McCain Campaign Lawyer Involved in Attempt to Derail TrooperGate

Former federal prosecutor Edward O'Callaghan, now working for the John McCain campaign, is actively involved in fighting the subpoenas issued in TrooperGate, the investigation into whether Gov. Sarah Palin abused the power of her office.

O'Callaghan resigned as co-chief of the terrorism and national security unit of the U.S. attorney's office in New York in July to work for McCain. Newsweek reports:

He told NEWSWEEK that he and another McCain campaign lawyer (whom he declined to identify) are serving as legal "consultants" to Thomas Van Flein, the Anchorage lawyer who at state expense is representing Palin and her office in the inquiry. "We are advising Thomas Van Flein on this matter to the extent that it impacts on the national campaign," he said. "I'm helping out on legal strategy."

And, it appears a conflict of interest may have arisen. Palin's lawyer is no longer representing the Office of the Governor -- as of last week, he is only representing Palin and her husband. [More...]

A McCain spokesman said Wednesday that, while Van Flein was originally hired last month by the Alaska Department of Law to represent Palin and her office, that arrangement has been changed over the past week and he is now being paid only by Palin and her husband — not state funds. He has not billed the state for his work, the spokesman said.

Back to O'Callaghan: He's been in Alaska since August as part of McCain's rapid response team:

Ever since last month, when he landed in Alaska as part of a McCain "rapid response" team dispatched from campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va., O'Callaghan has been helping to direct a hardball legal strategy aimed at thwarting inquiries into the Alaska governor on all fronts.

In that capacity, O'Callaghan, working with Van Flein, devised a plan that involved shifting the investigation away from the Alaska Legislative Council—a bipartisan panel that had authorized the probe in a unanimous vote on July 28—and into the hands of the Alaska Personnel Board, a body that is ultimately answerable to Palin herself.

O'Callaghan is also part of this effort:

Then this week, Van Flein (again assisted by O'Callaghan) filed a new motion with the Personnel Board. This one argued that, after a review of the evidence, including internal e-mails within the governor's office, the governor's lawyers had determined there was "no probable cause" to pursue any ethics inquiry into Palin at all. As a result, it argued, the previous motion for an ethics inquiry (which Van Flein himself had filed less than two weeks ago) should be dismissed.

Asked why the ethics motion had been filed with the Personnel Board in the first place, O'Callaghan said that was the "proper place" to conduct any ethics probe—and in the meantime, the governor's lawyers needed the time to review the e-mails and "figure out" the evidence relating to the Monegan firing. Now that they have done so, he said, there is no further need for the matter to be pursued. "There was no Ethics Act violation and there is no need to go forward with this," he said.

So, O'Callaghan convinced Van Flein to reverse the action he took less than two weeks before. And even O'Callaghan doesn't expect the investigation to go away:

Even O'Callaghan acknowledged today that Palin's motion to dismiss her own ethics complaint against herself is not likely to immediately end the matter. The Personnel Board has already appointed its own investigator to look into the Monegan firing, and that work, will at least for the time being, proceed until the Board can take up the new motion.

Contrary to right wing spin reports, the deciding vote on the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee to issue the 13 subpoenaes Friday to Palin's husband and other state employees was that of a Republican from Wasilla.

The swing vote to issue the subpoenas came from state Sen. Charlie Huggins, a Republican from Palin's hometown of Wasilla, who said: "I say, let's just get the facts on the table, the sooner the better.") They voted to do so after Steve Branchflower, the special counsel hired to conduct the probe, presented what he said, was new evidence into an alleged attempt by Palin's office to interfere with a workers' compensation claim filed by Wooten.

A state contractor, who Branchflower declined to identify by name, and who handled the workers'-comp claim, testified that her boss had told her "something to the effect that either the governor or the governor's office wanted this claim denied," the special counsel said.

TrooperGate is no longer just about Palin's possible abuse of power in seeking the removal of her brother-in-law. It's now about her and the McCain attempts to derail the investigation.

McCain-Palin, Bush-Cheney, what's the difference?

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  • Display: Sort:
    Does this amount to. . . (5.00 / 0) (#4)
    by LarryInNYC on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 03:11:05 PM EST
    Palin using campaign funds for her own personal legal troubles?  I'm assuming O'Callaghan is being paid by the McCain campaign for his time.

    Not likely. More likely, it's the campaign (none / 0) (#6)
    by scribe on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 03:38:52 PM EST
    trying to shoehorn "killing an investigation" into the budget line for "vetting candidate".

    Of course, if the lawyer keeps representing her, at some point his services will have to be counted as income to her.


    Do republicans do things pro bono? (none / 0) (#8)
    by Thanin on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 03:47:28 PM EST
    Only. . . (5.00 / 0) (#15)
    by LarryInNYC on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 03:59:49 PM EST
    Representative Mary Bono.

    Or if they're at a convention (none / 0) (#19)
    by scribe on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:15:13 PM EST
    Yes they do! (none / 0) (#23)
    by econ101 on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:22:38 PM EST
    If you did your homework you would find that republicans do more charity work than democrats. It is public record.

    You got a real link for that (none / 0) (#24)
    by scribe on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:25:31 PM EST

    I'm not getting paid for all the education I give out on this site....


    maybe that's becaus ethe Dems are busy getting (5.00 / 0) (#39)
    by coigue on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 06:03:07 PM EST
    paid peanuts for being teachers and social workers.

    your link (none / 0) (#27)
    by econ101 on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:29:55 PM EST
    I actually don't see any data in that link. (5.00 / 0) (#40)
    by coigue on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 06:04:34 PM EST
    People write books sying all sorts of things.

    does vetting = scrubbing now? (none / 0) (#11)
    by coigue on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 03:51:49 PM EST
    as in cleaning up after?

    Yes. They've got that whole (none / 0) (#16)
    by scribe on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:04:55 PM EST
    "make sure there's no trace of the blood" thing down to a science.

    Think Harvey Keitel as "the wolf" (none / 0) (#18)
    by coigue on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:10:16 PM EST
    in Pulp Fiction

    It's Mr. Wolf (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by scribe on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:15:35 PM EST
    to you.

    lol (none / 0) (#22)
    by coigue on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:16:33 PM EST
    now I have to go watch that movie again.

    Van Flein (none / 0) (#30)
    by MTSINAIMAMA on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:36:57 PM EST
    is also Palin's personal attorney.

    Drip drip drip. (5.00 / 0) (#5)
    by Faust on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 03:30:25 PM EST

    mymy (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by mymy on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 03:49:32 PM EST
    give me a break Jeralyn.You have painted yourself into such a corner you are willing to defend a guy who tazed a 10 yr old.I guess I,ll be banned for this,but you should be ashamed

    Guess what? (none / 0) (#13)
    by coigue on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 03:52:46 PM EST
    whatever happened, he should have been fired for it BY HIS BOSS.

    Palin didn't fire the trooper (none / 0) (#28)
    by Exeter on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:33:17 PM EST
    She fired the Police Commisioner-- who serves at the pleasure of the governor.  She can fire him for any reason, including if she believes that he mishandled the trooper situation.

    Right (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by Steve M on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:37:14 PM EST
    except, as I'm sure you know, she expressly stated that she didn't fire him for mishandling the trooper situation.

    And he, Monegan, (none / 0) (#36)
    by tree on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 05:45:15 PM EST
    expressly stated that no one asked him to fire the state trooper. This is a whole lot of nothing about nothing. I didn't like ginning up Whitewater and Travelgate and all the rest of the faux outrage of the past decades and I don't think this is any different. If she were a Democrat, Democrats would be defending her, and Republicans would be ginning up the faux outrage.

    And yet (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by Steve M on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 06:25:29 PM EST
    the investigation was authorized on a bipartisan basis, long before Palin was ever the VP nominee.

    republicans agree to investigate one of their own! (none / 0) (#51)
    by 18anapple2 on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 09:49:05 PM EST
    a point in her favour actually..goes to show she wasn't very popular with the powers that be and actually ties in with the story that she took on entrenched interests in her own party.. or this is alternate reality ..where else would republicans agree unanimously to investigate one of their own !?!.

    By the same logic (none / 0) (#52)
    by Steve M on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 10:02:31 PM EST
    Richard Nixon must have taken on entrenched interests in his own party.  What a maverick!

    surely you jest.... (none / 0) (#53)
    by 18anapple2 on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 01:55:24 AM EST
    when you compare "Troopergate" to Watergate..investigation into the firig of an employee who serves "at the pleasure" of the Governor who refused to fire a trooper who tasered a 11 year old kid..come on are we now in alternate reality to think that the repugs would let something like this faze them if they really wanted to protect her..give me a break.

    the same way Cheney did not pressure (none / 0) (#41)
    by coigue on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 06:05:38 PM EST
    intel to find WMDs....expressly.

    News flash! This isn't WMD, (none / 0) (#43)
    by tree on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 06:11:34 PM EST
    This is Travelgate. You want to go there again, fine, but then don't try to convince me that the Dems haven't stooped as low as the Repubs. As a Dem, I'm appalled.

    Yeah...sure you are. (none / 0) (#45)
    by coigue on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 06:38:57 PM EST
    You've mastered the faux outrage like a Repub, that's for sure.

    any reason? (none / 0) (#34)
    by coigue on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:53:44 PM EST

    You may not attack the trooper here (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 03:02:40 PM EST
    He's not the issue as I've said repeatedly. Comments trying to redirect the conversation will be deleted.

    It does matter (5.00 / 0) (#25)
    by Exeter on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:26:56 PM EST
    1. If the commisioner of police failed to fire someone that clearly needed to be fired, then he wasn't do HIS job correctly and should also be fired-- which is what Palin did, which was HER job!

    2. "The issue" is getting Obama elected.  Having a Ken Starresque partisan investigator going after Palin on this silly side show is bad politics and will only hurt Obama.  

    If The Commissioner Was Fired (none / 0) (#33)
    by daring grace on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:47:57 PM EST
    because he "failed to fire someone that clearly needed to be fired" why didn't Governor Palin say that when she dismissed him, saying as you have that she was 'doing her job.'?

    In fact, isn't she (repeatedly) denying that's why she fired him? And, in fact, hadn't the commissioner himself admitted he was never told that was the reason for his dismissal--but he suspected it was because of all the pressure he'd felt from Palin, her husband and members of her staff?

    I'll admit I haven't been following this too closely, but that was my understanding of where things stand--that Governor Palin denies she fired the commissioner because he did not fire the trooper.


    The commissioner also (none / 0) (#37)
    by tree on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 05:50:45 PM EST
    said that he was never asked to fire the trooper.

    Yes (none / 0) (#38)
    by daring grace on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 06:02:40 PM EST
    I'm not trying to be snarky.

    The post I was responding to seemed to be saying that Governor Palin only did what she is allowed to do and, indeed, should do if her appointee doesn't fire someone he should have fired.

    So I asked (in all sincerity) if she did nothing wrong by firing Monegan for not firing Wooten, then why is she denying that's what she did?


    I think the commenters (none / 0) (#42)
    by tree on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 06:08:46 PM EST
    point was that no matter what reason she had for firing Monegan, it was within her rights and purview to fire him. This is Travelgate all over again. I didn't like it then, I don't like it now. And I don't like the fact that some Dems seem to think that this kind of thing is OK as long as its used against Republicans. Hypocrisy bothers me.

    I Don't Think It's Travelgate (none / 0) (#46)
    by daring grace on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 07:10:33 PM EST
    I thought there was no 'there' there in Travelgate.

    What might (or might not) be here is that Governor Palin may have fired someone because she disagreed with his judgment in his unwillingness to fire her former brother in law.

    Presumably, why she is not saying that now is that--even if that is allowed--it's an action that makes her look wrong in some quarters and now, as a VP candidate can really stir up a massive distraction during the short remaining period of the campaign.

    I agree with others here, though. By not admitting that's what she did (if that IS what she did) she is making this whole thing worse for herself.

    Speaking for myself, if my Dem governor, Paterson, did this kind of thing, I would be wanting him to be investigated for it too. But then, at heart I am an Independent who wants less of this kind of heavy handed politicizing and personalizing of gov't authority.

    I know, dream on, right?


    It doesn't matter why he was fired (none / 0) (#50)
    by Exeter on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 09:30:28 PM EST
    He was a political appointee.  They both agree that he was not fired b/c he did not fire the state trooper and my point is that even if that was the true and singular reason that is a reasonable call to make, b/c Palin believed he was not doing his job in properly handling the situation.

    Jeezus, the Arkansas state troopers used to call Bill Clinton directly everytime his brother got picked up... where's the hand wringing about that?!?


    Thank You! (none / 0) (#49)
    by MTSINAIMAMA on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 09:12:58 PM EST
    No one is disputing the fact that Palin had the right to fire Monegan. But she went about it in the wrong way, and when she was caught on it, has come up with shifting explanations, the latest of which is that Monegan had a "rogue mentality" and was "off the reservation" in trying to get federal funds to combat sexual assault when Alaska leads the nation in sexual assaults.

    Clearly, she would gain the "sympathy factor" if she simply said, yes, my husband and my aides pressured/implied/inferred that Monegan fire my ex brother-in-law because I thought he should no longer be employed by the state of Alaska. But since there were no NEW allegations of impropriety on the part of Wooten, she was, in effect, trying to fire him for old allegations for which he had already been punished.

    But remember, this is not about Wooten. This is about Palin.


    Thisi is in reply to a comment (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 03:03:41 PM EST
    I deleted.

    hm (none / 0) (#10)
    by connecticut yankee on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 03:50:02 PM EST
    I wonder if the Alaska legislature is just going to roll over when a national campaign tells them to?  That would be embarrassing for Alaska.

    The double-speak here needs more air though.  I cant believe Palin is trying to kill her own personel board's investigation at the same time.

    Ak Senate not controlled by Gop (none / 0) (#29)
    by Exeter on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:34:19 PM EST
    No, but (none / 0) (#35)
    by rdandrea on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 05:44:21 PM EST
    for some reason the Senate Judiciary committee has three GOP and two Democratic members.  That's who's got the lead on the investigation.

    TL, you note that the out-of-town lawyer is (none / 0) (#12)
    by scribe on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 03:52:29 PM EST
    representing both Palins, Mr. and Governor, having stepped back from representing both of them and the Office of the Governor.

    Here's a bit of a problem I can see, in several parts and raised in general terms b/c I'm not going to take the time to really dig into the lawyerly ethics involved.

    Part 1.  Mr. Palin and Gov. Palin may have divergent - even opposing - interests.  That would leave a lawyer representing both in a position compromised by a conflict of interest.  This would be not dissimilar from the ethical issue that a criminal (or civil) defense lawyer would encounter when representing two defendants.  The lawyer's duty to zealously advocate for defendant A might be compromised because a confidence he'd gotten from defendant B (which could hurt defendant B if revealed) might be a clear exoneration for defendant A.  In that situation, either the lawyer could continue to represent one of the defendants (not likely for lots of reasons) or would have to withdraw (likely without revealing to successor counsel what he'd learned).  I have a case pending in a state's supreme court on a closely similar issue - whether and to what extent a criminal defense lawyer can represent a defendant where he previously represented a potential witness in the case.  So this is of some interest.

    Part 2.  Lawyers representing the government (and government officials, by extension) may not be able to receive the benefit of a waiver of conflict so as to remain in the representation.  This rule, IIRC, varies from state to state.  The underlying principle is that the government and government officials can get just about any lawyer they want, and the government should conduct its business with scrupulous honesty and no appearance of impropriety, so no waivers of potential conflicts.  

    Part 3.  Lawyers who represented a governmental entity (in this case, the Office of Governor) may be precluded from representing people adverse (or colorably adverse) to the governmental entity because of information they'd learned while representing the entity.  In this case, it appears he's reviewed the emails and decided (favorably to his client, no surprise...) that there's nothing to see here so let's all move along.  

    So, I suppose, there are ample reasons to seek to have this lawyer DQd from further representation, no?

    And, Part 4.  Now we see that "terrorism prosecutor" is the job title where they've stockpiled the thugs they use to hunt Democrats when Repugs are not in the White House.  

    Benefit outweighs Negative (none / 0) (#14)
    by Paladin on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 03:55:21 PM EST
    They've obviously calculated that the benefits of squashing this investigation outweigh the negative press for obstructing it. Unfortunately, they have a very successful model to follow - that strategy has been very effective for the Bush administration.  It's really up to the media and sites like this to expose the truth.

    I don't know (none / 0) (#17)
    by CST on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:08:10 PM EST
    That the strategy has been good for the Bush administration.  They didn't start doing that till after they were re-elected and their aproval ratings have plummeted.  It's good for them in the sense that they may be able to avoid jail time.  But it wouldn't be good if they were trying to win an election like Palin is.

    Good points (none / 0) (#21)
    by Paladin on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:16:27 PM EST
    and I hope you're right. Recent polling trends seem to suggest you are.

    also (none / 0) (#26)
    by connecticut yankee on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:27:57 PM EST
    The scope of the attack is interesting. She not only wanted him fired but wanted his benefits denied in a seperate attack and, according to the troopers union, illegally used his records.

    And The Judge (none / 0) (#32)
    by MTSINAIMAMA on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 04:40:17 PM EST
    Don't forget that the Judge in the sister's divorce/custody case had already admonished Sarah Palin and her family from harassing Wooten by making false accusations against him.