Republicans returning from their week-long recess are trying to turn up the heat on the Obama administration over efforts by White House operatives to discuss the possibility of jobs with two Democratic primary candidates if they dropped out of their races.
Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement on Friday that he wanted hearings to investigate the issue.
“I am concerned that the Obama administration has engaged in a habit of attempting to manipulate the democratic election process to benefit the Democratic Party. Such actions are certainly unethical and may very well be criminal,” Smith said.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has previously said the Justice Department should appoint a special prosecutor to look into the allegations.
The swirl of accusations involving the White House, including back-room deal-making and promises of jobs in exchange for political favors, has led some Republicans to suspect a juicy potential scandal. But as the facts are known, so far anyway, not many lawyers, not even Republican stalwarts, think anybody broke the law.
Steven G. Bradbury, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under President George W. Bush, told Politico that the president can fill advisory positions in whatever method he wishes, including to “reward political loyalty.” His remarks followed those of former Attorney General Michael Mukasey who has said that finding criminality was “really a stretch.”
Bradbury offered a fuller legal analysis. ”Under the Constitution,” he said, “ it’s the president’s prerogative to fill advisory positions in the White House and to decide who will occupy senior policy offices across the administration,” said Bradbury, who suggested that Congress should not attempt to criminalize the appointment process.
“The president may make those appointment decisions for any reason he deems appropriate,” Bradbury said, “ including to reward political loyalty, and it would raise serious constitutional issues if Congress tried to prohibit the president, or anyone acting on his behalf, from offering appointments in particular circumstances.”
“For that reason,” Bradbury continued, “any statute that purports to criminalize an offer of appointment must be construed, if at all possible, not to interfere with the president’s constitutional authority, and if the statute cannot be read to avoid that result, there’s a strong argument it would be unconstitutional as so applied.”
Justice Department officials have expressed no interest in opening an inquiry. The White House has defended its actions. In one case, according to a report issued last week by White House counsel Robert Bauer, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel asked former President Bill Clinton to raise the possibility of an unpaid presidential appointment to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), who was challenging and defeated Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary.
This week another episode emerged. Colorado senatorial candidate Andrew Romanoff said that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina brought up three positions that he might be interested in as an alternative to running against the administration’s preferred candidate, incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet.
“It sounds like political horsetrading and I don’t think a prosecutor would have any interest in prosecuting such a case. It doesn’t sound to me anything like a bribe,” Zeidenberg said. “You’d be laughed out of the courtroom.”
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Former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick said that President Barack Obama should speak in front of members of the militia movement to calm down rhetoric in the midst of a resurgent anti-government movement.
Gorelick was speaking Friday as part of a panel discussion marking the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing on Monday. On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people. McVeigh, an anti-government extremist who was hoping to spark a revolt against the federal government, was convicted, sentenced to the death penalty and executed on June 11, 2001.
“It is harder to demonize someone who is real and right in front of you,” said Gorelick, now of WilmerHale. “Although it was a long time ago, our experience dealing with militia groups in the aftermath of Oklahoma City was pretty powerful.”
According to Gorelick, after the bombing, the Justice Department asked the FBI to approach militia movements across the country and tell them they could speak out and hold exercises in the woods but that they couldn’t threaten violence against the government. President Bill Clinton also went to Michigan State and spoke to students and members of the militia movement and thanked those who had opposed the bombing.
Gorelick recommended that Obama try a similar approach.
“I see these things as waves, and I believe we’re having another wave right now, it feels that way to me, and I’m hoping there’s something short of a catharsis — which in the case of Oklahoma City and the abortion clinic bombings and others has been death — that will stop that pendulum swing,” said Gorelick.
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David Fein (Dartmouth College, New York University School of Law) is nominated to be U.S. Attorney for Connecticut. He would replace Kevin O’Connor, who was the district’s U.S. Attorney from 2002 to 2006. O’Connor resigned in order to become Associate Deputy Attorney General. The district’s current acting U.S. Attorney is Nora Dannehy.
- Born in New York, N.Y., in 1960.
- Has been a partner at Wiggin and Dana LLP in Stamford, Conn., since 1997.
- Has been a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School in New Haven, Conn., since 1999.
- Was Associate Counsel to President Bill Clinton in Washington, D.C., from 1995 to 1996.
- Worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York from 1989 to 1995. Also served as deputy chief of the narcotics unit from 1992 to 1993, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division from 1993 to 1994 and counsel to the U.S. Attorney from 1994 to 1995.
- Was an associate at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in New York, N.Y., from 1986 to 1989.
- Clerked for The Honorable Frank M. Coffin in Portland, Maine from 1985 to 1986.
- Was a summer associate at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Southern District of New York in 1985.
- Was a summer associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP in New York, N.Y., in 1984.
- Was a summer associate at Rosenman & Colin (now Katten Muchin Rosenman) in New York, N.Y., in 1983.
- Was a visiting lecturer at the University of Connecticut School of Law in Hartford, Conn., from 1997 to 1998.
- Has tried approximately 15 cases tried to verdict, of which he was chief counsel in approximately 10.
Click here for his full Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire.
On his Office of Government Ethics financial disclosure Fein reported earning $1.8 million from Wiggin and Dana in 2009 in distribution and bonuses.
UPDATE: On his Senate Judiciary financial disclosure Fein reported assets valued at $4.5 million, mostly from his $2.8 million personal residence, and $978,000 in liabilities, mostly from a mortgage on the property, for a net worth of $3.6 million.
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We recently wrote about the Attorney General’s communication strategy over the past several weeks, as Republican criticisms of his national security decisions intensified. Holder’s approach had been very low-key — to a fault, his supporters told us — until about two weeks ago, when the Attorney General wrote a pointed letter to Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) defending his decision to charge the alleged Christmas Day bomber in the criminal justice system.
The New York Times today has a story that sheds more light on Holder’s messaging since his November announcement that the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four other alleged conspirators would be tried in federal court in Manhattan. The plan crumbled in the face of intense criticism, but Holder never reemerged to explain himself — by White House design.
The Times reports:
The White House, wanting to move on quickly, overruled Mr. Holder’s request for more public appearances to explain the decision, administration officials said. In the resulting vacuum, critics denounced the civilian trial plan as a soft-on-terror capitulation to liberals.
Two weeks ago, probably just before the Feb. 3 letter to McConnell, Holder met with White House advisers “to discuss how to unite against common foes,” as the Times describes the meeting. The advisers agreed to let Holder speak out more — as we noted, he has not appeared on a Sunday talk show since his confirmation and has given few extended interviews, until this point — and Holder agreed to allow the White House to help sharpen his message.
Holder told the Times in an interview last week that the political attacks were “starting to constrain my ability to function as attorney general.”
“I have to do a better job in explaining the decisions that I have made,” he said, adding, “I have to be more forceful in advocating for why I believe these are trials that should be held on the civilian side.”
The Times story begins with an anecdote that highlights Holder’s shifting views of his role as department spokesman. (It also touches on his strained relationship with David Ogden, who stepped down as Holder’s deputy this month.)
After Holder gave a speech last year calling the United States a “nation of cowards” for avoiding discussions on race, President Obama distanced himself the remark. But his advisers went much further. According to the Times:
Rahm Emanuel and Jim Messina, the White House chief and deputy chief of staff, proposed installing a minder alongside Mr. Holder to prevent further gaffes — someone with better “political antennae,” as one administration official put it.
When he heard of the proposal at a White House meeting, Mr. Holder fumed; soon after, he confronted his deputy, David W. Ogden, who knew of the plan but had not alerted his boss, according to several officials. Mr. Holder fought off the proposal, signaling that his job was about the law, not political messaging.
His most important plan — to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described architect of the Sept. 11 attacks, in federal court in Manhattan — collapsed before it even began, after support from the public and local officials withered.
A year later, he is no longer so certain.
It appears we’ll be seeing a lot more of the Attorney General.
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Appearing at the National Press Club on Friday, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez gave an impassioned speech on his vision for the Civil Rights Division, while criticizing its actions under the George W. Bush administration with the harshest language he has used to date.
“I learned, to my great disappointment, that those who had been entrusted with the keys to the division, and to its great power to pursue justice, treated the division instead like a buffet line at the cafeteria, cherry‐picking which laws to enforce,” Perez said in prepared remarks before the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.
“I’ve seen the eyes and the faces of the wonderful career professionals who toiled during the last eight years, who did their best and did so much, but it was so difficult,” said Perez during his speech.
“I must say I wasn’t surprised by much of the data [showing fewer civil rights prosecutions in other areas during the Bush administration]. I rather expected it, but I was rather shocked in the hate crimes setting because Ed Meese made hate crimes a priority, Brad Reynolds made hate crimes a priority, John Dunne made hate crimes a priority, George Herbert Walker Bush made the prosecution of hate crimes a priority, Bill Clinton made the prosecution of hate crimes a priority, and Barack Obama and Eric Holder will once again make the prosecution of hate crimes a significant priority,” said Perez.
Touching on his theme of transformation and revitalization of the Civil Rights Division, Perez said that it must recognize “emerging areas of interest, areas where the Civil Rights Division may not have played a large role historically, but must play a large role today. One essential area is the area of civil rights and human rights, recognizing that we must set an example for the world.”
Perez recounted his testimony before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary panel last week on how the Civil Rights Division saw its role in implementing several international human rights treaties. He said the division would be working closely with the State Department on international human rights issues to make sure that the U.S. is in compliance with those treaties.
“We are the nation’s problem-solvers, not simply the nation’s litigators,” said Perez. “I’m a firm believer that if you want a job done well, give it to a busy person, and we’re having a lot of busy people at our department,” said Perez.
The conclusion of Perez’s speech, filmed by Main Justice, can be viewed below. The full speech, as aired on C-SPAN, can be viewed here.
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For the first time in this administration, Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorneys nominated by President Barack Obama outnumber Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorneys nominated by former President George W. Bush.
As of the end of November, more than 10 months into Obama’s presidency, the score was 24 Obama U.S. Attorneys to 21 Bush U.S. Attorneys, according to a review of Justice Department and congressional records. And of the 48 acting and interim U.S. Attorneys, just seven were appointed during the Bush administration.
The figures represent a watershed for the Obama administration, which has made halting progress filling the nation’s 93 U.S. Attorneys positions amid political resistance and a crowded legislative agenda.
On Monday, the U.S. Attorney nominee for Colorado, Stephanie Villafuerte, pulled her name from consideration, offering a public view of one of several nomination battles unfolding in districts across the country. Villafuerte, the first Obama U.S. Attorney nominee to withdraw, faced questions from Republicans over whether she accessed a restricted federal database for political purposes.
Meanwhile, in Mississippi’s Northern District, Oxford-based criminal defense lawyer Christi McCoy’s candidacy has foundered. People in Mississippi legal circles said Republicans raised questions about her affiliation with a private investigator under investigation for allegedly padding his bills and submitting false claims. (McCoy, like many other defense lawyers in Mississippi, used the P.I. in her practice.)
McCoy was recommended for the U.S. Attorney post by Mississippi Reps. Bennie Thompson and Travis Childers, both Democrats.
And in Alabama, Montgomery criminal defense lawyer Joe Van Heest appears to be out of the running for Middle District U.S. Attorney after objections from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), one person familiar with the situation said. Van Heest, who was recommended by Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.), had been fully vetted by the White House months ago. But the administration never went forward with a nomination.
As a result, a controversial Bush-holder U.S. Attorney, Leura Canary, remains in charge of the Montgomery-based office. Democrats have criticized Canary for prosecuting former Gov. Don Siegelman (D) on public corruption charges. The Justice Department opposes Siegelman’s Supreme Court appeal of his 2006 conviction.
The White House has shown little appetite for these and other feuds, preferring to reservoir political capital for legislative goals such as health-care reform.
Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Obama administration is treading cautiously in nominating U.S. Attorneys, in part because of lingering sensitivities to politicization in the Justice Department. In an October interview with National Public Radio, Holder said he hoped the offices would be filled by the first part of 2010, but that appears unlikely, with fewer than one-third of the U.S. Attorneys confirmed heading into the New Year.
One administration official said Holder is frustrated with the pace of the nominations, which thus far has been set by the White House. And several Justice officials are now privately questioning the wisdom of leaving Bush-appointed U.S. Attorneys in place until their successors are confirmed, a tack Obama took to preserve continuity and avoid political pitfalls after the scandal over prosecutor firings.
More than twice as many Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorneys were in place by this time in the first year of the previous two administrations. In the Bush administration, the Senate had confirmed 58 U.S. Attorneys by the end of November 2001, congressional records show. President Bill Clinton, by comparison, had moved 57 U.S. Attorneys through the confirmation process by the end of November 1993.
Nominations, too, have been slow in coming, reinforcing the notion that the top rather than the bottom of the process is knotted. Obama has sent 34 U.S. Attorney nominations to the Senate to date. Bush had nominated more than 60 U.S. Attorneys and Clinton more than 70 U.S. Attorneys by this time in their first terms.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the figures, referring a reporter to Holder’s previous statements on U.S. Attorney nominations.
Below are lists of Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorneys.
Nominated by Obama:
- Timothy Heaphy (Western District of Virginia)
- Karen Loeffler (District of Alaska)
- Brendan Johnson (District of South Dakota)
- Paul Fishman (District of New Jersey)
- Kenyen Brown (Southern District of Alabama)
- Stephanie Rose (Northern District of Iowa)
- Nick Klinefeldt (Southern District of Iowa)
- Benjamin Wagner (Eastern District of California)
- Ed Tarver (Southern District of Georgia)
- Carmen Ortiz (District of Massachusetts)
- Joyce Vance (Northern District of Alabama)
- B. Todd Jones (District of Minnesota)
- John Kacavas (District of New Hampshire)
- Preet Bharara (Southern District of New York)
- Tristram Coffin (District of Vermont)
- Dennis Burke (District of Arizona)
- Daniel Bogden (District of Nevada)
- Steve Dettelbach (Northern District of Ohio)
- Carter Stewart (Southern District of Ohio)
- Peter Neronha (District of Rhode Island)
- Neil MacBride (Eastern District of Virginia)
- Florence Nakakuni (District of Hawaii)
- Deborah Gilg (District of Nebraska)
- Jenny Durkan (Western District of Washington)
Nominated by Bush:
- Leura Canary (Middle District of Alabama)
- Joseph Russoniello (Northern District of California)
- A. Brian Albritton (Middle District of Florida)
- Leonardo Rapadas (Guam & Northern Mariana Islands)
- Thomas Moss (District of Idaho)
- Patrick Fitzgerald (Northern District of Illinois)
- Jim Letten (Eastern District of Louisiana)
- David Dugas (Middle District of Louisiana)
- Donald Washington (Western District of Louisiana)
- Rod Rosenstein (District of Maryland)
- Jim Greenlee (Northern District of Mississippi)
- William Mercer (District of Montana)
- George E.B. Holding (Eastern District of North Carolina)
- Anna Mills S. Wagner (Middle District of North Carolina)
- Sheldon Sperling (District of Oklahoma)
- William Walter Wilkins III (District of South Carolina)
- James Dedrick (Eastern District of Tennessee)
- Edward Meachan Yardbrough (Middle District of Tennessee)
- Brett Tolman (District of Utah)
- James McDevit (Eastern District of Washington)
- Kelly Rankin (District of Wyoming)
And here’s a list of Obama nominees who have not been confirmed:
- Christopher Crofts (District of Wyoming)
- Thomas Walker (Eastern District of North Carolina)
- James Santelle (Eastern District of Wisconsin)
- Barbara McQuade (Eastern District of Michigan)
- Mary Elizabeth Phillips (Western District of Missouri)
- Sanford Coats (Western District of Oklahoma)
- Michael Cotter (District of Montana)
- Richard Callahan (Eastern District of Missouri)
- Michael Moore (Middle District of Georgia)
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The Attorney General can add another honor to his growing list.
Sadly, Holder is only the third most powerful mustachioed politico, behind Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who shares the 11th spot with bearded Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), and President Obama’s adviser David Axelrod at the 6th spot on the list.
GQ credited Holder for his independence from the president, noting:
Holder has pushed back against the wishes of his own team, fighting CIA director Leon Panetta’s attempts to quash the release of the interrogation records and going forward with an investigation, against Obama’s wishes, into the alleged torture that took place during the Bush years. While critics on the left say he’s not going far enough, it’s nice to have a DOJ paying attention to the rule of law again.
The men’s magazine compiled the list to commemorate just how different things in Washington appear to be nine months into the Obama administration. “A whole new power structure has emerged,” the magazine says.
Holder comes in behind super-lobbyists Karen Ignagni (America’s Health Insurance Plans) and Billy Tauzin, (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America), who jointly occupy the 12th spot, and ahead of House Finance Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), at the 14th spot.
Holder was not the only Justice Department luminary on the list. FBI Director Robert Mueller took the 19th spot, for his efforts to “build a more nimble intelligence division.”
Robert Barnett, attorney at Williams and Connolly LLP, took the 44th spot. Barnett has represented a veritable who’s-who of DC luminaries as they leave office to write their book, earning seven-figure advances for Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Who’s at the top of the heap? The cleanshaven Rahm Emanuel, of course.
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More than eight months after President Barack Obama took office, one third of the country’s U.S. Attorney offices are still run by prosecutors appointed during the administration of Republican George W. Bush, according to a review of data by Main Justice.
At this point in October 2001 — after Bush succeeded Democrat Bill Clinton – less than 9 percent of the slots were occupied by Clinton holdovers.
The data from the Department of Justice and the U.S. Senate show that Obama is moving relatively slowly to replace Bush-era prosecutors.
Of the 93 U.S. Attorney posts nationwide, 23 are occupied by Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorneys appointed by Bush. Another eight U.S. Attorneys who were appointed during the Bush administration, but not confirmed by the Senate, are also serving. That makes a total of 31 Bush-era appointees who are still running the top federal prosecuting offices around the country.
(Click here to see our chart of the eight Clinton holdovers who were still serving in October 2001. Click here for our interactive chart tracking Obama’s progress in filling the 93 U.S. Attorney offices.)
The issue of Bush-holdovers has attracted notice because of the intense partisan battles over Justice Department personnel and actions that took place during the Bush administration. And some of the Bush-era U.S. Attorneys still serving today were at the center of those controversies.
But the bad economy and law firm recession also may explain why so many U.S. Attorneys are lingering in office. Indeed, some are waiting until the last minute to exit.
This week, three Senate-confirmed Bush-era U.S. Attorneys – Gregory Brower in Nevada, Edward Kubo Jr. in Hawaii and Joe Stecher in Nebraska – left office as their Obama-appointed successors were sworn in. Stecher indicated in an interview with Main Justice he hadn’t lined up a new job yet.
Other of the Bush-era U.S. Attorneys who are still in office were among those accused of targeting Democrats for prosecution, or who were involved in the 2006 U.S. Attorney firings that led to congressional investigations, an appointment of a special prosecutor, and the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. While U.S. Attorneys are political appointees, they are expected to carry out the law enforcement duties of their office without regard to partisan politics.
The uproar over the apparent politicization of the Justice Department helped energize Obama’s liberal base in the 2008 presidential election.
But as president, Obama has moved cautiously to replace U.S. Attorneys. While Bill Clinton asked for the resignation of all U.S. Attorneys after taking office in 1993 — a move that was criticized at the time as disruptive — the Obama White House has consulted closely with Republican senators. At times, the White House has delayed moving forward when GOP senators objected to an intended nominee. At the same time, some Democratic senators and House members have been slow in forwarding their recommendations for U.S. Attorneys to the White House, c0ntributing to delays, say people familiar with the process.
“The U.S. Attorney vetting and nomination process is continuing at a steady pace,” DOJ spokesperson Melissa Schwartz wrote in an e-mail to Main Justice.
Meanwhile, several prosecutors most closely identified with the Bush-era controversies remain in office. They include:
- Mary Beth Buchanan, Western Pennsylvania. Buchanan held multiple Bush Justice Department leadership positions in Washington, D.C., while simultaneously serving as the U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh since 2001. She headed the Executive Office of United States Attorneys from 2004 to 2005, drawing her into the House Judiciary Committee investigation of the U.S. Attorney firings. A member of the conservative Federalist Society, she is overseeing a sensitive corruption investigation into a group of lobbyists who were close to Democratic Rep. John Murtha. Buchanan told local reporters last November she would not voluntarily step down, according to The Washington Post. In July, former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh asked Attorney General Eric Holder to discipline Buchanan for “vindictively” suggesting at a news conference that a high-profile Democratic defendant was guilty. Her office dismissed all charges against former Allegheny County medical examiner Cyril Wecht after a federal judge threw out evidence that was ruled improperly obtained. Wecht was indicted on fraud and theft charges in January 2006.
- Leura Canary, Middle District of Alabama. Canary, who has been U.S. Attorney since 2001, successfully prosecuted former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D) on corruption charges, in a case that Democrats have alleged was political. Canary is married to GOP activist Bill Canary, who reportedly had close ties to Rove. Canary recused herself from the Siegelman case, which was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin. But Siegelman and congressional Democrats have said evidence provided by a whistle-blower in the office shows that Canary stayed involved in the case after her recusal. A Montgomery criminal defense lawyer, Joe Van Heest, has been vetted to replace Canary. But his nomination has been held up by objections from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who supports a daughter of a political supporter and friend for the job.
- Bill Mercer, District of Montana Mercer, who has been U.S. Attorney since 2001, came under fire for simultaneously serving as Montana U.S. Attorney and as the Justice Department’s Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General and Associate Attorney General in Washington for almost two years. Emails obtained by congressional investigators showed he was involved in the internal Bush administration deliberations that led up to the 2006 U.S. Attorney firings. Obama last week nominated Helena lawyer Michael Cotter to replace Mercer.
Also, George E. B. Holding in North Carolina’s Eastern District remains in office while he oversees cases against two prominent Democrats, former presidential candidate John Edwards and former Gov. Mike Easley. The potential political repercussions of removing the Republican prosecutor from the Edwards and Easley probes has complicated moves to name a successor. Read our previous report on Holding here.
In New Mexico, Gregory J. Fouratt, who was named interim U.S. Attorney a year after the Bush DOJ fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, remains at the helm. Fouratt was not confirmed by the Senate, but he has been criticized for his handling of a pay-to-play political corruption probe of Gov. Bill Richardson (D).
In an August letter to defense attorneys announcing the government would not bring charges in the investigation, Fouratt wrote that “pressure from the governor’s office resulted in the corruption of the procurement process” and said that his letter “should not be interpreted as exoneration of any party’s conduct in that matter.” Joseph diGenova, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia during the Reagan administration, told The Associated Press the letter was “stupid” and the New Mexico prosecutor “should be fired” for writing it.
In Alabama’s Northern District, U.S. Attorney Alice Martin stepped down in June after the second of two “courtesy calls” she said she received from officials at Justice Department headquarters in Washington informing her of the progress in nominating and confirming her successor, Joyce Vance. Martin’s critics have accused her of targeting Democrats during her almost eight year tenure – an allegation she has denied.
Martin had moved Vance, a veteran prosecutor in the Birmingham office who colleagues said loved the court room, into a less high-profile job as chief of the district’s appellate section. Observers of the office have told us Martin’s move appeared intended to sideline Vance. Instead, it put Vance in regular contact with appellate judges, who later became influential voices of support when Vance was being vetted by the White House for the job.
Vance took over an interim U.S. Attorney on June 19 and was confirmed by the Senate on Aug. 7. Attorney General Eric Holder attended her swearing-in ceremony. Martin resigned without another job lined up and said she looked forward to spending time with her children.
In addition to Mercer in Montana, other Bush U.S. Attorneys could be out of their jobs soon. Obama has nominated Des Moines lawyer Nick Klinefeldt to succeed Matthew G. Whitaker in the Southern District of Iowa and Stephanie Rose to succeed Matt Dummermuth in the Northern District of Iowa.
Dummermuth took office in January 2007, at the age of 33, under a controversial provision of the Patriot Act — since rescinded — that effectively allowed the White House to install a U.S. Attorney without going through the Senate confirmation process. Bush sent Dummermuth’s formal nomination to the Senate in December 2007, but he didn’t answer questions to the satisfaction of Judiciary Committee Democrats and failed to win confirmation.
It appears likely that at least two Bush appointees will continue to serve in the Obama administration. Northern District of Illinois U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald — who is prosecuting former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) for corruption — is backed by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (D). In Louisiana, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu said she wants Jim Letten in the Eastern District to stay. Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein also has the support of Democrats in his state.
Here is a list of the Senate-confirmed Bush U.S. Attorneys who are still in office:
-Leura Canary (Middle District of Alabama)
-Joseph Russonello (Northern District of California)
-A. Brian Albritton (Middle District of Florida)
-Leonardo Rapados (Guam and Northern Mariana Islands)
-Thomas Moss (Idaho)
-Patrick Fitzgerald (Northern District of Illinois)
-Matthew G. Whitaker (Southern District of Iowa)
-Jim Letten (Eastern District of Louisiana)
-David Dugas (Middle District of Louisiana)
-Donald Washington (Western District of Louisiana)
-Rod Rosenstein (Maryland)
-Jim Greenlee (Northern District of Mississippi)
-Bill Mercer (Montana)
-George E.B. Holding (Eastern District of North Carolina)
-Anna Mills Wagoner (Middle District of North Carolina)
-Sheldon Sperling (Eastern District of Oklahoma)
-Mary Beth Buchanan (Western District of Pennsylvania)
-William Walters Wilkins III (South Carolina)
-James Dedrick (Eastern District of Tennessee)
-Edward Yarbrough (Middle District of Tennessee)
-James McDevitt (Eastern District of Washington)
-Sharon Potter (Northern District of West Virginia)
-Kelly Rankin (Wyoming)
And here is a list of non-Senate confirmed attorneys appointed during the Bush administration who are still in office:
-Thomas F. Kirwin (Northern District of Florida)
-Matt Dummermuth (Northern District of Iowa)
-Paula Silsby (Maine)
-Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Valez (Puerto Rico)
-Charles T. Miller (Southern District of West Virginia)
-A. Courtney Cox (Southern District of Illinois)
-James Zerhusen (Eastern District of Kentucky)
-Gregory Fouratt (New Mexico)
Mary Jacoby contributed to this report.
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Connecticut’s two senators have recommended four U.S. attorney candidates to the White House, including Nora Dannehy, the prosecutor investigating the U.S. Attorney firings. The Hartford Courant has the story.
A 1986 graduate of Harvard Law School, Dannehy has been a prosecutor since 1991, specializing in white collar and public corruption cases. In April 2008, Dannehy was named acting U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut — the first woman to hold the job — following the resignation of Kevin O’Connor, who went on to become associate attorney general, the No. 3 official at the Justice Department. Then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed Dannehy in September 2008 to investigate the U.S. attorney firings.
The other finalists include David Fein, partner in the law firm Wiggin & Dana, a former associate counsel to President Bill Clinton and a former federal prosecutor in New York’s Southern District; Edgardo Ramos, partner in the law firm Day Pitney and former federal prosecutor in New York’s Eastern District; and William Tong, an associate with the law firm Finn, Dixon & Herling and a state representative who serves on the legislature’s judiciary committee.
According to the Courant, Sens. Christopher Dodd (D) and Joseph Lieberman (I) sent the names to Obama in a letter to the White House Thursday.
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The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy has picked up a veteran of the Clinton administration, Neil Kinkopf, a respected constitutional law scholar and former lawyer in the Office of Legal Counsel. Kinkopf, who is leaving his teaching position at Georgia State University College of Law, will join the office as counselor to the assistant attorney general.
Kinkopf (Boston College, Case Western Law) has long-standing ties with Christopher Schroeder, President Barack Obama’s nominee to head OLP. The two were colleagues in the Justice Department under Janet Reno and have since collaborated on several projects. In 1999, Kinkopf was counselor to then-Sen. Joe Biden for the impeachment trial of President Clinton. Schroeder was Biden’s trial counsel.
Schroeder was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in late July, and congressional aides say they expect him to win confirmation easily once the Senate reconvenes.
Kinkopf was special assistant in OLC from 1993 to 1997. During that time he worked closely with Dawn Johnsen, then a deputy in the office and now the nominee to lead it; David Barron, who was an attorney-adviser and is now the principal deputy in OLC (and acting head of the office pending the outcome of Johnsen’s nomination); Martin Lederman, who was also an attorney-adviser in OLC and now is a deputy in the office; and Schroeder, who was a deputy in OLC.
Kinkopf, reached today, said he took the job on short notice. He received a call in July and formally accepted the position a couple weeks ago, forcing him to cancel his fall-semester classes. Kinkopf is leaving for Washington this evening. When asked about his duties at OLP, Kinkopf said, “I hope to figure that out tomorrow.”
OLP provides policy advice to the attorney general and the deputy attorney general. The office also coordinates with the Office of Legislative Affairs to push the department’s initiatives in Congress and shepherds judicial nominees through the confirmation process.
This original version of this post incorrectly stated that Amanda Miller is a deputy in the Office of Legal Policy.