Patterico's Pontifications

12/23/2008

Obama’s Blagojevich Report (Updated)

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 1:29 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Obama’s report on his staffs’ contacts with Gov. Rod Blagojevich regarding the Illinois Senate seat should be released in minutes. The New York Times reports it will reveal limited contacts by (or regarding) 3 staffers:

“Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois congressman selected by Mr. Obama as his White House chief of staff, had a handful of contacts with the governor’s office. At least two other names also are expected to be mentioned in the review, including Michael Strautmanis, a longtime aide to Mr. Obama who once worked for Mr. Blagojevich.

Valerie Jarrett, a close friend to the Obama family who is a co-chairwoman of the transition effort, could also be referred to in the report. Her name was raised as a possible candidate for the Senate seat, but she withdrew from consideration last month and took a position in the White House.”

Whether or not this report is correct, the Obama report won’t be the final word on the subject. The FBI tapes are still unreleased but could be at some point. In addition, there will be more questions if it turns out there were 3 Obama associates involved in Blagojevich talks rather than just Rahm Emanuel as originally thought.

It will also be interesting to see how forthcoming Obama will be during this transition period.

UPDATE 1: The AP’s first summary of the report says “no one close to Obama suspected that the governor might be trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat as prosecutors allege.” It also states that Emanuel and Jarrett have been interviewed in connection with the investigation.

“We were clueless” is not what I was hoping to hear.

UPDATE 2: Here is a New York Timeslink to the memo released today by the Obama transition staff. The memo is also posted at Obama’s Change.gov website.

H/T Maybee and Pablo.

– DRJ

Chuck Philips Makes Gawker’s Top Ten Worst Media Moments of 2008

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 12:46 pm

It’s Number 7 on the list:

LA Times’ Fake Tupac Scoop—Lesson: don’t use serial con men as sources for front-page investigations.

The weird thing is, as I have noted before, Philips said in his article that Sabatino refused to comment, and Sabatino has denied to me that he was a source for Philips. And Philips claimed that other people had corroborated what was in the phony documents. So I’m still unsure about what happened there.

But I am sure of one thing: Philips embarrassed the paper. Badly.

Patterico Gets a Letter from Pellicano’s Lawyer

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:19 am

I came home last night to one of those lawyer-letters demanding that I retract certain statements on my blog. The letter was from Anthony Pellicano’s lawyer Michael Artan — delivered, in classic Pellicano style, by a messenger, to my home.

In several recent posts, I noted that Artan had reportedly made inconsistent statements about whether he knew who had given him an FBI report that was illegally obtained by FBI agent Mark Rossini. Far from clearing up the reported inconsistency, Artan’s letter to me only generates further questions.

In the letter, Artan specifically denies that he received an FBI report from Linda Fiorentino, saying: “Any suggestion that I received any FBI Report from Ms. Fiorentino is entirely false.” Artan thus seems to suggest that he knows who gave him the FBI report. Yet, according to a recent L.A. Times article, Artan says “he did not know then and does not know now who the source was” for the document — and that when questioned by government prosecutors about the provenance of the report, “he told them that he didn’t know where it came from.”

If he doesn’t know where he got it, then how does he know that he didn’t get it from Fiorentino?

I can’t retract things that I didn’t say to begin with — but I can be clear about what I did and didn’t say. And Mr. Artan’s letter accuses me of saying all sorts of things that I never said:

Here are the allegedly offending blog entries:

Mr. Artan says I have falsely accused him of making false statements in violation of the law, and of acting in concert with Linda Fiorentino and/or Mark Rossini. In fact, I have made no such accusations, and I’m not making them now.

What I have said is that there are news reports saying that Artan has made some puzzlingly inconsistent statements regarding where he obtained an FBI report — one that had been illegally accessed by an FBI agent. In making this observation, I relied on published news reports. In particular, according to a December 5, 2008 article by Scott Glover of the L.A. Times, Mr. Artan produced an FBI report in court, and told a judge that it had not been sent to him anonymously. Yet, according to the article, he told reporter Scott Glover that he didn’t know where it came from . . . and that he had told government prosecutors that he didn’t know where it came from:

Artan, the lawyer who represented Pellicano, said that he was questioned by prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., about how he had obtained the report and that he told them that he didn’t know where it came from.

He said he now assumes that questioning was part of the probe into Rossini.

But according to a transcript of a hearing in March 2007 when U.S. District Court Judge Dale Fischer asked Artan if the document had been sent anonymously, he replied, “No.”

He added, “I would be happy to tell you in camera.”

Asked about the inconsistency, Artan said he was surprised by his response in the transcript.

He said he recalled having some inkling at the time as to who may have sent it but that he did not know then and does not know now who the source was.

The lawyer declined to say who he suspected may have provided the document.

(Emphasis is mine.)

According to the quoted L.A. Times article, there is an “inconsistency” between what Mr. Artan told a judge and what he told government prosecutors. If the L.A. Times noticed this inconsistency, I’m guessing that the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office noticed it too. If The Times found it interesting enough to report, then I’m guessing federal law enforcement officials are also interested. (In other words, they may be considering whether an investigation is warranted.) It has been my observation that federal law enforcement tends to get interested when a person tells them one thing, and says something different to someone else — as the L.A. Times reported Artan had done.

That’s the point I was making in my December 4, 2008 post. Similarly, in my December 9, 2008 post, I argued that there was no reporting on the issue of whether the government was investigating whether Artan had made false statements to prosecutors.

That doesn’t mean that Mr. Artan lied to prosecutors or broke the law. I am not making that claim, and never have. After all, there are certainly other possible explanations for the reported inconsistency between Artan’s statements to the judge and his statements to the U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C. If Artan wishes to give me his explanation, I’m happy to publish it.

As to the issue of whether Fiorentino provided Artan with the FBI reports, I am again relying on information from published reports. Specifically, a December 9, 2008 article by Scott Glover states that: former FBI agent Rossini conducted law enforcement database searches that were related to the case against Pellicano; Rossini provided an FBI report to a person called only “X” in court documents; sources familiar with the case identified “X” as Linda Fiorentino; and court documents state that “X” provided the document to one of Pellicano’s attorneys:

Rossini admitted to conducting more than 40 unauthorized searches of the bureau’s Automated Case Support System, which contains confidential and sensitive information relating to ongoing and historic cases investigated by the FBI.

Many of the searches related to the criminal case against Pellicano, who was tried and convicted earlier this year in Los Angeles.

Rossini admitted to downloading an FBI report from the database and providing it to person “X,” with whom he had a close personal relationship, according to a formal admission, called a “Statement of the Offense.”

That person, identified by sources familiar with the case as actress Linda Fiorentino, had a relationship with Pellicano and provided the report to one of his attorneys, court documents state.

(Emphasis is mine.)

I have previously linked the court document here. It says that on February 14, 2007, “X” provided the FBI report to an attorney for Pellicano in San Francisco. That is where Artan’s co-counsel Steven Gruel is based.

Numerous publications have reported that Rossini obtained FBI documents for Fiorentino; one headline read Ex-agent admits hacking into FBI to help actress. Published reports and court documents support the theory that Fiorentino passed an FBI document to Pellicano’s defense team. News reports have also said that Artan discussed the document in court with a judge. The only question seems to be how the report got from Fiorentino to Artan, and whether Artan knew the identity of the source (or sources) — questions that only get murkier with Artan’s letter to me.

Rather than demanding retractions from bloggers asking legitimate questions, Mr. Artan ought to attempt to reconcile his various statements regarding that issue.

Finally, Mr. Artan seems to think that I have suggested that Mr. Rossini and/or Ms. Fiorentino acted in concert with Artan, or on his behalf, or that I have accused him of “complicity” in Ms. Fiorentino’s actions. I never made any such statement, and I have no idea where he got the idea that I have.

I have not claimed and do not claim that Artan solicited Rossini or Fiorentino to conduct unauthorized searches. Mr. Artan quotes a passage from my December 15, 2008 post in which I say:

Given that Rossini is yet another cog in Pellicano’s conspiracy to misuse law enforcement, this argument takes a real set of [insert your favorite synonym for testicles here].

If Mr. Artan is asking me to retract the suggestion that he has a “real set of” balls, I will cheerfully do so. Other than that, I see nothing in the passage that is false. In it, I accuse Mr. Artan of nothing more than making a pretty damned nervy legal argument.

Specifically, it is my view that Pellicano’s modus operandi includes getting information from people working inside law enforcement. The convictions of Mr. Pellicano, Mark Arneson, and Craig Stevens support my view that Pellicano had men inside local law enforcement working on his behalf. Now, with the recent plea of Mr. Rossini, the world has learned that someone inside the FBI was also illegally obtaining information that was later used in Pellicano’s defense.

Rossini’s case only reinforced the impression that Pellicano’s criminal conspiracy was even more far-flung than had been previously suspected. In my view, that fact didn’t help Pellicano; if anything, it hurt his legal argument for leniency. For Mr. Artan to refer to Mr. Rossini’s case in Pellicano’s sentencing memorandum, as though anything about Mr. Rossini’s case should reduce Pellicano’s sentence, in my view, took tremendous chutzpah.

That’s my honestly held view, and it’s backed up by the available evidence. But it has nothing to do with Mr. Artan. I’m not saying Artan was part of Pellicano’s conspiracy, and I never said it before. Pellicano was perfectly capable of running that conspiracy without the help of Mr. Artan.

I hope this reassures Mr. Artan that I have not made the accusations he believes I have made. I have accused him of no participation in any criminal conduct. You have Mr. Artan’s side in the form of his letter to me. In addition, I invite Mr. Artan to correct the record further if he feels the need. (Since Mr. Artan is apparently a reader of this blog, I assume he will see my invitation.)

So far, however, his explanations only raise new questions.


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