A key figure in the 2006 U.S. Attorney firing scandal has a permanent license to practice law in D.C. following a two-year battle for bar membership.
D. Kyle Sampson, chief of staff to then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, joined the D.C. Bar on Dec. 6, The Blog of Legal Times reported Friday. Sampson had been using a temporary license granted by the D.C. Court of Appeals in May 2009 to practice law in D.C. He has been a member of the Utah Bar since 1998.
In 2009, the D.C. Committee on Admissions expressed concerns about Sampson’s integrity after an internal Justice Department investigation into the firings of nine U.S. Attorneys concluded that he broke federal law and hoodwinked Congress and the White House. DOJ special prosecutor Nora Dannehy later determined in June 2010 that criminal charges related to the U.S. Attorney purge should not be filed.
“When Ms. Dannehy concluded her investigation without any charges against Mr. Sampson, we brought that fact to the attention of the Committee,” Sidley Austin LLP partner George Jones Jr., who represented Sampson, told the BLT. “In our view, at that point, there was no basis for the Committee to decline to act on the application on the merits. We presume the Committee agreed, and approved the application in accordance with generally applicable standards.”
Mark Carlin, chairman of the Committee on Admissions, declined to tell the BLT why his panel decided to admit him to the bar. But he said the decision “was entirely a committee decision.”
Sampson is a partner at the law firm of Hunton & Williams LLP in Washington, specializing in Food and Drug Administration regulatory and enforcement issues.
Connecticut Attorney General-elect George Jepsen on Friday announced that Nora R. Dannehy will serve as his deputy, the Hartford Courant reported.
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. In September 2008 she was named by then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate the firings of U.S. Attorneys.
Dannehy was under consideration to be nominated as the district’s U.S. Attorney. However, David B. Fein received the nod.
Since Fein took over the office last summer, Dannehy has headed a new financial fraud and public corruption unit in the office.
Nearly two dozen prominent former members of the George W. Bush administration are asking their friends to contribute to ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s legal defense fund.
“Our nation is better and safer because of the service of Alberto Gonzales,” reads the letter, signed by ex-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and other luminaries. “The harsh campaign conducted against him by some Congressional Democrats and by liberal interest groups was disgraceful and unfair.”
Gonzales resigned in 2007 amid political fallout from the firings of U.S. Attorneys in 2006 for what many of the cashiered prosecutors and congressional investigators said were political reasons. Gonzales also came under criticism for his vague testimony in the matter before Congress, which his critics said came close to perjury.
A special prosecutor, Nora Dannehy, concluded that although the firings were “contrary to DOJ principle,” they did not impede investigations into voter fraud and public integrity cases. She found there was no reason to prosecute.
The letter said former President Bush and his wife, Laura, have made contributions. A donation “will show you will stand with those who so honorably served America when they are attacked for that service,” the letter said.
San Diego U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said Tuesday she does not feel pressure from Attorney General Eric Holder on the types of cases her office should bring.
In a radio show interview, during which she said it is not “out of the realm of possibility” that more suspects might be arrested in connection with supporting a terrorist group operating in Somalia, she discussed her predecessor, Carol Lam, who was fired during the Bush administration’s purge of U.S. Attorneys.
When asked if there was pressure from the Obama administration, Duffy said, “I actually don’t feel pressured by Attorney General Holder to pursue certain kind of cases.”
In August, the Justice Department announced charges against 14 individuals in Minnesota, California and Alabama. The defendants are charged with providing material support for the terrorist group al-Shabab, which is based in Somalia and has ties to al-Qaeda. An attorney for one of the individuals charged, Nima Ali Yusuf, did not seek bail during a hearing on Tuesday because she is not a U.S. citizen, and being released on bail would mean she would automatically be placed in an Immigration Custom Enforcement facility, according to her attorney.
Duffy said the investigation is ongoing, adding that “we are definitely closing in on the individuals that we believe to be involved in, as has come out in other papers and publicly.”
As for the priorities in her office and her relationship with the Obama administration, she said, “I’m happy to report that I think a number of the priorities in this district are in line with the national priorities.”
She went on to say that she had met Holder several times, and that the Attorney General gives individual U.S. Attorneys considerable discretion. “And really, what the position of this Department of Justice is under Attorney General Holder is that they’re focused on setting the policy of the nation and really leave to each and every U.S. Attorney in the district to be the chief law enforcement officer in their district and set the ways in which those policies can be best [implemented in]…that district given the unique characteristics and needs of the district.”
A former interim U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas will replace a seven-term Democrat in the House, The Washington Post projected late Tuesday night.
Republican Tim Griffin, who led the Little Rock, Ark.-based U.S. Attorney’s office from December 2006 to January 2007, is set to succeed Democratic Rep. Vic Snyder, who did not run for reelection. With 52 percent of precincts reporting, Griffin secured 56 percent of the vote for the seat in central Arkansas, while Democratic state Sen. Joyce Elliott (D) received 40 percent of the vote.
Griffin took the helm of the U.S. Attorney’s office after the George W. Bush administration forced out former Eastern District of Arkansas U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins during the 2006 U.S. Attorney purge. He was an aide to former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove before he became interim U.S. Attorney.
Posted in News | Comments Off
A George W. Bush U.S. Attorney who is the Republican nominee for a House seat in northeast Pennsylvania was on the list of prosecutors who were slated for removal in 2006, Times-Shamrock newspapers reported Thursday.
Former U.S. Attorney Tom Marino of the Middle District of Pennsylvania “was not leading his office,” Kyle Sampson, the chief of staff to then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, said in a Justice Department report obtained by the newspapers. Sampson then put him on the controversial purge list. Nine U.S. Attorneys were ousted in late 2006, but Marino was not among the group. He resigned in September 2007 and went to work as an attorney for DeNaples Management, owned by Pennsylvania businessman Louis DeNaples.
Sampson said he couldn’t recall exactly why he put Marino on the list. The former DOJ official also said he couldn’t remember if Marino’s inclusion on the list had to do with the former U.S. Attorney’s relationship with DeNaples, who sought a casino license while Marino was the top federal prosecutor in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Marino allowed himself to be a business reference on the casino application for DeNaples, who the U.S. Attorney’s office was investigating at the time. Marino told a radio station in April that the DOJ permitted him to be a reference for DeNaples. But the DOJ doesn’t have any record of the authorization. Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.), who is running against Marino, has made the former U.S. Attorney’s business reference a major campaign issue.
“It’s ancient history,” Sampson told the Times-Shamrock newspapers. “Obviously he wasn’t removed [in 2006], and I wish him all the best.”
According to the report, Sampson decided against calling for Marino’s resignation because he said he wanted to avoid a “brush fire” with then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time.
Jason Fitzgerald, Marino’s campaign spokesman, dismissed the disclosures in the report.
“We’re really not going to play in the mud on this stuff,” Mr. Fitzgerald told the Times-Shamrock newspapers. “Those claims are totally without merit. Tom Marino was a distinguished prosecutor.”
Posted in News | Comments Off
A handful of the U.S. Attorneys fired in 2006 said a Justice Department swayed by politics was to blame for their controversial dismissals, The Associated Press reported Monday.
Five of the nine U.S. Attorneys ousted by the Justice Department under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said at a forum in Little Rock, Ark., that their dismissals were the result of their former boss’s political devotion to President George W. Bush. Gonzales resigned in 2007.
“There were a number of people who made terrible decisions,” said fired U.S. Attorney John McKay of the Western District of Washington, according to the AP. “They turned the Justice Department into the laughingstock of the country.”
The DOJ in July decided not to file criminal charges in connection with the scandal after a two-year investigation.
McKay was joined at the forum by fired U.S. Attorneys Bud Cummins of the Eastern District of Arkansas, Paul Charlton of Arizona, Carol Lam of California and David Iglesias of New Mexico. U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden of Utah and former U.S. Attorneys Todd Graves of the Western District of Missouri, Margaret Chiara of the Western District of Michigan and Kevin V. Ryan of the Northern District of California were also dismissed in 2006.
Cummins appeared to indicate that the dismissals would not have happened under John Ashcroft, who was Bush’s first Attorney General.
“Once [Ashcroft's team] left, they just sent people over from the White House to fill these jobs… There was no grown-up there to say, ‘Whoa, this doesn’t work,’ ” Cummins said.
Tim Griffin, who became interim U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Arkansas after Cummnins was ousted, was aide to then-Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove in the White House. He is now running as the Republican nominee for the 2nd Congressional District in Arkansas.
Cummins declined to say whether he would endorse Griffin in the election, according to the AP.
Days before Connecticut Assistant U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy started her investigation into the 2006 U.S. Attorney firing scandal, a case she oversaw collapsed amid allegations of prosecutorial misconduct , the Nieman Watchdog investigative website reported Sunday.
A federal appeals court ruled that the prosecution team, headed up by Dannehy, unlawfully held back evidence in a Connecticut political corruption case, according to Justice Integrity Project Executive Director Andrew Kreig, who is also a Huffington Post commentator. Last week, the Justice Department announced it had finished its investigation into the firing of nine George W. Bush U.S. Attorneys without filing criminal charges in connection with the scandal.
“The ruling didn’t cite Dannehy by name, and although it was publicly reported it apparently never came up in the news coverage of her appointment,” Kreig wrote. “But it now calls into question the integrity of her investigation by raising serious concerns about her credibility — and about whether she was particularly vulnerable to political pressure from within the Justice Department.”
Read more here.
A U.S. Attorney who was among those dismissed in the 2006 Justice Department firing controversy said Thursday that he was not surprised by the Justice Department’s recent decision not to file criminal charges in connection with the scandal.
John McKay, who was the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington from 2001 to 2006, told KUOW News that he has confidence in Assistant U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy — who was appointed in September 2008 by then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey as a special prosecutor to probe the firings, particularly that of former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias. But McKay said he was disappointed that the DOJ didn’t say who fired the nine George W. Bush administration U.S. Attorneys and why.
The former U.S. Attorney also said he was never questioned as part of the investigation into the scandal.
“I think it’s a little curious and somewhat disappointing that she didn’t bother questioning the United States Attorneys who were at the heart of the investigation,” McKay told the radio station.
McKay said he concluded from the probe that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who led the DOJ during the scandal, and other DOJ officials dishonored their offices and that their actions hurt the U.S. justice system.
“Those who wield the sort of power that the police and prosecutors wield have to be people who are free from politics,” McKay told KUOW News. “[The Republican and Democratic parties] can’t tell prosecutors who they should investigate, indict or send to prison. And I think we got dangerously close to that in Alberto Gonzales’s Department of Justice.”
Posted in News | Comments Off
Justice Department officials said Wednesday that Assistant U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy has concluded that no criminal charges are warranted in connection with the Bush administration’s firings of U.S. Attorneys in 2006.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed Dannehy, then-acting U.S. Attorney of Connecticut, in September 2008 as a special prosecutor to look into the firings, particularly that of former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias.
Dannehy also was tasked with determining whether White House or DOJ officials made false statements to Congress or to the Justice Department’s Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility, which also investigated the dismissals.
Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative Affairs Ronald Weich disclosed Dannehy’s findings in a letter to House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) dated Wednesday.
“Evidence did not demonstrate that any prosecutable criminal offense was committed with regard to the removal of David Iglesias,” Weich wrote in the letter. “The investigative team also determined that the evidence did not warrant expanding the scope of the investigation beyond the removal of Iglesias.”
Justice Department officials said Wednesday that the probe is now closed. The inquiry focused on Iglesias and the findings outlined in the letter related to the investigation of his dismissal, they said. No wider investigation was determined to be necessary.
According to Weich, Dannehy and her investigative team concluded that DOJ leadership never made a determination as to whether complaints about Iglesias were legitimate.
“While the actions of DOJ leadership were contrary to DOJ principles, they were not intended to and did not influence or in any way impede voter fraud prosecutions or a particular public corruption case,” Weich said.
The investigation also found that there was insufficient evidence to establish that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Kyle Sampson, the Attorney General’s Chief of Staff, “knowingly made material false statements to OIG/OPR or Congress or corruptly endeavored to obstruct justice.”
Reached by Main Justice Wednesday, Gonzales said he had not yet reviewed the letter, but had heard the result of the investigation. He declined to comment until he had an opportunity to review the letter himself.
In an interview with Main Justice last month, Gonzales said he hoped the investigation would wrap up soon. He also said he needed to raise additional money to cover his legal bills related to the matter.
“We need to do a better effort raising additional money, and so we’re going to try to do that as soon as the last investigation [ends],” said Gonzales. “That investigation has been out there going on forever. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but we’re waiting for that to be completed. And once that’s completed — I have confidence that again [there was] no wrong-doing by me — that will again raise some interest in raising additional money.”
Conyers said in a statement that it was clear that Dannehy’s decision not to bring criminal charges “is not an exoneration of Bush officials in the U.S. Attorney matter as there is no dispute that these firings were totally improper and that misleading testimony was given to Congress in an effort to cover them up.”
He also pointed out that the probe “did not conclude that administration officials testified truthfully to Congress,” only that there was insufficient evidence to show they knowingly made false statement.
“I appreciate Attorney General Holder’s commitment to ensure that such conduct will not happen again,” Conyers said. “I am proud of the committee’s effort to bring the facts of this controversy to light, so that the American people themselves can judge the how Bush Justice Department abused our trust.”
Gonzales’ lawyer, former Deputy Attorney General George J. Terwilliger III, said the Justice Department’s conclusion was long overdue.
“Those who made unwarranted allegations to the contrary owe him an apology,” said Terwilliger, a partner with White & Case LLP. “After having spent months cooperating with inquiries that produced no evidence of his wrongdoing, Judge Gonzales is pleased to be free to resume a career marked to date by service to the public.”