Another DOJ Prosecutor Alleges Improper Interference

Let's not restrict the U.S. Attorney firing scandal to those who got fired. According to the Justice Department's lead prosecutor in the tobacco lawsuit,

Bush administration political appointees repeatedly ordered her to take steps that weakened the government's racketeering case.

Sharon Y. Eubanks said Bush loyalists in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's office began micromanaging the team's strategy in the final weeks of the 2005 trial, to the detriment of the government's claim that the industry had conspired to lie to U.S. smokers.

The specifics of her allegations:

Below the Fold.

She said a supervisor demanded that she and her trial team drop recommendations that tobacco executives be removed from their corporate positions as a possible penalty. He and two others instructed her to tell key witnesses to change their testimony. And they ordered Eubanks to read verbatim a closing argument they had rewritten for her, she said.

"The political people were pushing the buttons and ordering us to say what we said," Eubanks said. "And because of that, we failed to zealously represent the interests of the American public."

Eubanks was a federal prosecutor for 22 years.

Eubanks, who retired from Justice in December 2005, said she is coming forward now because she is concerned about what she called the "overwhelming politicization" of the department demonstrated by the controversy over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. Lawyers from Justice's civil rights division have made similar claims about being overruled by supervisors in the past.

Eubanks says the probe needs to be broadened.

"Political interference is happening at Justice across the department," she said. "When decisions are made now in the Bush attorney general's office, politics is the primary consideration. . . . The rule of law goes out the window."

Eubanks names those who interfered with the case.

She said three political appointees were responsible for the last-minute shifts in the government's tobacco case in June 2005: then-Associate Attorney General Robert D. McCallum, then-Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler and Keisler's deputy at the time, Dan Meron.

Of course, her claim is challenged, particularly by McCallum, how now is the U.S. Ambassador to Australia.

But let's take a look at a little of the case's history.

The Clinton Justice Department brought the unprecedented civil suit against the country's five largest tobacco companies in 1999. President Bush disparaged the tobacco case while campaigning in 2000. After Bush took office, some officials expressed initial doubts about the government's ability to fund the prosecution, Justice's largest.

The most stressful moment for Eubanks was this:

The most stressful moment, Eubanks said, came when the three appointees ordered her to read word for word a closing argument they had rewritten. The statement explained the validity of seeking a $10 billion penalty.

"I couldn't even look at the judge," she said.

I think it's time for another investigation.

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    Department of Justice (none / 0) (#2)
    by Dulcinea on Thu Mar 22, 2007 at 06:57:20 AM EST
    The Department of Justice took their cue early when the Supreme Court handed the presidency to ninny Bush.  Officials saw there is no limit to what can be done to advance their undemocratic political agenda and have gone at it with a vengeance.

    Drip...Drip...Drip... (none / 0) (#3)
    by fafnir on Thu Mar 22, 2007 at 07:18:55 AM EST
    And so it goes when the scandel-plagued Bush administration lies to the public and refuses to cooperate with Congress.

    Pass the popcorn, please.

    I thought there was something fishy (none / 0) (#4)
    by heg on Thu Mar 22, 2007 at 07:25:56 AM EST
    when I heard about those tobacco lawsuits. I remember listening to the news and thinking, "Wait, wasn't the government trying to punish the tobacco companies--why are they letting them off with a lighter penalty?" One moment, the government was prosecuting Big Tobacco for billions, and then next moment they were negotiating a million-something settlement. . . . But with this Administration I'm not surprised--the entire foundation of this country has been undermined by their corruption.

    One (none / 0) (#5)
    by Wile ECoyote on Thu Mar 22, 2007 at 07:57:01 AM EST
    Only hopes congress will subpoena the previous administration so they can get back ground information on how to properly fire gigantic amounts of prosecutors.

    Anyway keep it up congress, investigate anything as long as you want, if it will prevent any more money disappearing from my wallet.

    Fake old news (none / 0) (#6)
    by Fritz on Thu Mar 22, 2007 at 08:14:04 AM EST
    I guess we forgot this part.
    "Her claims were looked into by the Office of Professional Responsibility and were found to be groundless."

    In June 2006, the OPR cleared McCallum, concluding that his "actions in seeking and directing changes in the remedies sought were not influenced by any political considerations, but rather were based on good faith efforts to obtain remedies from the district court that would be sustainable on appeal."

    Her burden (none / 0) (#10)
    by Fritz on Thu Mar 22, 2007 at 12:15:31 PM EST
    That may be true, but the complainant has the greater burden.  I have filed a complaint that I considered proper only to lose.  This is an old story that has been adjudicated and recycled to pile on for Democrats.  

    Ahh, Peter Keisler's filthy hands show up again! (none / 0) (#8)
    by scribe on Thu Mar 22, 2007 at 09:45:53 AM EST
    This time, it's scripting and compelling DoJ to leave $120 billion - with a B - on the table for the contributors from the tobacco industry.

    Writing and requiring verbatim reading, of the closing in a landmark trial.  Yet another instance of this administration subverting "The Rule of Law".

    How I remember Jim Baker intoning those words with such orotundity near the end of the Florida recount.  Swine.

    KO had Schumer on Countdown last night, re The Unit's generous offer to let his people tell their stories in secret, off the record, not under oath.  Schumer was quite clear this was both unacceptable (paraphrasing The Godfather, that "this was an offer they could not accept"), and that whatever Bushie wanted to keep secret, would get out.  

    I guess when Chuck said that "disgruntled employees in the Justice Department will make sure it gets out", this is the sort of thing he was talking about.  

    Just to refresh your memories, though, let's look back at Peter Keisler.  Some time ago, I wrote a diary profiling him, and why he should be blocked from ascending to replace John Roberts on the DC Circuit.

    A few highlights on why he should be blocked:

    Unless you want a former Bork law clerk, who Bork himself calls "one of my favorites", on the D.C. Circuit and the fast track to the Supreme Court.  
    Remember the row over whether Roberts or Alito had ever been members of the Federalist Society?  At Yale, Keisler roomed with its founders.
    Keisler helped shepherd Bork's nomination.  He's a Bork "acolyte."
    He helped investigate Iran-Contra, analyzing the legality of the arms sales.  Those files are still sealed.
    He helped investigate Ed Meese regarding government contracting.
    He helped get John Cardinal O'Connor, Richard DeVos (head of Amway and 2006 Michigan Rethug gubernatorial candidate), and some guy who thought and preached you could get AIDS from toilet seats onto Reagan's Presidential Commission on AIDS.
    He signed off on that decision reducing the amount tobacco companies had to pay, from $130 Billion, to about $10 Billion, in the government's racketeering case against them.
    (See!  It's been out there - but not in this detail!)
    And, lest we forget, he was nominated for the DC Circuit two weeks after losing Hamdan in the Supreme Court to Lt. Commander Swift.  Specter, in July 2006, rammed Keisler's nomination through the Judiciary Committee in less than a month (we hadn't and still haven't had the opportunity for the Reagan Library to send us relevant documents re his WH service, then).
    And, his nomination to the DC Circuit came right about the same time Swift got his walking papers.

    In that regard, given what we've found out lately is there anyone who still thinks Swift wasn't purged from the Navy JAG Corps for having the temerity to actually do his job, when doing his job did not coincide with the exact contours of Administration policy?

    But, Keisler was renominated on January 7, 2007.
    And, last I checked, his nomination was still pending before Judiciary.  I think it would be highly interesting to have him explain his actions in the tobacco case.

    Now, ask yourself this:  why would Bush be so strong on Keisler?  He's nominated him three times?  To the 4th Circuit (rejected, because while he lived in Maryland, he never practiced there), the DC Circuit (returned after being not acted upon in the 109th Congress) and another time to the DC Circuit?  And the last two times came  after costing the government $120 billion dollars and losing a landmark case on the centerpiece strategy - unreviewable torture - of this Administration?

    Do you think, perhaps, that Keisler is pencilled in as the putative replacement for Stevens?

    I'm hoping Ms. Eubanks saved her trial notes and, especially, the script.

    here's something interesting (none / 0) (#9)
    by scribe on Thu Mar 22, 2007 at 10:05:02 AM EST