Created on Wednesday, 28 July 2010 18:11
Written by Scott Horton
More on the Latest DOJ Whitewash
by Scott Horton
The Department informed congressional overseers that, even
though the probe found serious wrongdoing by senior Department
officials, it was unable to string together the evidence needed to bring
criminal charges against any of those involved.
Now information has
emerged that seriously undermines the reputation of former Connecticut
U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy, tapped by former Attorney General Michael B.
Mukasey to handle the probe.
Four days before 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. Andrew Kreig writes that this previously unreported
fact calls her entire investigation into question as well as that of a
similar investigation by her colleague John Durham of DOJ and CIA
decision-making involving torture.
It’s striking that the court ruling about the unlawful
suppression occurred just four days before Dannehy’s appointment as
special prosecutor to handle the U.S. attorneys case was announced. This
makes it likely that Mukasey was fully aware of the suppression
findings before he finalized his decision. Did Mukasey tap Dannehy, and
later her colleague John Durham, because he could count on both of them
to take the probes nowhere and emerge with the conclusion that none of
the political appointees could be prosecuted? In any event, that was
Mukasey’s own predisposition, articulated in a number of speeches.
Andrew Krieg reports:
Dannehy’s probe, my reporting suggests, was compromised from the
She was appointed by Bush Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey on Sept.
29, 2008. On Sept. 25, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New
York City found misconduct in a 2003 trial she had led. The court found
that the prosecution suppressed evidence that could have benefited the
defendant, Connecticut businessman Charles B. Spadoni. Spadoni had been
convicted of bribing former state Treasurer Paul Silvester to invest
$200 million of state pension money with his firm.
When Dannehy was appointed, I told an NPR interviewer that
my own examination of her background, based on discussions with
Connecticut prosecutors and criminal-defense counsel, revealed a
generally positive view of Dannehy. She was credited with work on a
couple of high-level public-integrity prosecutions, and although she is
an identifiable Republican, none of my interlocutors thought politics
would play a role in her handling of the matter. However, the role of
her office in suppressing exculpatory evidence was not understood at
The issue of nondisclosure of exculpatory materials was
right at the heart of the U.S. attorney’s scandal, playing a
particularly prominent role in the case of former Alabama Governor Don
Siegelman. As I noted previously, the Justice Department’s report makes
clear that Dannehy neglected investigation of the entire sprawling
scandal, electing instead to focus down on a single case, involving New
Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias. He was threatened with firing and
then was in fact fired because he would not bring a high-profile
prosecution of a Democratic officeholder in the heat of an election
campaign in a manner calculated to benefit a specific Republican
candidate, Heather Wilson.
Dannehy reached the farcical conclusion that
threats against Iglesias, accompanied by melodramatic gestures like
slamming down a receiver, and followed by his actual firing, did not
constitute efforts to “influence, obstruct, or impede” a criminal case.
A District of Columbia jury might have viewed the evidence quite
differently from Dannehy. Her decision to take no action probably
protected figures involved in her own appointment as a U.S. attorney.
Roger Shuler dissects the Justice Department’s unconvincing six-page letter here, while CBS News chief legal analyst Andrew Cohen takes a few swings at Dannehy’s feeble effort here.