[Posted by WLS]
I posted a comment last week defending the appoinment of Rachel Paulose notwithstanding the fact that she was “underqualified” and light on experience, but certainly not “unqualified” as was being suggested. I noted her “gold plated resume” and her prior experience both in the Minnesota US Attorney’s Office and as an associate at the very powerful and politically connected Williams & Connelly firm in D.C.
Part of my comment was picked up and linked by Powerline’s Scott Johnson.
Powerline put up another comment on Paulose defending her appointment from attacks on the left and right — Paul Krugman and David Frum.
But, from my perspective, the links in Johnson’s newest post to articles in the Minn. Star-Trib. raise more questions about Paulose’s appointment than answers, and I’m troubled by the unresolved questions and my gut feeling about the answers.
In my earlier post I reversed the dates during which Ms. Paulose was employed as an associate by Williams & Connelly in D.C., and by Dorsey & Whitney in Minneapolis. I assumed she had gone to Williams & Connolly for one year prior to her joining DOJ in early 2006, and her time/connections at Williams & Connolly were instrumental in getting her the nod for the US Attorney’s position in Minneapolis. From the Star-Trib. story of 4/14, it appears that her time at Williams & Connolly came first, and after one year she returned to Minneapolis to join Dorsey & Whitney, where she remained until Jan. 2006 when she applied for a job as Counsel to the Dep.AG.
My problem with the new chronology is that completely lacking from the story on Paulose is any information about who her political patron was that shepherded her to the US Attorney’s post. Its clear from the reporting that it was not Minnesota Senators Coleman or Dayton — both had to be introduced to her.
The prior US Attorney, Tom Heffelfinger, announced his resignation on Feb. 14, 2006, effective Feb. 28, 2006. Heffelfinger was actually in his second stint as US Attorney, having first served in that capacity during the Bush 41 Administration.
Paulose was named to be the interim US Attorney on Feb. 17, 2006, effective on the date of Heffelfinger’s departure. Link
Paulose was identified as being “Senior Counsel” to Acting Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, and she was also described as the “Department’s Special Counsel for Health Care Fraud …. Paulose handles a broad array of matters, including the Department’s criminal litigation, corporate fraud enforcement, and policy matters.”
Now, this description strikes me as too cute by half, given that she had been working for McNulty for at most 6 weeks when this press release was written. I suspect a lot of people didn’t even know her name in mid-Feb, much less what she was supposedly “handled” for the Department.
The article says she was “recruited” for the job as Senior Counsel, but it doesn’t say by whom, and Paulose says she had never met Dep. AG McNulty before starting work on his staff.
Paulose also says that while she has met Monica Goodling, and considers her a friend, they didn’t meet until Jan 2006 when Paulose joined the Dep.AG Staff.
All this leaves me with this question — who recruited Paulose to be a Senior Counsel to the Dep. AG, and who advocated for Paulos to be named Interim US Attorney only 3 days after Heffelfinger announced his resignation? That person(s) has yet to be identified.
You don’t get a job like US Attorney without someone advocating for you, and the Star-Trib article says that Sen. Coleman’s office submitted two other names for the job (for the permanent job, not the interim job), but it still went to Paulose eventually. To turn down the home state Senator in favor of someone of the limited experience of Paulose is quite curious to me.
What I suspect is that the resignation of Heffelfinger was serendipitous. When if happened, Paulose’s patron put forward her name to be the Interim before any support could coalesce around another possible interim. But this would have had to happen with lightning speed, because the default choice is usually going to be a senior member of the office — someone like the First Assistant, Executive Assistant, or Criminal Chief.
The process of picking an interim would, in my experience, begin in the Executive Office of US Attorneys (EOUSA) — they would have the best first-hand knowledge of the office personnel, and who might be a suitable choice for Interim US Attorney.
After leaving the DOJ Press Office in mid-2004, Goodling did 6 months in the EDVA US Attorney’s Office, prosecuting low-level federal cases. When she finished that, she returned to DOJ by going to work at EOUSA, where she stayed from early 2005 to sometime in the fall of 2005, at which time she moved to the AG’s Office as White House Liason. One of her responsibilities was to sit in on interviews with potential candidates for vacant US Attorney positions around the country. The people who participated in those interviews were David Margolis (a 40 year DOJ veteran, the poster child for “DOJ career professional”); a member of the WH Counsel’s Office; the Director of EOUSA; and Goodling on behalf of the AG’s Office.
Given her experience and background, Goodling strikes me as being out of place in this group.
But her presence there, as well as being on the AG’s staff, would give her a prime spot from which to weigh in on the naming of an interim US Attorney when a vacancy came open — such as happened in mid-Feb. 2006 when Heffelfinger resigned.
It would have also put her in position to clear the path to being named as permanent US Attorney since she was influential in the interview process for such appointments.
If you look at the press release announcing Paulose as the Interim dated February 17, it has an extremely unusual paragraph at the end announcing that DOJ was “selecting” James Lackner to be her First Assistant. Lackner was the Criminal Chief at that time.
So, what happened to the First Assitant under Heffelfinger? Did that person tell EOUSA that they would not serve as First Assistant under Paulose if she was named Interim? That’s what I’m guessing.
I’m surmising there were objections to Paulose from within the US Attorney’s Office when her name surfaced immediately following Heffelfinger’s announcement of his intention to resign. But those objections were simply steamrolled by DOJ.
Without someone to steamroll the Dist. of Minn. and EOUSA in the hours immediately after Heffelfinger’s annoucement, its likely that a more suitable short-term replacement for Heffelfinger would have been picked, and then the selection process for the permanent replacement would have proceeded more orderly. I can’t think of any reason why DOJ would need to name an interim within 72 hours of Heffelfinger’s announcement, when Heffelfinger’s resignation wasn’t effective for another 2 weeks.
But, Goodling was in a position to advocate for her new friend Paulose to be Interim, and Sampson — her boss — seems to have never had much desire to rein Goodling in.
I think its evident by the fact that she seems to be the most logical candidate for paving the way for Paulose to be the US Attorney in Minnesota.
Is there anything venal or nefarious in this? No.
But, what it does suggest is a lack of “adult supervision” of the inexperienced “kids” at play at the top of DOJ. Goodling shouldn’t have had the job she was in — she was fundamentally out of her depth with only 6 months prosecutorial experience, and with her primary employment history having been in the press office.
Paulose may very well have been the best candidate for the US Attorney’s job, but there is a process that is designed to find out if that’s the case. If I’m correct, Goodling short-circuited that process on behalf of someone she barely knew. To me, that reflects a lack of judgment and seasoning.
I’m not a Goodling hater — frankly, the person most to blame for her conduct is whoever gave her the job. I suspect that person is Sampson, and it reflects poorly on his judgment (again) that he would entrust her with such a significant position as WH Liason.