struck by the number of Republicans who played prominent roles in the impeachment of Bill Clinton who vigorously support Eric Holder’s nomination for Attorney General. Most of them have thriving corporate legal, lobbying and/or consulting practices as well, with lots of real and potential client issues before Justice.
Those writing letters to the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of Holder’s confirmation include two House managers of Bill Clinton’s impeachment – former Reps. Asa Hutchison and Bob Barr (now a Libertarian and GOP critic), as well as Paul McNulty, who served as chief spokesman for the House Judiciary Committee during impeachment long before he became embroiled in the US attorneys scandal and had to step down as deputy attorney general. Oh, and Manus Cooney signed a letter of support, too. Cooney was Orin Hatch’s top aide on the Senate Judiciary Committee when the Senate voted againt convicting Clinton, realizing it was political suicide. Cooney lobbies on behalf of tech companies and others with patent and antitrust issues before DOJ. One of his clients is agriculture giant Monsanto.
Also writing in favor of Holder: White & Case partner George Terwilliger, Victoria Toensing and her husband Joe DiGenova. All three were vocal Clinton critics who helped built the public case for impeachment. They now have so many corporate clients with interests before DOJ I wouldn’t have time in this brief post to tally them all. Just check out Terwilliger’s law firm page here.
(UPDATE: Now former Solicitor General and long-time Republican activist Ted Olson has filed a letter, on Jan. 14, for Holder. In the 1990s Olson sat on the board of the conservative American Spectator magazine when it launched the infamous “Arkansas Project” funded by Richard Melon Scaife that dredged up the Paula Jones sexual harassment allegations that eventually snowballed into Clinton’s impeachment.)
And: former special counsel Charles LaBella, who recommended in 1998 that Janet Reno appoint an independent counsel to investigate alleged Clinton administration and Democratic Party campaign finance abuses, wrote a letter for Holder, and former FBI Director Louie Freeh signed one, too. Reno declined to appoint an independent counsel and clashed with Freeh about that decision.
Holder was considered an honest broker by conservatives when he was deputy assistant attorney general during the Clinton scandals. For example, he advised Janet Reno to allow Ken Starr to expand his independent counsel investigation into the Monica Lewinsky affair, which led to Clinton’s impeachment.
There’s a cameraderie in Washington circles that defies even the most bitter partisanship. It’s bad business to be enemies, for one thing. Still, the ironies abound. If confirmed as AG, Holder will have to decide whether to investigate Bush-era abuses of the “rule of law” – the principle that conservative ideologues brayed about so disengenuously after Clinton lied to a grand jury about his affair with Lewinsky. Later, when it was a Republican president disregarding the rule of law — with much dire consequences for the country and world — this Greek chorus (except for the apostate Bob Barr) was slient. In fact, Terwilliger later became defense lawyer to former AG Alberto Gonzales, one of the chief (if hapless) villains in the whole affair. Gonzales faces an inquiry from a special prosecutor about whether he testified truthfully to Congress about his role in warrantless domestic surveillance and the firing of the US attorneys.