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General News    H3'ed 7/28/10

Obama Justice Department Appears to be Participating in a Coverup

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Message Roger Shuler
Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
Until last week, the best that could be said of the U.S. Department of Justice under Barack Obama was, well . . . nothing. That's because the DOJ, under Attorney General Eric Holder, had pretty much done . . . nothing.

But things changed last week with reports that the DOJ had found no criminal charges were warranted against Bush administration officials for the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

The news came in the form of a letter from DOJ official Ronald Welch to House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI). In those six pages, the Obama DOJ moved into dark territory. No longer was it just ignoring possible criminal acts by Bush officials; it was engaging in active deceit of the American public.

On top of that, we now know that the "investigation" was handled by a special prosecutor with ties to evidence suppression in an earlier criminal case. What, if anything, will the Obama DOJ do about this latest news, which comes courtesy of some splendid reporting by Andrew Kreig, of the Justice Integrity Project?

Scott Horton, of Harper's, called the findings a whitewash--and he was being charitable. I would call it a coverup. Our unsolicited advice for Conyers: Don't just quietly accept this steaming pile of horse feces.

The investigation into the U.S. attorney firings has emitted a foul odor from the outset. It was conducted by Nora Dannehy, who was appointed to a U.S. attorney position by . . . George W. Bush. Dannehy was tapped to lead the investigation by Michael Mukasey, who was attorney general for . . . George W. Bush. Did these apparent conflicts cause any concern for Eric Holder? Apparently not, because he allowed Dannehy to proceed--and accepted her findings seemingly without any questions.

The entire scandal involved the firings of nine U.S. attorneys. But Dannehy investigated only one case, that of New Mexico's David Iglesias. How can a scandal involving nine cases be declared resolved with the investigation of only one case? Eric Holder isn't saying.

Welch's letter about Dannehy's findings reeks because of what it says--and what it does not say.

A reasonable person might expect that such a letter would outline, right up front, the legal standard Dannehy was using to determine whether crimes were or were not committed in the firings. But the Welch letter says nothing about it.

A prosecutor's normal standard is called "probable cause." Here is one definition of probable cause:

Apparent facts discovered through logical inquiry that would lead a reasonably intelligent and prudent person to believe that an accused person has committed a crime, thereby warranting his or her prosecution.

How important is this concept to a prosecutor? The American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct state:

The prosecutor in a criminal case shall:

(a) refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause;

Dannehy's findings, as spelled out in Welch's letter, are filled with enough probable cause to choke an elephant. But Dannehy apparently was looking for more than probable cause, the usual prosecutorial standard. She appointed herself judge and jury, too, ensuring that the American people would be forever hoodwinked on at least one chapter in the book of Bush-era sleaze.

A reasonable person might also expect that Dannehy's findings, as relayed by Welch, would include some citations to applicable law. After all, the letter is filled with conclusions of law. But she and Welch never tell us what that law is, never cite case law to support their findings. That's almost certainly because there is no case law to support the findings.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
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