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Tag: U.S. Attorney

Ex-U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade: ‘Trump Sees The Position of Attorney General as His Personal Lawyer’

Barbara McQuade was  the first woman to serve as the U.S. Attorney in Detroit.  She was appointed by President Barack Obama and was sworn in Jan. 4, 2010. In March, she was among the remaining 46 U.S. Attorneys in the country from the Obama administration who were forced to resign. She is currently a professor at the University of Michigan Law School.

U.S. Attorney McQuade

U.S. Attorney McQuade

By Barbara McQuade

The President’s comments disparaging the attorney general are damaging to the Department of Justice and the American public.  Regardless of whether you agree with the policies of Jeff Sessions, Trump’s efforts to insult, marginalize or push him out should be deeply concerning.

Trump’s comments that Sessions should not have recused himself from the Russia investigation suggests that Trump sees the position of attorney general as his personal lawyer.  In fact, the attorney general takes an oath to support and defend the Constitution.

By complying with DOJ ethics rules, Sessions was doing his job properly.  Trump would rather have Sessions ignore ethics rules so that he could maintain control of the Russia investigation, rather than allow that duty to fall to his deputy from Baltimore, where, as Trump says, there are not a lot of Republicans. This statement wrongly suggests that DOJ makes decisions based on politics, and undermines public confidence in its decisions.

Trump’s comments about investigating Hillary Clinton are also deeply troubling.  The case was declined last summer.  To suggest reopening it now creates the impression that Trump is seeking to use the Department of Justice to punish his political enemies.  It is critically important that the Department of Justice act with independence in bringing criminal cases, and that it not become the machinery of partisan politics.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

I also think that Trump’s comments about the attorney general are demoralizing to the rank and file employees of the Department of Justice. They need a leader who is advocating for them and their priorities in the President’s cabinet. To see their leader disparaged by the President diminishes the stature of the office of attorney general and the Department of Justice.  The men and women who have dedicated their talents in careers to seeking justice and serving the public deserve much better.

It may be that the President is trying to coerce sessions into resigning.  If Sessions resigns rather than is fired, Trump has more options available to replacing him, including appointing an acting attorney general from among any of his already confirmed appointees, without any additional Senate confirmation.

Eric Starkman: The Unethical Preet Bharara and His Despicable Media Enablers

Eric Starkman is founder and president of STARKMAN, a public relations and crisis communications firm based in Los Angeles.  He was previously a reporter at major newspapers in the U.S. and Canada.

By Eric Starkman
For ticklethewire.com

preet-bharara-time

Growing up in Toronto I had a quintessentially Canadian view about government authority: Only bad people ran afoul of the law.

But my innocence was shattered when I was a young reporter at The Toronto Star and Ontario’s Attorney General leaked me some information about some entrepreneurs who had embarrassed his Administration that I knew to be untrue. I didn’t write the story but other reporters happily picked up the narrative, ultimately giving the government the PR cover to seize the businesses of the entrepreneurs without any due process. I’m still shaken by the abuse of power.

I naively believed that such prosecutorial wrongdoing could never happen in the U.S. My bubble was quickly burst when The Detroit News hired me as a business reporter and assigned me to cover the high profile administrative hearing of Stanford Stoddard, a maverick Michigan banker who the Comptroller of the Currency alleged had misappropriated funds from the bank he founded. In her opening statement, a young ambitious OCC attorney alleged that among Stoddard’s wrongdoings was using bank funds to purchase alcohol. As Stoddard was a devout Mormon the charge was exceptionally damning, so I asked Stoddard’s attorney about the allegation. Turns out the alcohol in question was a bottle of wine for a religious ceremony.

Former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who was lionized in the media as “The Sherriff of Wall Street,” jolted me with another wakeup call about prosecutorial wrongdoing. Spitzer and his minions routinely spread false or misleading information about my former client Dick Grasso after he was forced out of the New York Stock Exchange because of bogus allegations the former chairman and CEO was overpaid. An example of Team Spitzer’s dishonesty was leaking a document that showed Grasso’s son accompanied him on the private jet the NYSE chartered so Grasso could host a reception at Davos, Switzerland. Spitzer’s team neglected to provide the documentation showing that Grasso reimbursed the NYSE for the cost of his son’s trip.

Preet Bharara, who was just fired as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, took Spitzer’s prosecutorial abuse to an even higher level. For a time, Bharara was an even bigger media darling than Spitzer, garnering fawning media coverage for his high-profile cases, including this gusher of a puff piece by William Cohan in Fortune. Bharara loved the media limelight, routinely holding news conferences to trump up publicity for his cases and leaking damaging allegations to obsequious reporters who gladly published them and abetted in the smearing of his targets before they had an opportunity to defend themselves.

As Jesse Eisinger noted last week in Pro Publica, Bharara was no hero. His prosecutorial track record was mixed, as several of his high-profile cases were overturned on appeal. And his practice of arguing his cases in the media earned him the opprobrium of the judge overseeing his case against Sheldon Silver, the former NY Democratic State Assembly speaker, who charged that Bharara’s media blitz “strayed so close to the rules governing his own conduct.”

Even Cohan came to appreciate Bharara’s unethical behavior, publishing this impressive story about the questionable tactics used to pressure former hedge fund manager Todd Newman to settle insider trading charges. Bharara tellingly was too tongue tied to talk to Cohan for a story that was critical of him.

Sadly, the universe of reporters who appreciate the dangers of prosecutorial abuse is limited to a handful of some very experienced reporters.  One of them is New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, who has written critically about Bharara and presumably played a meaningful role in the critical portrayal of U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades in the Showtime series “Billions.” (Sorkin is one of the show’s creators).  The Rhoades character is clearly based on Bharara, replete with the latter’s petulance and media manipulation. The show also admirably is unkind in its portrayal of a reporter and his pursuit of a scoop.

Best-selling author Michael Lewis took up the cause of Sergey Aleynikov, the Goldman Sachs programmer who was convicted and sentenced to prison for stealing computer code, Jim Stewart wrote about the questionable charges leveled against Zachary Warren, and Joe Norcera wrote an admirable column about the shameful prosecution of Charlie Engle.

Diane Brady, among the fairest and most ethical journalists, recently commented that stories based on leaked documents should be held to the same reporting standards as any news story.  That’s an admirable requirement, but regretfully we’ve entered the Brian Stelter media age, where reporters who publish leaked documents and give anonymous people a platform for their political agendas are deemed “investigative journalists.”

The media can’t be counted on to protect against prosecutorial wrongdoing. But with Bharara out of office, the Southern District is momentarily a safer place for innocent people.

 

D.C. U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips Named ticklethewire.com Fed of the Year for 2016

Channing Phillips/doj photo

Channing Phillips/DOJ photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

D.C. U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips has been named ticklethewire.com’s Fed of the Year for 2016.

Phillips, who began working for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. in 1994, was nominated by President Barack Obama to the U.S. Attorney post in Washington in October 2015. From 2011 to 2015, he served as counselor to the U.S. Attorney General, and was regarded as a calm, steady voice of reason at Main Justice during some bumpy times, which included the fallout from ATF’s Fast and Furious scandal.

He also served as executive director for the Attorney General’s Diversity Management Advisory Council and was the day-to-day coordinator for diversity-management issues within the Justice Department.

He’s continued to manage with a steady, calm hand at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which under his tenure, has handled everything from public corruption and terrorism related cases to local crimes.  The yearly award is given to federal law enforcement officials who exemplify integrity, leadership and concern for their workers.  His contributions over the many years makes him worthy of the 2016 award.

As a side note, the U.S. Senate has yet to confirm Phillips.  And considering he was appointed by President Obama, he’s not likely to get confirmed after Donald Trump takes office.

Previous recipients of the ticklethewire.com Fed of the Year award include: Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (2008):   Warren Bamford, who headed the Boston FBI (2009), Joseph Evans, regional director for the DEA’s North and Central Americas Region in Mexico City (2010);  Thomas Brandon, deputy Director of ATF (2011); John G. Perren, who was assistant director of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Directorate (2012); David Bowdich, special agent in charge of counterterrorism in Los Angeles (2013);  Loretta Lynch, who was U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn at the time (2014) and John “Jack” Riley,  the DEA’s acting deputy administrator (2015).

 

Justice Department Says It May Have Found Way to Unlock iPhone Without Apple’s Help

Apple logo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department on Monday asked for a delay of a court hearing in its battle with Apple over the encryption of an iPhone from San Bernardino shooting, saying it may have found a way to unlock the phone without Apple’s help.

In a motion filed Monday in federal court in Central California, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles wrote:

Since the attacks in San Bernardino on December 2, 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) has continued to pursue all avenues available to discover all relevant evidence related to the attacks.

Specifically, since recovering Farook’s iPhone on December 3, 2015, the FBI has
continued to research methods to gain access to the data stored on it. The FBI did not cease its efforts after this litigation began. As the FBI continued to conduct its own research, and as a result of the worldwide publicity and attention on this case, others outside the U.S. government have continued to contact the U.S. government offering avenues of possible research.

On Sunday, March 20, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible
method for unlocking Farook’s iPhone. Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook’s iPhone. If the method is
viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple Inc. (“Apple”) set forth in the All Writs Act Order in this case.

Read Justice Motion

Ex-Federal Prosecutor Says Hillary Clinton Could Soon Be Indicted Because of ‘Overwhelming’ Evidence

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

In the midst of the Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, a former U.S. attorney said he believes the Democratic frontrunner may soon be indicted over the e-mail scandal, The Daily Mail reports. 

The remarks come just before the Iowa caucuses in February, which suggests Clinton’s campaign could be derailed.

Joe DiGenova, a prosecutor appointed to President Reagan, said the investigation has reached a “critical mass.”

“They have reached a critical mass in their investigation of the secretary and all of her senior staff,” DiGenova said Tuesday. “And, it’s going to come to a head, I would suggest, in the next 60 days.”

DiGenova said the Justice Department is “not going to be able to walk away from it.”

“They are now at over 1,200 classified emails. And, that’s just for the ones we know about from the State Department. That does not include the ones that the FBI is, in fact, recovering from her hard drives.”

Detroit U.S. Attorney’s Office Takes Time Out to Celebrate Its 200th Anniversary

l-r from the top: Ross Parker; Judge Gerald Rosen; The crowd; U.S. Attorney McQuade

l-r From the top: Ross Parker; Judge Gerald Rosen; The crowd; U.S. Attorney McQuade

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT —  Federal court, more often than not, is a pretty serious place.

But on Wednesday, judges, prosecutors, attorneys, courthouse staff and members of the media gathered on the first floor of the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Detroit to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The crowd included some former U.S. Attorneys: Saul Green and Jeff Collins and Judges Terrence Berg and Stephen Murphy. Some of the federal judges included chief Judge Gerald Rosen, Judge Paul Borman and Judge Bernard Friedman.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade delivered some remarks, calling the U.S. Attorney’s Office the best law firm in the state. Ross Parker, a former chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and a columnist for ticklethewire.com, gave a talk about the history of the office.

Parker is the author of the book “Carving Out the Rule of Law: The History of the United States Attorney’s Office e in Eastern Michigan 1815–2008.″

Justice Department Public Integrity Section Gets New Leader

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department’s powerful Public Integrity section, which investigates politicians and judges, has a new leader, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

U.S. Attorney Jack Smith, who has been a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, brings a wealth of background and knowledge to the position. Smith was a criminal prosecutor, for example, in the International Criminal Court at the Hague.

Smith has tapped a top deputy – Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Raymond Husler, who has been acting chief of the Public Integrity section.

The Washington Post has more.

ATF Director B. Todd Jones Calling it Quits; Tom Brandon Will Step Up

US Attorney B. Todd Jones

Todd Jones

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

B. Todd Jones, the head of ATF, who first stepped in as acting director in 2011, and later became the first ATF directory in history to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, is stepping down, effective March 31.

The announcement from ATF came in a press release, which said he’s departing to pursue opportunities in the private sector. Jone’s number two person, Thomas Brandon, will step in as acting director.

“ATF employees are hard-working, dedicated individuals who serve the public to make our nation safer every day,” said Jones in a statement. “I have seen firsthand their extraordinary commitment to combatting violent crime, ridding the streets of criminals, and leveraging all available resources to keep our communities safe.”

“I will truly miss leading and working side-by-side with these men and women in their pursuit of ATF’s unique law enforcement and regulatory mission,” Jones added.

Jones initially held two jobs in 2011: He was named acting director of ATF while still serving as U.S. Attorney in Minnesota. President Obama nominated him for the permanent post on Jan. 24, 2013, and he ended his job as U.S. Attorney after being confirmed as ATF director.

Tom Brandon/atf photo

ATF Deputy Director Thomas E. Brandon will serve as Acting Director. Brandon was appointed Deputy Director of ATF in October 2011.