No Comment — September 7, 2007, 3:12 pm

U.S. Attorneys Scandal–Los Angeles and San Diego

When the U.S. attorneys scandal first surfaced, concerns came to focus very quickly on criminal investigations into a group of close friends among the California G.O.P. Congressional delegation. The case of “Duke” Cunningham had gotten broad press, and it was clear that Carol Lam, the U.S. Attorney in San Diego, had run afoul of the White House by carrying it through to a headline-grabbing conviction. The Cunningham prosecution was, in fact, the single most spectacular corruption conviction in U.S. Congressional history, and the “Dukester’s” mendacity made terrific copy for newspapers and magazines.

Another case in which Lam had been involved with her colleague in Los Angeles, Debra Yang, was an investigation of Redlands, California-based Rep. Jerry Lewis on corruption allegations. After Congressional investigators began looking at the Lam case they noticed some very strange things regarding Yang. She likewise seems to have bothered folks in the White House–in fact, Harriet Miers wanted her gone. However, she appears to have been furnished with a golden parachute, when—through the miraculous intervention of former Bush Solicitor General (and current Attorney General prospect) Ted Olson—she landed a seven-figure partnership with Olson’s own law firm. Moreover, it is the very same firm that was representing Rep. Lewis in the investigation. That’s a pretty amazing series of coincidences.

Of course, not a few people looking at it are convinced that there are no coincidences here at all. They think that this was a plan to put a stick in the wheel of the Lewis investigation. And if that was the purpose, those behind the plan may now be privately celebrating “mission accomplished.”

A number of publications have been looking at the Lewis matter—including the Wall Street Journal piece by Scott Paltrow that I discussed last week–and they’re all coming to the same conclusion. As soon as Yang was out the door and a Gonzales-designated replacement stepped in, the brakes got slammed on the Lewis investigation. (Similarly, the change in Phoenix seems to have produced an almost immediate end to a probe of former Rep. Kolbe, and many questions around the investigation of Rep. Renzi, both Republicans in hot water). Here’s how the Los Angeles Daily Journal puts it:

a 25-year veteran of the U.S. attorney’s office who just recently took over the probe of Rep. Jerry Lewis must exit the office for good by the end of September, marking the third significant departure from the office’s corruption unit since Lewis first came under suspicion last year. Michael Emmick, who first joined Los Angeles’s U.S. attorney’s office in 1982, has been serving under one-year appointments since 2004, after he triggered a contractual clause that will allow him to collect retirement benefits immediately upon leaving the office.

“I was under the impression I could continue to work as long as I liked” after taking early retirement status, Emmick said. “The [Los Angeles U.S. attorney's] office made requests, but DOJ said three years is enough.” Interim U.S. Attorney George S. Cardona said internal policy is designed to limit extensions. The Justice Department “extended it for important cases, but it finally got to the point that it was no longer willing to extend the temporary appointments,” he said.

Isn’t that convenient? Just invoke some civil service rules—which the DOJ could easily waive if it wishes—and that nasty investigation will just languish for a few more years.

The San Bernardino County Sun takes a look at the facts and agrees: a tad too convenient. They see all of this in the context of the U.S. attorneys scandal.

Emmick’s ouster comes on top of congressional investigation into the Justice Department’s abrupt firing of eight U.S. attorneys late last year. Among those fired was Carol Lam of the San Diego office, who led the investigation and successful prosecution of Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Escondido – now serving eight years in prison after admitting he accepted more than $2.4 million in bribes from businessmen seeking federal contracts.

The Cunningham case spurred the ongoing probe of Lewis and his use of earmarks in connection with lobbyists and contractors. Lam stepped down Feb. 15. Federal investigators had subpoenaed financial documents linked to Lowery’s now defunct lobbying firm – Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton and White – and to Lewis in spring 2006. The firm and its clients contributed more than a third of the $1.3 million raised by Lewis’ political action committee between 2000 and 2006. Subpoenas went out to at least half a dozen local agencies, including San Bernardino and Riverside counties, Cal State San Bernardino and the cities of Redlands, Loma Linda, Twentynine Palms and Yucca Valley.

He has also been dogged by a seeming revolving door of his staffers becoming high-paid lobbyists only to later rejoin his staff as well as major campaign donors who have won substantial federal contracts. Lewis also has come under fire for his practice of earmarking legislation to the tune of millions of dollars to benefit special interests. The fact that Emmick has now been suddenly yanked from the case has caused alarm for local politicians who have questioned Lewis’ practices over the years. Emmick’s unexplained ouster is cause for concern, said Tim Prince, a San Bernardino Democrat who has expressed interest in Lewis’ seat.

“Is the U.S. Attorney’s Office backing off its mission to clean up Congress?” he asked. There are many documented ethical problems in relation to Lewis, Prince said.

According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, shortly after the U.S. attorneys scandal was placed on the Congressional front burner Alberto Gonzales told an assembled group of U.S. attorneys that he intended to proceed full speed ahead with plans to make U.S. attorneys more accountable to political concerns. I’d say that things are continuing according to plan. His replacements are doing exactly what they have been instructed to do: squelch or slow down criminal investigations concerning Republicans, and mine frantically for new ones concerning Democrats. This nightmare is demolishing the reputation of the Department of Justice, and even with Gonzales leaving, it isn’t going to end any time soon.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2016

Atlas Aggregated

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Origins of Speech

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Four in Verse

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Sigh and a Salute

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Four in Prose

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Don the Realtor

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Martin Amis on the rise of Trump, Tom Wolfe on the origins of speech, Art Spiegelman on Si Lewen, fiction by Diane Williams, and more

In Havana, the past year has been marked by a parade of bold-faced names from the north — John Kerry reopening the United States Embassy; Andrew Cuomo bringing a delegation of American business leaders; celebrities ranging from Joe Torre, traveling on behalf of Major League Baseball to oversee an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, to Jimmy Buffett, said to be considering opening one of his Margaritaville restaurants there. All this culminated with a three-day trip in March by Barack Obama, the first American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But to those who know the city well, perhaps nothing said as much about the transformation of political relations between the United States and Cuba that began in December 2014 as a concert in the Tribuna Antiimperialista.

Illustration by Darrel Rees
Article
Don the Realtor·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"If you have ever wondered what it’s like, being a young and avaricious teetotal German-American philistine on the make in Manhattan, then your curiosity will be quenched by The Art of the Deal."
Photograph (detail) © Polly Borland/Exclusive by Getty Images
Article
The Origins of Speech·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"To Chomsky...every child’s language organ could use the 'deep structure,' 'universal grammar,' and 'language acquisition device' he was born with to express what he had to say, no matter whether it came out of his mouth in English or Urdu or Nagamese."
Illustration (detail) by Darrel Rees. Source photograph © Miroslav Dakov/Alamy Live News
Article
A Sigh and a Salute·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Si told me that various paintings had spoken to him, but he wished they had been hung closer together 'so they could talk to each other.' This observation planted a seed that would come to fruition years later in his mature work."
Artwork (detail) by Si Lewen
Article
El Bloqueo·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Amid the festivities and the flood of celebrities, it would be easy for Americans to miss that the central plank of the long-standing cold war against Cuba — the economic embargo — remains very much alive and well."
Photograph (detail) by Rose Marie Cromwell

Amount traders on the Philadelphia Stock Exchange can be fined for fighting, per punch:

$1,000

Philadelphian teenagers who want to lose weight also tend to drink too much soda, whereas Bostonian teenagers who drink too much soda are likelier to carry guns.

Nuremberg’s Neues Museum filed a criminal complaint against a 91-year-old woman who completed a crossword puzzle that was in fact a $116,000 piece of avant-garde Danish art.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today