A bipartisan group of former Attorneys General and Deputy Attorneys General have come to the aid of the Justice Department’s highest-ranking career official, David Margolis, who is under the microscope for his decision to overturn a finding of professional misconduct against former Office of Legal Counsel lawyers Jay Bybee and John Yoo.
Seventeen former officials — including every AG and DAG in the past 17 years, excepting Eric Holder — signed a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama extolling Margolis’ impartiality and wisdom.
“We all benefited during our tenures from the wise counsel and good judgment of David Margolis,” the March 4 letter states. “His advice is informed by his long experience and delivered with utter lack of partisan bias or any other distorting prejudice.”
As Associate Deputy Attorney General and a 45-year veteran of the department, one of Margolis’ duties is to oversee the Office of Professional Responsibility, which determined that Bybee and Yoo committed professional misconduct in authoring legal memos blessing brutal interrogation techniques, including waterboarding.
In a memo overturning the finding, Margolis said he agreed that the authors’ work was slipshod and that they demonstrated “poor judgment” but not misconduct. He also took aim at OPR for using what he described as shifting and incoherent standards against which Yoo and Bybee’s conduct was measured.
The letter makes no comment about the merits of his decision but concludes that it was reached “conscientiously and wholly without partisan purposes.”
Margolis’ decision has drawn sharp rebukes, and in some cases personal attacks, from the left, and praise, generally, from the right. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing last week on the report, though it did not live up to the ferocity of the debate unfolding on editorial pages and blogs. Only four senators attended.
See the letter below.