Exclusive: Jim Letten Tells Charles C. Johnson That the Decision to Prosecute O’Keefe Was Made “At Highest Levels of the Justice Department”
The following comes to us from Charles C. Johnson, the “good Charles Johnson” (not to be confused with the guy at Little Green Footballs who bans anyone who disagrees with him even slightly.) Back in July, Charles spoke to former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten about the video of Jim Letten’s angry confrontation with James O’Keefe, in which Letten called O’Keefe a “hobbit” and a “spud” and an “asshole” and threw O’Keefe’s book at him.
Charles has allowed me to publish the interview exclusively here at patterico.com. Mr. Letten is welcome to respond with his side. Indeed, I specifically extended that invitation to Letten by email upon the publication of this post. Here is Charles’s interview:
My conversation in mid-July with former U.S. Attorney and Tulane Law School Dean Jim Letten
I reached out to Letten on his Tulane email address and gave him my number. He called me and we spoke for twenty-five minutes. Letten kept asking for the conversation to be off the record, something I never agreed to.
In any event, Letten did not respect his own off the record request and went to another journalist, John Simerman, a writer for the New Orleans Advocate who has written positively about Letten in the past, including a very sympathetic portrait of the former U.S. Attorney only days after he resigned in disgrace.
Using information he could only have obtained from me, Letten talked to Simerman about O’Keefe. Simerman then wrote an article trashing O’Keefe. Letten, who is unnamed as a source in the article but most likely “a source with knowledge of the incident,” admitted in an email to having spoken with Simerman. By contrast Simerman reported that Letten “declined to comment on the incidents.” Simerman did not return a request for comment.
When asked if his own comments were appropriate, Letten attacked O’Keefe’s credibility and called him an “extreme right-winger partisan who does these kind of stunts.”
When I said that I had seen the videotape of O’Keefe offering his wife a copy of the book and that he seemed pleasant, Letten insisted that O’Keefe had “terrorized” his wife and “threatened” his family, an assertion he repeated throughout the conversation.
Letten, who had been the longest serving U.S. Attorney, resigned in December 2012 after his two top lieutenants, including first assistant Jan Mann who prosecuted O’Keefe, were caught posting anonymous comments on a major Louisiana newspaper site mocking the defense during a high-profile trial. When confronted by a federal judge about it, Letten’s top staffers lied. Letten, along with two others, including Mann, resigned in disgrace.
At the time of O’Keefe’s trial Mann refused to comment on the charges brought against O’Keefe. Mann told Fox News.com that the U.S. Attorney’s office “[doesn’t] try cases in the press.”
Letten refused to answer whether O’Keefe’s case wasn’t subject to similar online sock puppetry, maintaining that O’Keefe was “appropriately prosecuted.” He did not answer questions as to how he could have known that if he recused himself from the prosecution.
O’Keefe has maintained that someone from the U.S. Attorney’s office leaked his privileged attorney-client emails, a subject he discusses at length in his book. Letten insists that he had nothing to do with it, if it indeed happened at all. “He’s just very deceitful and deceptive,” Letten said, who again said he had recused himself.
Letten wouldn’t say why he recused himself, but it is most likely because one of the defendants, including Robert Flagan, who is the son of the then acting U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Louisiana. Letten and Flagan are social acquaintances.
Letten insisted that he recused himself from the case, but after prodding acknowledged that it was “my office who continued to make the decision.” “When someone recuses themselves it isn’t done lightly,” Letten insisted.
The decision to prosecute O’Keefe and to accept Letten’s recusal was made at “the very highest levels of the Justice Department.” “[O’Keefe] was appropriately convicted.”
Letten declined to answer if his office worked with Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute O’Keefe.
There’s reason to think that he may have. Last month, J. Christian Adams, a voting rights expert, revealed documents that showed coordination by Holder’s Justice Department with Attorney General Richard Head of New Hampshire after O’Keefe’s successful voter fraud investigations. [Editor's note: Richard Head has worked directly with Brett Kimberlin associate and professional harasser Neal Rauhauser.]
Insisting that O’Keefe wasn’t a “journalist,” Letten did not answer a question about whether O’Keefe should have been given the same protections as the so-called McConnell buggers, who were given First Amendment protections by the Justice Department. He persisted in refusing to answer the question.
Letten was indignant when asked why he took O’Keefe’s book only to throw it back at him. “Oh come on! I tossed it at him!”
Finally, I asked him if he felt his behavior was in keeping with the code of conduct that Tulane has for all its students and faculty. He declined to answer.
Bug Mitch McConnell, get treated like a journalist. Be James O’Keefe, get the book thrown at you.
That’s our Justice Department these days. Aren’t you proud?
UPDATE: Ken from Popehat makes the sound point that we can’t necessarily infer that McConnell’s bugger won’t be prosecuted just because he confessed in writing at Salon.com months ago and has yet to be prosecuted. The Feds have a way of delaying action to such a degree that is mystifying to mere mortals.
UPDATE x2: Thanks very much to Instapundit for the link.