A former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York has joined Sills Cummis & Gross P.C. as a member of the firm’s litigation practice group.
Hervé Gouraige worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney from 1984 to 1991, mostly under then-U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani. While in the office he prosecuted business fraud, tax fraud, health care fraud and national security cases. He was the first Assistant U.S. Attorney designated to handle health care fraud cases in SDNY.
Gouraige received recognition from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for his significant contributions in fighting fraud in Medicare and Medicaid.
In addition, he has worked in private practice in New York City, focusing on antitrust litigation.
In a press conference in front of the Supreme Court on Thursday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and GOP House members joined Republicans who have criticized Attorney General Eric Holder for his decision to hold the trial of confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City.
“The decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City and give him all the benefits and perks reserved for American citizens is a slap in the face of the 9/11 victim’s families, the American people, and the men and women who risk their lives to defend our liberties each and every day,” said Bachmann in a statement released after the news conference.
Bachmann was joined at the news conference yesterday by Andrew McCarthy, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York who prosecuted “blind sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman and others involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Bachmann has emerged as a conservative leader in the Tea Party movement, leading a rally against the health care reform bill on Capitol Hill last month. Her controversial statements have made her a regular on the cable news circuit.
“If President Obama admits that we are a nation at war, then we should act like one,” Bachmann said in her statement. “Justice for the 9/11 attackers should be swift and conclusive, something that won’t be done when KSM exploits the abundant appeals and legal loopholes he has been inexplicably awarded as a foreign combatant.”
Other House members in attendance included Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), reports Talking Points Memo.
To recap, here are some of the conservatives who have come out against the trial:
The Republican mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, has supported the trial.
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Separately, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) have criticized Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other suspected terrorists in federal court.
Now Sean Hannity has brought all of them together in a special edition of his television program titled “Terror on Trial,” which is scheduled to air Friday at 9 p.m. on Fox News Channel.
We caught up with Sen. Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Friday afternoon at the Justice Department’s headquarters, where he was attending the investitures of Laurie Robinson, the head of the Office of Justice Programs, and Ron Weich, the head of the Office of Legislative Affairs.
Echoing his remarks during a recent DOJ oversight hearing, Sessions said, ”A clear decision in favor of military commissions without apology — because no apology is needed for them — would be the best thing for the country and our legal system. I feel strongly about that because this is a longterm war that we’re in.”
Sessions and Holder haven’t spoken about the issue since the committee hearing last month, Sessions told Main Justice. “He said he’s made his mind up, but he did leave open the opportunity to use military commissions,” which Sessions believes would be the best option for terrorists, he said.
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Former Attorney General Ed Meese on Wednesday joined in the criticism of Attorney General Eric Holder’s controversial decision to try alleged Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court in New York. Meese served as Attorney General under President Ronald Reagan from 1985 to 1988.
In a blog posting on Web site of the Heritage Foundation, where Meese is the Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow in Public Policy and chairman of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, he also criticized the decision to “abandon” the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
Here’s Meese’s full blog posting:
“It is clear that foreign terrorists and terrorist groups have committed acts of war against the United States, and that our national security requires that we respond accordingly. This means that President Bush’s prudent actions and the military response which he led should continue as our answer to these attacks.
Congress overwhelmingly reaffirmed their commitment to military commissions in 2006, which have historically been the way that we respond to acts of war. To abandon our two centuries of tradition and to substitute some new civilian procedure as a response to such attacks endangers the security of our country and our national interest.
It was a tragic mistake to decide to abandon the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, which was designed physically and legally to handle these types of cases. It is a further tragic mistake to now bring the detained war combatants into the United States and to employ civilian criminal procedures which were never intended for this type of situation.
The U.S. Constitution protects American citizens and visitors from the moment they are suspected of criminal wrongdoing through a potential trial. These same protections are not, have never, and should not be granted to enemy combatants in war, since it is clear that regardless of the outcome of the trial, these detainees will likely remain in the custody of the United States.”
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Attorney General Eric Holder used his Senate Judiciary Committee appearance today to push back against conservative critics on national security.
Without naming names, Holder refuted recent comments by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Mukasey’s close friend, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, both of whom have slammed Holder’s controversial decision to try alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court in New York.
“There are some who have said this decision means that we have reverted to a pre-9/11 mentality, or that we don’t realize this nation is at war,” Holder said in his opening remarks before a Justice Department oversight hearing. “I know that we are at war.”
The “pre-9/11 mentality” comment appeared aimed right at Mukasey, who was President George W. Bush’s last Attorney General, and who served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York in the mid 1970s with Giuliani.
Mukasey had earlier criticized the Obama administration for dropping use of the Bush-era “war on terror” phrase.
“Using soft, cushy euphemisms instead reflect they’re back in a pre-9-11 mentality,” Mukasey told the Washington Times. “In some ways it’s worse, because at least before [the attacks] we were not aware of what we were facing.”
And Giuliani said Wednesday that if Holder “truly believes we are at war,” he will reverse the decision to try KSM in civilian court and instead let the military try him. “It sends a signal to the terrorists that we are not taking this seriously, as we did before,” the 2008 Republican presidential candidate told reporters on a conference call arranged by the Republican National Committee.
Giuliani became famous for his leadership of New York through the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that brought down the World Trade Center. He became mayor in 1994, a year after followers of an Islamist leader with ties to Osama Bin Laden, the “blind sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman, had first tried to bring down the towers, using explosives.
NBC’s First Read political newsletter points out a perceived inconsistency in Giuliani’s statements over time. In 1994, the New York mayor praised a guilty verdict in the first WTC bombing trial as demonstrating that “New Yorkers won’t meet violence with violence, but with a far greater weapon — the law.”
For his part Mukasey has been on an op-ed spree in recent weeks, publishing arguments in favor of military commissions in the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
Holder on Wednesday said his critics who said courts can’t handle terrorism cases and that classified information wouldn’t be protected are spreading “misinformation.”
“Our courts have a long history of handling these cases, and no district has a longer history than the Southern District of New York in Manhattan,” Holder said. Among the high profile terrorism trials in New York was the 1994-95 trial of Abdel Rahman, who was convicted of plotting to blow up the United Nations and other New York City landmarks. Mukasey, then a federal judge, presided over the trial.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) cited Mukasey’s previous statements that he believed the Abdel Rahman trial had been bad for national security. The trial produced a public list of unindicted co-conspirators — including bin Laden — that may have tipped off the al-Qaeda leader he was wanted by the U.S. government, Mukasey has said.
Holder parried that prosecutors would have sought to keep the unindicted co-conspirator list classified and secret, if it had really compromised national security.
But one of the most interesting exchanges Wednesday came with a Democrat on the Senate panel. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis) asked Holder what he planned to do if a jury failed to convict KSM. ”Failure is not an option,” Holder said, adding that he’d spoken already to the prosecutors about it. “These are cases that have to be won. I don’t expect that we will have a contrary result.”
Replied Kohl: “Well, that’s an interesting point of view. Um, I’ll just leave it at that.”
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Michael Mukasey, the nation’s 81st attorney general, was typically self-effacing as he described the portrait of him that will hang in the Justice Department hence.
“Thank goodness for artistic license,” he said, drawing laughs from a crowd gathered in the Great Hall Thursday for the portrait’s unveiling, a time-honored tradition.
Eight months after leaving the department, the mild-mannered New Yorker was visibly energized. Mukasey, 68, spoke often and affectionately of the people who served under him during his 15-month tenure. And without hesitation, Mukasey said he would not have traded places with any of the attorneys general who preceded him — even those who served at less tumultuous periods in the department’s history — for anything.
“My fondest wish for the portrait that you are about to see is that it will look out on people who will continue to do what the people I worked with did in the way that they did it,” Mukasey said.
He received several standing ovations from a group that included former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former White House Counsel Fred Fielding, former attorneys general Edwin Meese III, Richard Thornburgh, and William Barr, former Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip and heaps of other Justice Department lawyers, current and former. Attorney General Eric Holder and much of the department’s leadership were also on hand.
Mukasey, surveying the room, dryly acknowledged what we, lacking his deft touch, might simply call the suck-up culture of Washington and the judiciary.
“It’s been said that the only actual expression in nature of the concept of infinity is the capacity of a federal judge to consume praise,” Mukasey said. “As you may be aware I was a federal judge for 18-plus years. An afternoon like this strains even the capacity I developed over that time to absorb flattery without exploding.”
Mukasey, a former federal judge in the Southern District of New York, took the helm of the Justice Department after Alberto Gonzales resigned. The proud institution had been rocked by allegations it had become less fair and more political, and it was struggling to prove its independence. Confirmed in November of 2007, Mukasey put up barriers between the White House and his department, instituted new hiring policies and appointed prosecutors to investigate the U.S. attorney firings and the destruction of the CIA tapes depicting harsh detainee interrogations.
Filip, who introduced Mukasey, praised his former boss for his independence, rigorous legal mind and quality of work he demanded of others. Facing the fallout of the U.S. attorney firings and devastating internal reports about politically tinged personnel decisions, Mukasey was “the perfect person under the circumstances to lead this department,” Filip said.
“No one accused Michael Mukasey of acting in a partisan or political manner,” Filip said.
Filip described Mukasey as a man devoted to his family and to his home, New York City. He recalled trying to get Mukasey to take a vacation a few days after he left office. Filip, who was still at the department, rattled off destinations — south of France, Hawaii, an African safari — but Mukasey wouldn’t budge.
“Susan and I are in New York finally,” Mukasey told him. “Where in the world would we rather be.” (Mukasey is now a partner in Debevoise & Plimpton’s New York office.)
Thursday’s ceremony, one day before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, recalled Mukasey’s push to increase the department’s national security capabilities. Under his leadership, the Justice Department succeeded in amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to give the government more leeway in acquiring wiretaps, and Mukasey issued guidelines expanding the FBI’s powers in criminal, national security and foreign intelligence surveillance.
At his confirmation hearings, Holder appeared supportive of these reforms, though he said they deserved review. But the department is a markedly different place since the change in administrations. For one, the Justice Department has rescinded Bush-era opinions sanctioning harsh interrogations, including waterboarding. Mukasey’s refusal to equate the tactic with torture — unlike Holder, who has stated unequivocally that waterboarding is torture — nearly derailed his nomination.
Holder’s has expanded the purview of the CIA tapes investigation to include alleged detainee abuse, and the department’s ethics watchdog is nearly finished with a report critical of the lawyers who blessed the harsh interrogations. While in office, Mukasey bristled at second-guessing the work of lawyers who were working under pressure in aftermath of 9/11.
Despite their differences, Holder said Thursday that Mukasey executed his duties with skill, integrity and “great honor.”
“You sacrificed for the cause of country. And the qualities you showed in your decision to take the job foreshadowed the kind of Attorney General you would become — a soft-spoken but fierce defender of justice who wears his patriotism not on his sleeve but in his heart,” Holder said.
The portrait, a work by Joyce Zeller, will hang on the fifth floor of the Justice Department until spoken for. The books over Mukasey’s right shoulder are the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Over his left shoulder hang the American and Justice Department flags.
Thursday’s affair stood in contrast with the private ceremony for former Attorney General Gonzales’ portrait unveiling. Gonzales’ was held in the attorney general’s conference room and attended by about 75 of his closest friends and former staff.
Former Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Janet Reno, like Mukasey, unveiled their likenesses before large crowds in ceremonies that included the presentation of the colors, the National Anthem, and lots of standing and sitting.
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Former New Jersey U.S Attorney Chris Christie is coming in for a rocky landing in advance of Tuesday’s Republican primary election for governor.
Although Christie has a lead in the polls, conservative challenger Steve Lonegan continues to attack the ex-prosecutor’s ethics and mock his endorsement by former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Christie campaigned on Friday with another failed GOP presidential candidate, ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who’s got his own ethical baggage.
The current fracas: whether a Christie campaign adviser and friend, corporate lawyer John P. Inglesino, received a token job with a New Jersey state senator intended to keep Inglesino on the state payroll, so he would remain eligible for government pension benefits, including life-time health care.
The Associated Press reported:
Lonegan released a radio ad Friday criticizing Christie for cronyism and asking Republican voters whether “Christie’s scandals will cost us the election.”
The AP also reported that Inglesino attended Seton Hall law school with Christie in the 1980s, and that Inglesino’s law firm, Stern & Kilcullen, was awarded a $3 million no-bid court-monitoring contract while Christie was New Jersey’s U.S. Attorney. Christie has previously been under fire for awarding another no-bid court monitoring contract worth up to $52 million to the firm run by his former boss, ex-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Click here and here for our previous coverage of the Christie-Ashcroft controversy.
According to the New York Times:
Mr. Lonegan has pushed Mr. Christie farther to the right than he would have liked. Mr. Christie was once a supporter of abortion rights, but now has had to reaffirm — on television — that he opposes abortion, along with same-sex marriage. He ran for the General Assembly in the 1990s saying he favored the state’s ban on assault weapons, but he now tells gun-rights advocates that he wants only to enforce existing laws.
The winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary will face vulnerable incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine (D), whose handling of the economic crisis has caused his popularity to plummet.
UPDATE: Inglesino said he would drop out of the state-supported pension plan that had become controversial, but a pension official said he can’t legally do so unless he quits his job with the Republican state lawmaker.
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Former FBI agent Ali Soufan testified from behind a wooden panel at today’s Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on torture. To protect the former al-Qaeda interrogator’s identity, news photographers were asked not to photograph his face because of the danger of retaliation he faces.
And yet, Soufan was very publicly running all around the Middle East for Rudy Giuliani’s “security” consulting business, as I discovered in 2007 while digging into the then-GOP presidential candidate’s secret client list.
As I first reported, Giuliani — while running for president — was secretly on the payroll of Qatar, an Islamic monarchy that played an indirect role in the 9/11 attacks by shielding mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed from FBI arrest in 1996. Soufan worked for Giuliani, and was the key contact arranging the ex-New York Mayor’s lucrative contract with the resource-rich Persian Gulf emirate.
While working for Giuliani, Soufan made frequent public speeches in Qatar’s capital, Doha, and other Middle Eastern countries, I learned. Everyone seemed to know about the luxury Doha hotel where Soufan and Giuliani had their offices. I asked my then-WSJ colleague Chip Cummins of the Journal’s Dubai bureau to check it out. Cummins flew to Doha, strolled into the hotel, and asked the security guard where he could find Ali Soufan. He was promptly directed to Soufan’s 10th floor office. Read the story here.
After we reported all this in the Journal, I got a call from Pasquale D’Amuro, a former top FBI counter-terrorism official and partner of Giuliani. He chewed me out for putting Soufan’s life in danger.
I told him: “If there’s a security problem – it seems to me it’s on your end. Why is it that a complete stranger can walk into the Four Seasons and find out within seconds where Soufan works?”
I don’t mean to be flippant. Really. It was right for Soufan to testify behind the wooden screen today; no point in distributing his image on the Web for anyone to Google. It just didn’t occur to me that his office location in Doha was much of a secret, since everyone knew already. If anything, the episode shows what a farce Giuliani’s “security” business was.
Perhaps Soufan came to the same conclusion. He’s no longer with Giuliani. He now heads his own shop, Soufan Group LLC.