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Archive for January, 2009

Burlington Lawyer Tristram Coffin Nominated For Vermont U.S. Atty.

The mass replacement of U.S. Attorneys is underway across the country. Here’s the latest.

Tristram Coffin

Tristram Coffin

By Sam Hemingway
Burlington Free Press
BURLINGTON, Vt. — Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Friday he has nominated Burlington attorney Tristram J. Coffin to become Vermont’s next U.S. attorney.
“Tris Coffin is a perfect fit for a difficult job,” Leahy said in a statement released by his office. “He has a wide range of investigative and courtroom experience that will allow him to hit the ground running.”
The Free Press reported earlier this month that Coffin was a finalist for the job.
Coffin’s name will now be forwarded to the White House, and he will undergo a background check by the FBI. His appointment becomes official once the background check is completed, and President Barack Obama formally appoints him to the position.
For Full Story

Sec. Napolitano Exudes Confidence By Keeping Old Hands at Homeland Security

Chris Battle

Chris Battle

By Chris Battle
Security DeBrief

WASHINGTON–Secretary Napolitano has decided to keep a number of DHS non-career employees on board at the Department through an extended transition phase. It’s a wise move, and one that highlights the confidence the former Arizona Governor brings to her role. As Washington Post writer Spencer Hsu points out, Napolitano’s decision runs contrary to typical approaches.
The attempt at continuity is unusual in presidential transitions between parties, which typically lead to wholesale purging of politically appointed personnel. At the Justice Department, for example, almost no Bush holdovers remain beyond Deputy Attorney General Mark R. Filip, who is acting as attorney general pending confirmation of Obama nominee Eric H. Holder Jr., and Filip’s two top aides.
By contrast, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has retained the department’s second-ranking official, Deputy Secretary Paul A. Schneider, and its top border security official, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner W. Ralph Basham, as well as its operations director and the assistant secretaries responsible for policy and private sector coordination. The heads of the Coast Guard and Secret Service, who are not political appointees, and DHS Undersecretary for Management Elaine C. Duke, whose tenure is set by law, also remain.

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Bush Policies Are Complicating Things For Obama and Justice

The new administration faces some tough decisions whether to go after people in the Bush administration who may have violated the law while essentially carrying out policy.  Just how much more  this issue will impact the confirmation of Atty. Gen. designate Eric H. Holder Jr. is unclear.

By Carrie Johnson and Julie Tate
Washington Post Staff Writers
WASHINGTON — Even as Senate Republicans seek assurances that new leaders at the Justice Department will not prosecute former government officials over national security abuses, one of the highest-profile investigations of the Bush era is grinding to a close.
A little more than a year ago, then-Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey handpicked a prosecutor to investigate the destruction of CIA videotapes depicting harsh interrogation tactics used against two al-Qaeda suspects. The disclosure that the tapes, believed to portray the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, were destroyed in 2005 touched off an outcry from defense lawyers and civil liberties advocates who said the government should have produced the materials in lawsuits pending at the time.
Since then, the federal inquiry has proceeded mostly in the shadows. But prosecutor John H. Durham recently told a federal judge that he would wrap up interviews by the end of February — a timetable complicated by the highly sensitive subject, the reluctance of current and former agency employees to cooperate and Durham’s painstaking approach, according to court documents and three lawyers following the case.

For Full Story

Obama Names Lanny Breuer to Head Justice Criminal Division

Lanny Breuer/law firm photo

Lanny Breuer/law firm photo

By Allan Lengel
Ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON – Lanny Breuer, who represented N.Y. Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens in a Congressional probe last year, has been named the chief of the Justice Department’s criminal division by President Obama, FederalTimes.com reported.
Breuer, a partner at Covington & Burling in Washington is from the same firm as Atty. Gen. nominee Eric H. Holder Jr.
According to the firm website, Breuer, former special counsel to President Clinton from 1997 to 1999, who is “co-chair of Covington’s White Collar Defense and Investigations practice group, specializes in white collar criminal and complex civil litigation, internal corporate investigations, congressional investigations, antitrust cartel proceedings, and other matters involving high-profile legal, political, and public relations risks.”
Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s name was bandied about in the halls of the Justice Department as a possible candidate for the post, but nothing obviously materialized. Fitzgerald, who is regarded as a star among prosecutors around the country, could remain in Chicago. Some speculated that the native New Yorker could also get the coveted U.S. Atty. job in New York.
The FederalTimes.com also reported other presidential appointments to Justice: David Kris as Assistant A.G. for national security; Tony West as Assistant A.G. for the civil division, which experienced many problems under the Bush regime; and Christine Varney as Assistant A.G. for the antitrust division.

Mexico Arrests a Dozen Top Ranking Officials With Links to Drug Cartel

Pres. Felipe Calderon

Pres. Felipe Calderon

The menacing drug trade in Mexico not only spells trouble for that nation, but the U.S. as well. Here’s the latest in what seems to be a never ending battle.

By Mark Stevenson
Associated Press
MEXICO CITY — President Felipe Calderon
‘s war on drug trafficking has led to his own doorstep, with the arrest of a dozen high-ranking officials with alleged ties to Mexico’s most powerful drug gang, the Sinaloa Cartel.
The U.S. praises Calderon for rooting out corruption at the top. But critics say the arrests reveal nothing more than a timeworn government tactic of protecting one cartel and cracking down on others.
Operation Clean House comes just as the U.S. is giving Mexico its first installment of $400 million in equipment and technology to fight drugs. Most will go to a beefed-up federal police agency run by the same people whose top aides have been arrested as alleged Sinaloa spies.
“If there is anything worse than a corrupt and ill-equipped cop, it is a corrupt and well-equipped cop,” said criminal justice expert Jorge Chabat, who studies the drug trade.
For Full Story

Gov. Blagojevich Circus Continues: “They’re Just Hanging Me”

Cheney Says Bush Should Have Pardoned Scooter Libby

Nearly everyone expected Pres. Bush to pardon Scooter Libby. He didn’t, leaving many scratching their heads. Dick Cheney went beyond scratching his head. He simply said it was wrong not to, and said it publicly.

By Stephen F. Hayes
The Weekly Standard
Former Vice President Dick Cheney disagreed publicly with his boss just four times in the eight years they served together. Yesterday, however, on the first day after the official end of the Bush administration, Cheney disagreed with George W. Bush once more.
Cheney told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that his former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, whom he described as a “victim of a serious miscarriage of justice,” deserved a presidential pardon.
Asked for his reaction to Bush’s decision Cheney said: “Scooter Libby is one of the most capable and honorable men I’ve ever known. He’s been an outstanding public servant throughout his career. He was the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice, and I strongly believe that he deserved a presidential pardon. Obviously, I disagree with President Bush’s decision.”
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FBI and IRS Raid Pa. Company With Close Ties to Rep. John Murtha

Rep. Murtha/official photo

Rep. Murtha/official photo

Congressman John P. Murtha has brought home the bacon to Pennsylvania, particularly to Kuchera Industries of Penn. He has also gotten loads of contributions from the company’s employees.

By JOHN BRESNAHAN
The Politico

Federal agents on Thursday raided the offices of a Pennsylvania government contractor with close ties to Rep. John P. Murtha, chairman of the powerful Defense panel on the House Appropriations Committee.
Agents from the FBI, IRS and Defense Criminal Investigative Service searched the offices of Kuchera Industries and Kuchera Defense Systems in three different locations in Pennsylvania.
Over the last several years, Murtha, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, has helped steer more than $100 million in contracts to Kuchera, a government contractor founded in 1985 by Bill Kuchera. The company and its employees have donated more than $65,000 dollars to Murtha’s reelection campaign and leadership political action committee, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Thursday’s raid was first reported by the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat.
The newspaper also disclosed that federal agents went to the homes of Bill and Ron Kuchera, the president and CFO, respectively of the companies.
For Full Story