Patterico's Pontifications


Carol Lam: Not Targeted Over the Jerry Lewis Investigation

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 12:02 am

Democrats have been alleging that the Bush Administration targeted Carol Lam because she was investigating Republican Congressman Jerry Lewis (the only Republican Congressman, by the way, who is popular in France). The thing is, she wasn’t.

Despite what many appear to assume, Lam wasn’t the U.S. Attorney responsible for investigating Lewis. The U.S. Attorney responsible for the Lewis investigation was Debra Yang in Los Angeles.

On May 11, 2006, the L.A. Times reported:

Federal prosecutors have begun an investigation into Rep. Jerry Lewis, the Californian who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, government officials and others said, signaling the spread of a San Diego corruption probe.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles has issued subpoenas in an investigation into the relationship between Lewis (R-Redlands) and a Washington lobbyist linked to disgraced former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe), three people familiar with the investigation said….

Hint: Carol Lam was not the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles. Debra Yang was. Carol Lam headed the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of California, based in San Diego.

This point was made again (albeit in a whisper, deep in the article) in the recent L.A. Times story about the timing of a Sampson e-mail sent the day the Lewis investigation was reported:

On May 11 — the month after Sampson told the White House counsel’s office that Lam was being targeted for dismissal — The Times reported that federal prosecutors in Los Angeles had begun an investigation into Lewis. . . . . The Lewis probe was an extension of the case Lam started in San Diego. But it was being handled by the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles because Lewis’ Redlands headquarters falls under its purview.

Why in the world would the White House target Carol Lam in San Diego, based on revelations of an investigation handled by Debra Yang in Los Angeles? Targeting Lam over the Lewis investigation would be like targeting L.A. County D.A. Steve Cooley because of somehing the Riverside D.A. is doing. It makes no sense.

Not surprisingly, Debra Yang was asked by The Times and had no explanation:

Debra Wong Yang, then the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, said Wednesday that she was befuddled that anyone in Washington would be upset with Lam over a case being pursued in Los Angeles. “I’m not sure I understand the link,” she said.

That’s because there is no link, except in the minds of Democrat partisans — and L.A. Times reporters and editors.

But I repeat myself.

UPDATE: Now here is something that makes a lot more sense than the Jerry Lewis investigation:

Fired San Diego U.S. attorney Carol Lam notified the Justice Department that she intended to execute search warrants on a high-ranking CIA official as part of a corruption probe the day before a Justice Department official sent an e-mail to the White House that said Lam needed to be fired, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Sunday.

The timing on that is indeed potentially suspicious.

UPDATE x2: To make it clear, that tidbit the warrant cannot possibly have been the only reason the White House was concerned about Lam. As I have noted here many times, she was initially targeted on a working list of poor prosecutors back in February and March of 2005 — well before any of this came about. My point is merely that, when Sampson discusses the “real problem” they have with Carol Lam, it makes no sense that he is discussing an investigation undertaken in L.A. It makes a lot more sense to conclude that he is referring to a search warrant to be issued in San Diego.

I still think the case that she was fired over political investigations is very weak, given when she was initially targeted. And ultimately, the warrant was issued anyway — and nothing that Kyle Sampson did could ever have stopped that.

32 Responses to “Carol Lam: Not Targeted Over the Jerry Lewis Investigation”

  1. If you want a target list, the TPM timeline would be a start – they actually link to the LA Times story citing the role of the LA office, too.

    And Mark Kleiman had a Huffers piece yesterday that included this:

    Best bet [as to why the White House held off on releasing more documents] on this option: an email that specifically refers to Carol Lam’s indictment of Dusty Foggo or to the broadening of that investigation to include House Appropriations Committee chairman Jerry Lewis (news, bio, voting record). That would bring the scandal clearly into “obstruction of justice” territory, with a possibility of seeing the long-awaited Karl Rove frog-march.

    Tom Maguire (3f7e6c)

  2. The overall issue of this “scandal” isn’t the targeting, however. The issue is that several Justice officials, including Gonzales, testified explicitly under oath that politics were not involved in these firings. Copious email evidence has surfaced since then stating unequivocally that these were, indeed, firings of a political nature.

    The Liberal Avenger (b8c7e2)

  3. Politics are inherently involved in anything that comes from the upper echelons of an administration. The correct question is whether the firings were politically motivated.

    Pablo (2e72f2)

  4. Liberal Avenger said:

    Copious email evidence has surfaced since then stating unequivocally that these were, indeed, firings of a political nature.

    What evidence?

    “Political”, in this context, presumably means doing something improper to harm one’s political opponents.

    It is not “political” to demand that US Attorneys follow the administration’s priorities in deciding what cases to prosecute.

    It is not “political” to remove a less-talented US Attorney to promote a staffer or subordinate one feels is more talented or more deserving of the position.

    If you have evidence that something improper was done in replacing these Attorneys, please post it.

    Michael Smith (b8378c)

  5. These are “political appointees”. How could replacing them be anything but political.

    The idea of replacing a 93 didn’t stem from “political” considerations, it arose from a lack of understanding by non-DOJ types about what happens when the appointee’s four year term of office expires. Miers original mistake was to think that the USAttorneys term of office mirrored the Pres. term of office, and the expiration of all 93 was at the beginning of the Pres. second term. That was incorrect.

    One of Sampson’s earliest e-mails explained to her how the terms work and what has happened in the past when terms of office expired.

    Sampson then suggested the idea of replacing 10-15% of the US Attorneys as under-performing. DOJ hears complaints about the performance of individual US Attorneys on a continual basis year-round. It goes with the territory, and the complaints always come from the disgruntled — either the US Attorney isn’t doing enough about ABC, or the US Attorney is being unfair to XYZ.

    So, when the opportunity to replace US Attorneys comes along — and it is ALWAYS going to originate in the WH, not DOJ, since the US Attorney’s are Presidential appointees and serve at the pleasure of the President — DOJ will always have a list of ones that it would like to see replaced by more effective managers/leaders.

    Not everyone named as a US Attorney is really fit for the job. Often times they are just practicing lawyers who are suddenly thrust into a position where they have to manage hundreds of attorneys and staff, along with a multi-million dollar budget. They have to insert themselves into a federal and state law enforcement community that is populated by careerists who know that the US Attorney is a political appointee who is going to be replaced by someone else at some point in the future. They have to make daily decisions on both the prosecutorial and managerial ends of the job, while dealing with the demands of the press and the public since the position in many localities is considered the top federal law enforcement position in the area/region/state.

    Not everyone who wants these jobs finds themselves capable of doing them well.

    DOJ and EOUSA have a very good feel for who is functioning well, and who isn’t. Its really not any more complicated than that.

    Saying that replacing a US Attorney was based on “performance related issues” can mean a lot of things.

    WLS (1b7f25)

  6. As more information comes out regarding cases these USA’s were (or were not) working, it does seem less likely that any sort of hard ‘obstruction’ claims being made are likely to stick. Senator Domenici’s intervention in New Mexico is currently the most egregious case offered, and that is likely to reach no higher than the Senator himself. Barring any further disclosure of Republican corruption cases that Lam was actually working on, I think the potential obstruction portion of this scandal will die on the vine. It’s not the obvious political underpinnings of the firing decisions, but the lying to congress part that will kill the AG.

    But, this scandal has made it obvious why mid-term USA dismissals have been so rare in the past. It also highlights the obvious, and generally acknowledged and accepted, partisan politics involved in a justice system which ideally should be impartial in the best interests of the country’s citizens. I’m only beginning to see more discussion on this inherent tension in the Dept. of Justice online, but that discussion may be the most important thing to come out of it.

    The fact that the Lewis investigation was taking place out of the LA office opens up a whole new can of worms as well. I find it disturbing that Debra Yang was recently paid $1.5 million to join the law firm that is defending Jerry Lewis. Isn’t that some kind of major conflict of interest?

    Bob Loblaw (a9fb99)

  7. WASHINGTON – Fired San Diego U.S. attorney Carol Lam notified the Justice Department that she intended to execute search warrants on a high-ranking CIA official as part of a corruption probe the day before a Justice Department official sent an e-mail that said Lam needed to be fired, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Sunday.”

    AF (f0c94f)

  8. The demacrats have plenty of skeletons in their own closets their trying to hide

    krazy kagu (0a3548)

  9. AF: I just saw this on Tom Maguire’s site. That’s a lot more convincing than the Jerry Lewis thing. I’ll update.

    Patterico (04465c)

  10. I don’t think the DOJ would deny this so vehemently if there was a link. Looks like more partisanship by Feinstein to me.

    *Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse denied in an e-mail that there was any link. “We have stated numerous times that no U.S. attorney was removed to retaliate against or inappropriately interfere with any public corruption investigation or prosecution,” he wrote. “This remains the case and there is no evidence that indicates otherwise.”*

    puzzled (bc3377)

  11. Firing a US Attorney isn’t going to stop a search warrant. From what I can tell, the warrant was already signed and in the hands of the FBI. The US Attorney is not powerless to stop the search, but I can’t imagine any circumstances under which one would try.

    WLS (1b7f25)

  12. This is precisely what I was getting at yesterday. The CIA/Brent Wilkes/Hookergate thing was a far bigger story at the time than the Lewis investigation. Porter Goss resigned only 6 days earlier, and Foggo only a couple days before that. I wouldn’t suspect that the role of DoJ or the White House was to stop the search warrant: they didn’t and they were obviously not planning to execute any firing until the end of Lam’s term. But clearly it matters who is seeking indictments and empaneling grand juries and digging around in a major investigation into how an agency under the executive branch is doing their business. And considering that DoJ has admittedly lied to Congress already in the course of this investigation, I don’t take their protestations as the gospel.

    dday (ddd5f9)

  13. When you wrote:

    “Democrats have been alleging that the Bush Administration targeted Carol Lam because she was investigating Republican Congressman Jerry Lewis

    …what Democrats are you speaking of? I never heard that one. I only heard about Cunningham and pals.

    Link please.

    tbogg (bf5567)

  14. tbogg, try the “recent L.A. Times story” link in the post. You’ll find Rahm Emmanuel and Chuck Schumer in it, chasing that trail.

    Pablo (2e72f2)

  15. Why would the White House want to protect the CIA? It’s been the source all kinds of leaks and attacks on Bush’s policies. If they’ve got the goods on anybody in the Agency, I say go for it.

    AST (b318b5)

  16. Notice how the media is not mentioning the CIA thing. Don’t want to tarnish your best buds, I guess.

    jpm100 (851d24)

  17. Patterico:

    In this post, you write the following:

    UPDATE: Now here is something that makes a lot more sense than the Jerry Lewis investigation:

    Fired San Diego U.S. attorney Carol Lam notified the Justice Department that she intended to execute search warrants on a high-ranking CIA official as part of a corruption probe the day before a Justice Department official sent an e-mail to the White House that said Lam needed to be fired, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Sunday.

    Patterico, have you forgotten your own previous post?

    Did you not write:

    March 2, 2005: Kyle Sampson informs White House Counsel Harriet Miers that Lam is being targeted for possible dismissal. Sampson attaches a list of U.S. Attorneys, dated February 24, 2005. The names of those targeted for dismissal are stricken out. Lam’s name was stricken out, meaning she had been targeted for possible dismissal as of March 2, 2005. You can view Sampson’s March 2, 2005 e-mail at this link.

    If in fact Lam was targeted for dismissal as of March 2005, then how could her dismissal be due to a letter she sent to the Justice Department in May of 2006, more than a year later?

    From the link in this current post:

    Feinstein said Lam notified the Justice Department on May 10, 2006, that she planned to serve search warrants on Kyle Dustin “Dusty” Foggo, who’d resigned two days earlier as the No. 3 official at the CIA.

    I’m completely confused; can you clarify? Was Lam targeted for dismissal in 2005 — or was she not? If she was, then why are you saying that you find the Feinstein accusation plausible?


    Dafydd (445647)

  18. What I’ve liked most about this whole scandal is watching Carl Rove cryin’ about someone playing “politics.” What? How dare anyone have the audacity to play politics on poor, little, political “architect” Carl Rove!

    Rove is insulting us with that ruse. He must think we’re all hypocrisy-blind.

    Psyberian (de47c4)

  19. This claim makes no sense at all–

    Foggo’s Home and Langley Office Swept in Corruption Probe

    By Dafna Linzer and Charles R. Babcock
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Saturday, May 13, 2006; Page A01

    Federal agents yesterday searched the CIA offices and Northern Virginia home of Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, the spy agency’s No. 3 official who was forced to resign this week amid a widening criminal investigation into allegations of government corruption and bribery.

    Officials inside CIA headquarters saw agents hauling away items from Foggo’s seventh-floor suite, and neighbors outside his rented house in the Oakdale Park section of Vienna said officers, some wearing plastic gloves, placed materials in vans parked at the front and rear of the split-level brick home.


    This month he was indicted.

    clarice (c49871)

  20. The big mitigating factor for the department in this is that her name is stricken out on the 2/24/05 memo.

    The big incuplatory fact is that the Sampson email on the Lam “problem” was one day after Lam notified the dapt. of her intent to execute warrants on Foggo.

    The first doesn’t remove the cloud from the second though. Lam may have been in line to get axed, and maybe she would have been fired without the Foggo investigation, but even then, the administration (beyond just DOJ) was discussing her termination in response to a corruption investigation.

    Unless you believe in coincidences…anyone?

    biwah (2dcf66)

  21. But they had a problem with her: with immigration. And he was responding to an inquiry from the day before.

    Your interpretation could be right, but there’s also a potential innocent explanation.

    The people who jumped at the Lewis connection, however, were all wet. You concede that, biwah?

    [UPDATE: I should make clear that the inquiry from the day before was general and not about Lam specifically.]

    Patterico (04465c)

  22. Yes, the Lewis “connection” is pretty much undercut by the long time frame – a genuine snow job would necessarily have a little more urgency to it. I said as much last week in a thread that has since disappeared (something about LAT/mountains/molehills?) in a response to Michael Smith.

    However, I would stop short of calling someone all wet for having indulged in such speculation, given the trickling nature of the info.

    Generally, it seems like every time one theory is laid to rest, additional info sufaces that gives rise to a new one. But I’ll judge each one on its own merits as much as I can.

    [The reason I think people were all wet on that is because of geography: L.A. is not San Diego. By constantly referencing the Lewis investigation as an expansion of the Cunningham investigation, and hyping the timing of Sampson’s May 11 e-mail about Lam, Dems managed to imply that Lam was the one investigating Lewis. But she wasn’t. Debra Yang was. — P]

    biwah (2dcf66)

  23. the inquiry from the day before was general and not about Lam specifically.

    Yeah. The “real problem” statement by Sampson has a spontaneity and a connotation that is real tough to explain away. In terms of perception, it has a Downing Street memo “fixing the facts” or Kerry “flip-flop” quality – it is visceral proof of dishonesty despite whatever mitigating circumstances the admin tosses out there.

    biwah (2dcf66)

  24. The reason I think people were all wet on that is because of geography: L.A. is not San Diego.

    I skimmed that part of your post but that’s right. I have to admit, I just take your word on any LAT shenanigans and move on to the meat of the issue, as I did this morning.

    biwah (2dcf66)

  25. Interestingly, Debra Yang quit the US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles last November. This is the same time frame in which the other 8 US Attorney’s were being “fired.” According to the e-mails that have been released from Sampson and others, at least 2 US Attorney’s had left office “voluntarily” to go to the private sector before they had to be forced out.

    I have no idea if Debra Yang was one of them, since all the other names of US Attorney’s were redacted from the e-mails. But the timing sure suggests that Yang got out before being booted out.

    C Student (c949f7)

  26. Er…..maybe Tony was drunk. Look the guy has inordinate amounts of pressure applied to his various physical and rhetorical/oratorical naughty bits whilst having to hold this inherited five pound bag with ten pounds of shit for it seems like an eternity. But my numerous years in this hyper-dimensional energy shell avail me this one maxim: Try and wax existential, it’s all kind of pointless in a way. Don’t deprive the world of much needed exquisite cynicism! Cynicism? It’s a derby! Can cheese hats be far behind? Greet the world, such as it is (Hey! It wasn’t my idea!), with bodacious élan and righteous maelstrom! Remember the three R’s: Repetition, repetition, repetition…….. It could always be worse. You could be working at the 7UP bottling company!

    As you know, rampant hydraulic auditing occurs as local implanted Neo-con agents gambol with gay abandon. And even though it’s a disaster on all levels and I pleaded to no avail, I now stand here smiling that Iowa tourist flat-line smile, not a care in the world. Heedless to my ministrations, Councilman Bret Broff voted for new Japanese Maples for the parkway leading up to the gazebo. But, as it stands, I do have an option. That is, vulcanization or public floggings. For my part, I’ve always taken the Catholic view. “Deny. Kick ’em in the grill, they’ll never get up.” Father Pustulant interjected his canonical two cents. “En nostra de genitilia, en nomenos philopian flagelation.” He’s such a screw up and part-time philatelist that all the women in attendance were patted down for excessive pudenda. I’m sorry you weren’t there. In honor of the present administration I have saved all my viral sputum in my mother’s Bell jar. The neck spasms and migraine-like, vomit inducing headaches were amenable to China White. So I spoke to the sawbones Jones, and she, the nurse-practitioner, gave me a shot in the Coulter and a bag full of pills and I pulled my pants down. It was spiritual, a trailer-park, seedy kind of spirituality. A spiritual house with areola the size of Buick hub caps and nipples as hard as a linoleum kitchen counter top.

    Carl Gordon (715ee1)

  27. Carl Gordon wrote: “Er…maybe Tony was drunk…”

    All right…that’s an excuse for him. What’s yours?

    L.N. Smithee (e1f2bf)

  28. Patterico:

    I agree with you that the case that Carol Lam was fired because she subpoenaed a CIA official is very weak… but only in the sense that I believe that case is nonexistent.

    There is a factor that nobody has yet considered (at least, not that I’ve read). In the following sentence:

    Fired San Diego U.S. attorney Carol Lam notified the Justice Department that she intended to execute search warrants on a high-ranking CIA official as part of a corruption probe…

    …What exactly does the verb “notified” mean?

    I mean literally: What was the physical mode of conveyance of this notification? I assume she sent either a letter, a fax, or an e-mail.

    If the first, then does the date of notification refer to the date on the letter, the date the letter was sent, the date it was postmarked, the date it was delivered to the Justice Department, or the date that it was finally placed on the relevant person’s desk?

    And even if the last (which I doubt), how do we know he actually read it that very day? And would the relevant person be Kyle Sampson, or somebody else? If somebody else, then when did he tell Sampson?

    I think you see where I’m going with this: I believe there is only a very small likelihood that the notification actually arrived in the hands of whomever it was addressed to until days after Kyle Sampson’s May 11th, 2006 e-mail; and we don’t even know, from the news reports, whether the recipient was Kyle Sampson.

    Suppose she e-mailed it or faxed it on May 10th. To whom? To Sampson? If it were to anyone else, even to Attorney General Gonzales, it’s unlikely that Sampson woudl have heard about it before he sent his own e-mail. This is the federal government; it takes three days to issue an order to the janitor to mop up a coffee spill in the front lobby.

    But even if she sent it directly to Sampson, again, he probably receives so much e-mail that he has to have aides go through it and sort it into folders: urgent, timely, and whenever. I’m not sure whether a simple notification that a U.S. Attorney was seeking a search warrant would cause the e-mail to rise to urgent status… even if the target were in the CIA.

    My point is this: We have no idea what the seemingly simple statement that Lam “notified the Justice Department” on May 10th means. Considering the timing — Sampson sends his e-mail the very next day — I think it much more plausible that he didn’t even see the Lam notification until after he had sent his own communication.

    It would actually be much more damning if he had sent his e-mail two weeks after she sent her notification; at least then, we could be reasonably sure he knew about her plans.

    But less than 24 hours? They crossed in the ether.


    Dafydd (445647)

  29. Gee, Patterico, I guess you were right after all. I haven’t been following this very closely at all.

    — tbogg

    Patterico (04465c)

  30. Maybe I should go easy on the guy. He did cite me favorably in his latest post on all this.

    Patterico (04465c)

  31. […] Patrick Frey (aka “Patterico”): “I Use Titles That Are Too Freaking Long, So I’ll Have To Suffice With Links From ASHC All in One Made-Up Quote“ […]

    A Second Hand Conjecture » Attorney-Gate II (f55714)

  32. The fact that the case was being tried out of LA does not mean a lot to me. Lam’s office may still be relied on for information and she also could have made noise if LA sat on the case. I find the fact that Debra Yang joining Gibson Dunn, the firm defending Jerry Lewis, to be very disturbing.

    Ben (5dd57b)

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