Patterico's Pontifications

3/19/2007

The Bush Administration: A Problem Client I Don’t Have to Keep

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:51 pm



I often hear defense attorneys bemoan counterproductive actions by their clients. For example, the attorney might do a tremendous job raising potential reasonable doubts during the People’s case — but then the defendant will ruin everything by insisting on testifying to a story so ridiculous that a conviction is certain.

These attorneys’ attitudes towards their clients can be summed up as follows: I’d like to defend you, but you’re making it very difficult for me.

This is the way I am starting to feel about the folks in the Bush Administration, on the issue of the U.S. Attorney firings. They have unquestionably been the victims of some smears by Democrats and Big Media (but I repeat myself). As a result, I’d like to defend them.

But they’re making it really, really hard for me to do so.

In several instances, I have made valid points in defense of the Administration, only to see the left make an equally valid counterpoint — often based on actions by the very Administration I am defending.

For example:

I made the valid point that Carol Lam had been very weak on prosecuting illegal immigration cases — a critical priority in the border district where her office was located. And I was right about that. But then the left made the valid counterpoint that the Justice Department had later defended her on that very issue in a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

I made the valid point that the “real problem” Carol Lam presented for the Administration could not have been the Jerry Lewis investigation, because it was handled in L.A. by Debra Yang, not in San Diego by Carol Lam. And I was right about that. But then the left made the valid counterpoint that, the day before Kyle Sampson described Lam as a “real problem” that the Administration was facing “right now,” Lam had “notified the Justice Department that she intended to execute search warrants on a high-ranking CIA official as part of a corruption probe.”

I made the valid point that Carol Lam was on a working list of targeted prosecutors as early as February or March 2005 — meaning she wasn’t initially targeted due to the “Duke” Cunningham investigation. And I’m right about that. But then the left made the valid counterpoint that David Iglesias was deemed a “strong” prosecutor on that working list — and was added only after Pete Domenici and Heather Wilson called him to complain about the slow pace of his investigation into Democrat corruption.

I made the valid point that David Iglesias failed to vigorously investigate claims of voter fraud, citing the wholly inadequate excuse that he lacked sufficient resources — even as he assigned only one prosecutor to public corruption cases. And I’m right about that. But then the left made the valid counterpoint that David Iglesias

had been heralded for his expertise in that area by the Justice Department, which twice selected him to train other federal prosecutors to pursue election crimes.

I’m starting to feel like a volleyball player who makes amazing saves, time and time again — only to have the ball spiked back into his face . . . time and time again. And to make matters worse, he learns that the player who is setting up the spikes is supposed to be his own teammate.

So consider this my open letter to the Bush Administration:

Guys:

I think the press has distorted some of the aspects of this case against you. And, for that reason, at least, I want to defend you.

But you’re making it really, really hard for me to defend you.

And I’m not your defense attorney. If I think you’re full of crap, I don’t have to defend you.

And, given that 1) at least one of you gleefully boasted that you planned to deceive Congress, and 2) I keep making arguments that get shoved back in my face based on your own actions — I’m kind of tempted to tell you to screw yourselves.

Love and kisses,

Patterico

Understand: I don’t believe that the Democrats’ wildest allegations are true. I don’t believe that everything the press is saying about this is true. If I see further distortions, I will be tempted to point them out.

But if I do, it will be purely in the spirit of keeping the press (and the opposition) honest — not in the spirit of defending the Administration. I’m tired of defending people who make it impossible to argue in their defense.

UPDATE: Apparently, the guy who successfully prosecuted Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and who convicted Illinois Governor George Ryan of bribery, was considered a middling prosecutor by Kyle Sampson. I wonder if it had anything to do with that prosecutor’s pending prosecution of Scooter Libby (which also resulted in a conviction)?

But then, we already knew that Sampson was a dishonest bonehead, didn’t we?

UPDATE x2: I recently predicted that Gonzales would be gone by this coming Friday afternoon. I now think the only question is whether he will last that long.

23 Responses to “The Bush Administration: A Problem Client I Don’t Have to Keep”

  1. Patrick Fitzgerald? “Not distinguished,” The Justice department fired two USA’s with the same rating.

    Mary Jo White, who supervised Fitzgerald when she served as the U.S. attorney in Manhattan and who has criticized the firings, said ranking Fitzgerald as a middling prosecutor “lacks total credibility across the board.”

    “He is probably the best prosecutor in the nation, certainly one of them,” said White, who worked in the Clinton and Bush administrations. “It casts total doubt on the whole process. It’s kind of the icing on the cake.”

    Fitzgerald has been widely recognized for his pursuit of criminal cases against al-Qaeda’s terrorist network before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and he drew up the official U.S. indictment against Osama bin Laden. He was named as special counsel in the CIA leak case in December 2003 by then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, who had recused himself.

    AF (f0c94f)

  2. Patterico — you’re giving way too much credit to the counterpoints. They are not valid, and I’ll give you my reasons, some of which I’ve addressed already.

    The Moschella letter to Feinstein is simply less than meets the eye. It is extremely careful to only defend Lam in terms of the 2006 time frame — which is after Lam had been “woodshedded” about her refusals/failures to bring border crime cases. I’ll raise the same questions I’ve raised before — does anyone think that the Feinstein letter in June 2006 that caused Moschella to respond praised Lam’s record on border prosecutions? The tone of Moschella’s letter is certainly defending a DOJ official from a pointed inquiry by a home state Senator who wants to know why more cases aren’t being brought. Moschella simply wasn’t going to air DOJ’s dirty laundry about its unhappiness with Lam in a public resposne to a home state Senator.

    As noted below, new emails and letters are now being posted. There is another letter written by Moschella to Darrell Issa, a San Diego area GOP Congressman, responding to complaints by him about falling numbers of immigration prosecutions in San Diego by Lam’s office. Moschella’s answers are similar to the one’s he gave to Feinstein — limiting his defense to Lam’s rebound in prosecution efforts in 2006.

    Re the timing of Sampson’s email complaining about Lam being a “real problem” and its relationship to her notice to DOJ of the search warrants on Foggo, et.al., DOJ has released new emails today — now being reported upon by the NYT and posted on the House Judiciary Comm website — that show longstanding DOJ extreme unhappiness with Lam. Of particular note is one from Bill Mercer, who served both as Acting Dep.AG before McNulty was named, while at the same time serving as US Attorney for Montana since the earliest days of the Bush Admin (in other words, a guy who has been around since the beginning and knows the entire history of Lam). He comments on her inability to meet deadlines, her disregard for DOJ and Admin. priorities, and a sarcastic reference to the possibility that maybe she would just admit that “I’ve ignored national priorities and obvious local needs. Shoot, my production is more hideous than I realized.’”

    There’s lots of materials about the reasons why some of the others were problem children as well. Apparently, McKay in WD Washington had a bad habit of publicly complaining in the press and to other agencies that his office was being crippled by budget cuts that forced him to cut staffing, and productivity would be impacted as a result. That’s not the kind of thing DOJ likes to see a US Attorney air in the local press. And its not just a comment or two — whole interviews and news articles are devoted to his complaining about his budget.

    Regarding Iglesias, it was reported early on that Domenici had been hearing complaints in New Mexico about Iglesias since 2004. The failure to pursue voter fraud cases was the start. The episodes in Oct. 2006 were the culmination of a long series of disappointments. There is also being reported today a letter from AUSA’s in the New Mexico district defending Iglesias’s TERMINATION — claiming he traveled excessively and spent little time actually tending to the activities of the office. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon when a US Attorney begins losing interest. There are lots of opportunities for them to travel, and its completely up to the individual US Attorney where he goes and what functions he attends. He doesn’t have to defend days away from the office or money spent on travel because its all from his own budget.

    The fact that Iglesias was a selected “instructor” on voter fraud training is also nearly meaningless. The District of New Mexico was one of only two districts at the time that had set up voter fraud task forces in coordination with the Civil Rights Division. When setting up training seminars for other districts on how to go about setting up such task forces, the Civil Rights Division picks “instructors” from districts that have already done so. That doesn’t mean Iglesias was an expert or particularly effective at actually prosecuting voter fraud cases — only that his district had actually gone through the mechanics of forming a task force. Pretty thin gruel.

    Finally, I still don’t see what you characterize as Sampson’s intention to lie to Congress about using the new provision in the Patriot Act to circumvent the confirmation process.

    If you look back at that e-mail, what Sampson is discussing is how to politically outmanuever the Democratic Arkansas Senators who might object to Griffin as having too much of a partisan political history. What Sampson is saying is that given how late it is in the 8 years of Bush 43, the AG can name Griffin, send up his nomination for confirmation, which probably will never get acted upon by the Senate because the Arkansas Senators will put a hold on it, but in the grand scheme of things it won’t really matter because Griffin will have the job and the clock will simply expire on the Administration.

    He’s not suggesting that Griffin never be submitted for confirmation, just that any confirmation fight that might be waged by the Arkansas Democrats will probably be buried by the political realities of the political calendar leading to the 2008 election cycle.

    wls (077d0d)

  3. When you’re right, you’re right. On everything, this Administration makes it very hard to defend them because they won’t defend themselves. Sadly, you join myself, Rush Limbaugh, and other conservatives who have been liberated from the Bush Administration. What happened to the fight we loved in the 1st term? This is just sad, pathetic, and stupid to boot.

    Adam Graham (d33ba2)

  4. wls,

    The Moschella letter to Feinstein is simply less than meets the eye. It is extremely careful to only defend Lam in terms of the 2006 time frame — which is after Lam had been “woodshedded” about her refusals/failures to bring border crime cases. I’ll raise the same questions I’ve raised before — does anyone think that the Feinstein letter in June 2006 that caused Moschella to respond praised Lam’s record on border prosecutions? The tone of Moschella’s letter is certainly defending a DOJ official from a pointed inquiry by a home state Senator who wants to know why more cases aren’t being brought. Moschella simply wasn’t going to air DOJ’s dirty laundry about its unhappiness with Lam in a public resposne to a home state Senator.

    OK, but Lam wasn’t fired until 12/2007. I realize her term wasn’t up until 11/2007, but if it’s not customary to relieve folks in her position, and if she was improving on the one issue that was supposedly her weak point — then what gives?

    Of particular note is one from Bill Mercer, who served both as Acting Dep.AG before McNulty was named, while at the same time serving as US Attorney for Montana since the earliest days of the Bush Admin (in other words, a guy who has been around since the beginning and knows the entire history of Lam). He comments on her inability to meet deadlines, her disregard for DOJ and Admin. priorities, and a sarcastic reference to the possibility that maybe she would just admit that “I’ve ignored national priorities and obvious local needs. Shoot, my production is more hideous than I realized.’”

    That’s helpful. I haven’t read through all the new e-mails. I’m one person, with a day job. How about a link and some direction on where to look within the link?

    There’s lots of materials about the reasons why some of the others were problem children as well. Apparently, McKay in WD Washington had a bad habit of publicly complaining in the press and to other agencies that his office was being crippled by budget cuts that forced him to cut staffing, and productivity would be impacted as a result. That’s not the kind of thing DOJ likes to see a US Attorney air in the local press. And its not just a comment or two — whole interviews and news articles are devoted to his complaining about his budget.

    Same comment. Links are helpful. I’d love to get some direction on where to look within these e-mails.

    Regarding Iglesias, it was reported early on that Domenici had been hearing complaints in New Mexico about Iglesias since 2004. The failure to pursue voter fraud cases was the start. The episodes in Oct. 2006 were the culmination of a long series of disappointments. There is also being reported today a letter from AUSA’s in the New Mexico district defending Iglesias’s TERMINATION — claiming he traveled excessively and spent little time actually tending to the activities of the office.

    I reported that this morning. Did you see it? And my link from this morning was one of the links within this post. And I had it thrown back in my face, with the story about Iglesias being heralded as an expert. About that, you say:

    The fact that Iglesias was a selected “instructor” on voter fraud training is also nearly meaningless. The District of New Mexico was one of only two districts at the time that had set up voter fraud task forces in coordination with the Civil Rights Division. When setting up training seminars for other districts on how to go about setting up such task forces, the Civil Rights Division picks “instructors” from districts that have already done so. That doesn’t mean Iglesias was an expert or particularly effective at actually prosecuting voter fraud cases — only that his district had actually gone through the mechanics of forming a task force. Pretty thin gruel.

    Look, I understand what you’re saying, and I thought about that as an argument, but really, the DoJ needs to get its act together. If the DoJ thought this guy was a clown on voter fraud — and I sort of think he was — they shouldn’t have used him as a trainer.

    Finally, I still don’t see what you characterize as Sampson’s intention to lie to Congress about using the new provision in the Patriot Act to circumvent the confirmation process.

    Remember running out the clock, and “good faith” in quotes? The guy had a plan to lie to Congress. About that I have no doubt. Please don’t defend this dishonest ass.

    Patterico (04465c)

  5. The older he gets, the more GWB has become his father’s son.

    DRJ (53e939)

  6. Patterico — sorry about the failure to link. I picked up a link to the House Judiciary Website from the NYT’s article that is up on their website tonight and set for tomorrow’s edition. The quote from Mercer comes from the NYT article — I looked briefly for the e-mail in the ones posted by the House, but there are literally hundreds of pages of emails and attachments that have gone up today. The NYT article has 5 or 6 reporters listed as having contributed to the story. You know all that means is that they divided up the stacks of emails and started reading.

    Here’s the link to the NYT article.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/20/washington/20documents.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

    Here’s the link to the House Judiciary site.

    http://judiciary.house.gov/

    From this site I looked at 1-1, 1-2, and 1-3 before running out of time. I found the newspaper articles from McKay in 1-3 — and a long one on Kevin Ryan in San Fran that one DOJ official says describes a performance review where Ryan must have felt like he had been invited to his own stoning.

    Ryan was a DISASTER in San Fran. I’ve got several friends in that office, and am currently working with a refugee from that office that had to get away from him and his First Assistant.

    McKay’s comments are particularly galling because he makes it sound like his office is the only one that has suffered a budget squeeze. I’ve been in DOJ long enough to have suffered through many of these budget squeezes, and many times the US Attorney brings the problems on themselves by the way they allocate the use of the funds they have available.

    And, in response to Mary Jo White’s comments defending Patrick Fitzgerald from the criticisms of him in vary documents now being released, I would only say that her comment is somewhat of a non-sequitur.

    Being the US Attorney and being an exception prosecutor are not one in the same. The US Attorney is first and foremost a manager. Exceptionally brilliant prosecutors can at the same time be terrible managers of a bureaucracy like a US Attorney’s Office. Fitzgerald runs the 3rd or 4th biggest office in DOJ — SDNY, CDCA, then either DC or NDIL.

    The fact that he spends so much time actually prosecuting his own cases by implication means that he leaves the management and administration of his office to others — there are not enough hours in the day to do otherwise.

    So, being a great prosecutor in the courtroom is not guarantee that he’s even a passably good US Attorney.

    WLS (1b7f25)

  7. Re Iglesias as a “trainer” or “instructor” — its easy to say “DOJ picked him”. In actuality, the way these things work, is that someone in the Civil Rights Division that works on voter fraud cases is given the task of working with the Office of Legal Education (OLE) to put together a 2-3 day seminar at the National Advocacy Center (NAC) in Columbia, South Carolina. That person at Civil Rights and a course administrator at the NAC then create a syllabus for the course, and they then select instructors for the course to match the topics in the syllabus.

    Each time I’ve been picked to be an instructor on a particular topic where I have a recognized expertise, its always been because a friend that I’ve made along the way is involved in putting the course together and gives me a call to find out if I’d be interested.

    There’s not a lot of merit to it — its all about whose Rolodex your name is in and who is picking the instructors. “DOJ” really has nothing to do with it.

    WLS (1b7f25)

  8. Re Sampson — I do not know the guy or anything about him, so I’m not defending him on that basis. But, reading from his “plan” for executing the turnover among the targeted US Attorneys, here is Step 5 that he circulated widely:

    “Beginning as soon as possible in November 2006, Office of the Counsel to the President and the Department of Justice carry out (on an expedited basis) the regular US Attorney appointment process: Obtain recommendations from Senators/Bush political leads and other sources; evaluate candidates; make recommendations to the President; conduct background investigations; have President make nominations, and work to secure confirmations of US Attorney nominees.”

    Now, I’ve been looking for the email with the “run out the clock” and “good faith” language in it. I read it last week, and came away with the understanding I wrote above — that Lincoln and Pryor in Arkansas were likely to object to Griffin given his political activities, and that as home state Senators they could hold up his confirmation in a Dem. controlled Senate. The only point I recall Sampson to be making was that Griffin would be in the post, and the Senate would probably take no action on his nomination — i.e., “run out the clock”. I don’t really see how this is “lying” to the Senate.

    WLS (1b7f25)

  9. […] Patterico, though, makes a good point about the frustration he feels as a defender of the administration on this issue: I often hear defense attorneys bemoan counterproductive actions by their clients. For example, the attorney might do a tremendous job raising potential reasonable doubts during the People’s case — but then the defendant will ruin everything by insisting on testifying to a story so ridiculous that a conviction is certain. […]

    Finally, Something On Which We Can Agree? at Conservative Times--Republican GOP news source. (aeda9d)

  10. The older he gets, the more GWB has become his father’s son.

    Ugh. Don’t defame Bush 41 that way. I may be a flaming moonbat liberal, but even I can acknowledge that GHWB was a fundamentally decent and honest person whose top priority was the good of the American people. Dubya may be a decent guy, but his honesty is occasional at best, and whatever priority he places on the good of the American people appears to have taken a decided back seat to maintaining his hold on as much power as possible.

    Doug (047eb4)

  11. WLS,

    I like your points. I even put a lot of them into a post.

    Sorry I don’t have the ‘good faith’ e-mail link at my fingertips. But I’d advise you to find it and read it before you defend Sampson any more on it. It’s quite clear he intended to deceive Congress on the Griffin nomination.

    Patterico (04465c)

  12. Mary Jo White? Isn’t she the one that’s buried the investigation into Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich?

    Joe (0932fc)

  13. […] Yeah… Fitzgerald… the middling prosecutor: Apparently, the guy who successfully prosecuted Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and who convicted Illinois Governor George Ryan of bribery, was considered a middling prosecutor by Kyle Sampson. I wonder if it had anything to do with that prosecutor’s pending prosecution of Scooter Libby (which also resulted in a conviction)? […]

    Fitzgerald on List « Michael P.F. van der Galiën (61c00f)

  14. Mary Jo White? Isn’t she the one that’s buried the investigation into Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich?

    Does anybody give a shit about that any more?

    You know you’re out of touch when you still look back at Clinton scandals and think they contained substance.

    The Other Steve (7f8231)

  15. Be slow to hire and quick to fire. I agree that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to defend an administration that won’t defend itself. The administration’s problems in hiring has been it’s proclivity to hire and promote people beyond their level of competency due to loyalty. Hence the Harriet Miers debacle. The next problem is in not rabidly defending his staff when they come under fire; i.e Rumsfield. All this reflects poorly on the administration’s management reputation. Still someone has said that “if Bush walked on water, he’d be attacked for not being able to swim.” I agree with DeLay; it’s only going to get worse and they’d better draw a line in the sand somewhere or theye’re going to be but cheek deep in salt water before long. The next year and 1/2 is going to be one long congressional hearing.

    Bill (b9423a)

  16. […] New York Times, CNN, Patterico’s Pontifications, NO QUARTER, JustOneMinute, Law Blog, The Impolitic, The Caucus, Captain’s Quarters, PoliBlog (TM), Shakespeare’s Sister, The Daily Background, The Moderate Voice, Think Progress, The Mahablog, Taylor Marsh, Multi Medium, MyDD, Jules Crittenden, Crooks and Liars, AMERICAblog, TIME: Swampland, Michael P.F. van der Galiën, Connecting.the.Dots, Heading Left, TBogg, State of the Day and Daily Kos […]

    Fitzgerald Ranked During Leak Case « DC Direct (b543cc)

  17. the kind of advocacy for this administration you’ve been doing, you really ought to get paid for it, and also get a fancy title like “assistant attorney general for flack”. george w. bush doesn’t exactly fit the classic profile of a pro bono client.

    assistant devil's advocate (c54e63)

  18. The next year and 1/2 is going to be one long congressional hearing.

    Too bad it’s not an impeachment hearing.

    The Other Steve (7f8231)

  19. […] Others Blogging: Patterico Hot Air Ace of Spades Michelle Malkin Web Bloggin Right Voices Big Lizards A Blog for All The Strata-Sphere Macsmind […]

    More on the US Attorney’s Psuedo-Scandal : The Crimson Blog (be224c)

  20. Patterico,

    re: Carol Lam and immigration, it’s worth nothing that she explicitly offered, in a phone conversation with the DOJ, to change her priorities. You’ll find the above link interesting; the key bits are

    FYI Carol Lam, USA Southern California, called me earlier today to discuss matters related to the criticism Congressman Issa has been directing at the District re its practices in prosecuting/not prosecuting alien smuggling…. She wanted to communicate the following:
    1. In her view, although the unrebutted criticism is making the Department look bad, she has been sitting quiet rather than attempting to respond publicly by explaining the resource limitations that she maintains affect the office’s ability to do more smuggling cases;
    2. She is willing to change course if folks think that would be beneficial;
    3. She notes that she has never even met with Congressman Issa and would be happy to do so if that is thought useful; and
    4. She will do anything else that the DAG would wish, including continuing to stand silent despite the personal criticism to which she thinks she is being subject through these comments.

    She acknowledged understanding that it may be the judgment that continued silence is the best option of a set of limited options. I explained to her that, given the larger debate going on related to immigration, we would probably evaluate her observations and her offer in the context of wanting to contribute to the Administration’s overall goals with respect to immigration reform.

    One way or another, somebody such as myself or PADAG or CoS should probably follow-up with her to confirm our guidance lest any silence be construed as lack of guidance/indifference to her activity.

    While point 2 could be interpreted as changing course on immigration prosecutions *or* changing course on answering criticism, I do think this email makes clear that her policy on immigration prosecutions was generally known, in sync, and OK with the DOJ. This email was sent in May of 2006.

    Earl (607531)

  21. […] I think we’re all right about here at this point. digg_url = ‘http://hotair.com/archives/2007/03/22/video-michelle-talks-democratic-disarray-on-cavuto/’;digg_topic = ‘political_opinion’; […]

    Hot Air » Blog Archive » Video: Michelle talks Democratic disarray on Cavuto (d4224a)

  22. On this general subject of bad clients, my friend likes to refer to “client malpractice.”

    Attila (Pillage Idiot) (68fd1f)


Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.1520 secs.