Four days before Connecticut's Nora Dannehy was appointed to investigate the Bush administration's U.S. attorney firing scandal, a team of lawyers she led was found to have illegally suppressed evidence in a major political corruption case. Today we reveal that this previously unreported fact from Dannehy's past calls into questionher entire national investigation. The revelation similarly compromises theprobe by her Connecticut colleague, John Durham, who since 2008 has been the nation's special prosecutor for DOJ and CIA decision-making involving torture.
File Photo by Paul Bass
Charles B. Spadoni by Family Photo
By Andrew Kreig
In September 2008, the Bush Justice Department appointed Connecticut career federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy to investigate allegations that Bush officials in 2006 illegally fired nine U.S. attorneys who wouldn't politicize official corruption investigations.
But just four days before her appointment, a federal appeals court had ruled that a team of prosecutors led by Dannehy illegally suppressed evidence in a major political corruption case in Connecticut. The prosecutors' misconduct was so serious that the court vacated seven of the eight convictions in the case.
The ruling didn't cite Dannehy by name, and although it was publicly reported it apparently never came up in the news coverage of her appointment.
But it now calls into question the integrity of her investigation by raising serious concerns about her credibility -- and about whether she was particularly vulnerable to political pressure from within the Justice Department.
Now, almost two years later, Dannehy has provided arguably the most important blanket exoneration for high-level U.S. criminal targets since President George H.W. Bush pardoned six Iran-Contra convicts post-election in late 1992.
The DOJ announced on July 21 that it has "closed the case" on the nine unprecedented mid-term firings because Dannehy found no criminal wrongdoing by DOJ or White House officials.
But the official description of her inquiry indicates that she either placed or acceded to constraints on the scope of her probe that restricted it to the firing of just one of the ousted U.S. attorneys, not the others -- and not to the conduct of theU.S. attorneyswho weren't ousted because they met whatever tests DOJ and the White House created.
And although reaction to the closing of the inquiry has been muted, some observers are accusing her of a whitewash.
"This is an outrageous act of cowardice and cover-up!" former Alabama governor and alleged political prosecution victim Don Siegelman emailed me regarding DOJ's decision and the failure to interview him.
The Supreme Court vacated much of Siegelman'sconviction last month after years of controversy, including charges by Republican whistleblowers that he was prosecuted primarily because he was a Democrat. As a result, House Judiciary Committee leaders and Siegelman's first trial judge, U.W. Clemon, last year separately urged Attorney Gen. Eric Holder to investigate suspected DOJ prosecution irregularities in what Clemon called "the most unfounded" prosecution he'd witnessed in nearly three decades on Alabama's federal bench.
Dannehy's probe, my reporting suggests in a story first published by Nieman Watchdog in the wee hours today, July 26, was compromised from the beginning.