The Revolt of the Working Class at Justice

Lost last week amid the fire and storm of bigger news-- Virginia Tech, abortion, etc.-- was the revelation of yet another layer of inappropriate partisanship at the Justice Department. If there were any lingering doubt before about the extent to which its current crop of leaders are trying to douse the Department with one particular ideology at the expense of others, and to undermine intellectual rigor and independence in doing so, it now ought to be erased completely by the story of how Republican cronies at Justice are skewing long-standing (and sensible) hiring practices to bring to the Department a new generation of crony wannabes.

Even as they dilute the work of nonpartisan career professionals (and U.S. Attorneys) by politicizing the "grown-up" staff at Justice, officials there also apparently have turned their greedy eyes to the Department's student "Honors Program" and "Summer Law Internship Program." The Attorney General and his deputy clearly have put in place priorities and practices to gin up a new crop of Monica Goodlings and Kyle Sampsons whom they hope and expect will one day lead the Department into a new era of unformity in thought and doctrine. The focus of hte latest controversy? A young lawyer named Michael Elston, who is, in turn, the chief of staff for Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, himself the object these days of a great deal of scorn.

A group of unidentified "concerned Department of Justice employees" wrote a letter earlier this month to the chairman of both Judiciary Committees of Congress complaining that Elston (the group spelled his name "Ellston" for some reason) was "offensive to the point of insulting" when they questioned him about selection irregularities in the two student-related job programs. These folks claim that well-qualifiied candidates for the programs were scuttled without good reason, or for bad reasons, when their applications were forwarded up the chain of command to the Office of the Deputy Attorney General. Sound familiar?

Here is the gravamen of the charge against Elston offered by the letter writers: "Most of those struck from the list had interned for a Hill Democrat, clerked for a Democratic judge, worked for a 'liberal' cause, or otherwise appeared to have 'liberal' leanings. Summa cum laude graduates of both Yale and Harvard were rejected for interviews...." And here is their rationale for complaining: "While it might be said that whoever wins an election can do the hiring, this new hiring procedure is contrary to Department of Justice tradition. The Department represents the entire country and has always had attorneys from a variety of schools and political leanings. There should be no litmus test for a top law student to get an interview at the Department of Justice."

Elston, you may remember, is the attorney who already was infamous for reportedly calling one of the fired U.S. Attorneys and threatening him with retaliation if he went public with the details of the dismissal. Was he reprimanded internally for his role in that? Apparently not. Was he questioned by his superiors about the money business with the student programs? Apparently not. Instead, last year, while all of this was swirling around, he was given an award from the Justice Department-- one of the 54th annual Attorney General Awards-- and a $2,000 monetary prize. You read that right. Elston received a "John Marshall Award" (the highest offered) for "leadership and legal advice related to significant appellate cases." John Marshall surely is rolling over in his grave even as Elston and the hacks who gave him his award are laughing all the way to the bank. You still unconvinced that this bunch is no good?

By Andrew Cohen |  April 23, 2007; 8:00 AM ET agag
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Great! So the DOJ hires graduates from fourth-tier "law schools" such as Regent but rejects suma cum laude graduates from Yale and Harvard? No wonder this government is populated with incompetent and ignorant morons.

Posted by: | April 23, 2007 08:38 AM

Must have been "performance issues" with those Yale and Harvard grads, like they could be expected to seek justice rather than blindly promote GOP policy.

Posted by: Nellie | April 23, 2007 10:21 AM

And Bush is highly pleased with Gonzales* testimony, so the dumbing down of the Department of Justice will continue at its present pace.

Posted by: J. Yoo | April 23, 2007 10:36 AM

Its the dumbing down of America....I think the plan is to a)ideologically uniform the United States government throughout all of its levels so then you can do b)systemically control it through cronyism, rob, steal, and plunder it blind, then dismantle it and walk away.

2009 just can't come soon enough people. God help us all.

Posted by: Suzanne | April 23, 2007 10:56 AM

You're doing a heckava job, Shrubster.

Posted by: Dave | April 23, 2007 11:12 AM

Was the letter received by the Senate Judiciary Committee before or after Little Al's testimony last week?

I listened to most of his testimony and never heard the subject of the politicization of intern programs raised.

Posted by: pacman | April 23, 2007 11:27 AM

It is cause to wonder about the intelligence of a person who graduated from Harvard or Yale and then would take a job with the government starting at $40K a year and going up to maybe $130K a year after 20 years. As opposed to taking a job in the private sector that starts out at over $100K then goes up a whole lot faster and higher.

Posted by: Searcher911 | April 23, 2007 11:54 AM

They are a Cult!

Posted by: MayorCandidate-in-Indiana | April 23, 2007 12:48 PM

Arrogance and stupidity go hand in hand.

Posted by: | April 23, 2007 12:54 PM

Is it not time for Congress to begin impeachment. High crimes and misdemeanors may be too kind of a term for this kind of stuff? RICO sounds more appropriate.

Posted by: mmather | April 23, 2007 01:16 PM


There is more to life than starting salary.

These jobs are (or used to be) highly competitive and were prime resume-builders for interns. Beyond internships, working in the DOJ gives you a leg up on getting a bench appointment, and experience as a prosecutor is a natural segway into politics. Finally, the major law firms frequently engage in serious bidding wars for the services of former U.S. Attorneys.

Posted by: Nellie | April 23, 2007 01:33 PM

Hey, has anyone here forgotten that Bill Clinton cheated on his wife? And what about the 9/11 heroes? Don't you people realize that all this talk is just going to embolden our enemies? Support the troops!

Posted by: Audentes | April 23, 2007 02:24 PM

Hey mmather, RICO stands for "Racketeer-Influenced Criminal Organizations." This bunch doesn't seem very organized to me. Rule No. 1: Line up your alibi before the heist.

Posted by: Audentes | April 23, 2007 02:26 PM

Why would anyone from Harvard or Yale want to go to work for Gonzo? I cannot imagine Harvard embracing Gonzo or Bush and the Eli's are just plain embarrassed.

Posted by: Linda | April 23, 2007 03:24 PM

I am a graduate of one of the top law schools in the nation, and a very progressive Democrat. I am also a current Honors Program attorney. Despite all of the valid critiques of the current DOJ, the Honors Program is still an outstanding opportunity for any young lawyer regardless of politics. My peers in the Honors Program are very diverse, coming from a large cross-section of law schools across the country, and in my opinion we reflect a wide spectrum of experiences and backgrounds, from very liberal to very conservative. The hiring process is extremely competitive and I have yet to meet an Honors attorney who should be considered anything less than the best and the brightest-- and we have all, at least temporarily, sacrificed firm jobs for the chance to engage in public service. To say that everyone in the Honors Program should come from Harvard is as close-minded as saying that everyone hired should come from Regent...

Posted by: | April 23, 2007 03:58 PM

Surely it can be no surprise that loyal Bushies discriminate in favor of the idealogical Faithful and against idealogical Infidels. They have only about 20 months to jampack the federal government with neocon, evangelical types. The President may have lost his bendover Congress and forever lost the favor of the majority of American citizens, but he and his well-placed loyalists still have power and they intend to use it to maximum advantage. This is another example of the damage Bush has done living long after he will have returned to Crawford to read 'a few Shakespeares' or maybe more Camus. Perhaps he should try some Dostoevski, maybe "The Idiot."

Posted by: P. Bosley Slogthrop | April 23, 2007 05:45 PM

Yes,Audentes, Bill Clinton cheated on his wife. George Bush, on the other hand, is cheating on his country and on the Constitution.

Posted by: vklip | April 23, 2007 06:27 PM

Bill Clinton was cheating on his wife, and wanted to divorse her and to leave presidency after the first term. She set him up with the help of her youth friends and collegues - Illinois hard core consrvative politicians, as she was Barry Goldwater girl in her youth. So, she traded with neo cons White House for her senate seat. Therefore, Rudy Guiliani dropped the race, and she was able easily to win over pretty unknown Mazio. In short, the victory of Bush and neo cons is essentially Hillary Clinton achievement, and Bush and Bushies knew it and had mutual respect and support. On the other hand, what Bush presidency did to this country and its image is despikable and terrible. Bush/Cheney should be impeached, forced to resign, etc., and Hillary held as far from bigger power as possible. These are the very urgent and necessary preventive measures. I am sick and tired from Bushies and Clintons. I can't understand how any person in right mind could want Clintons with all their dirt and low life's scandals back into White House, even if Hillary would hold Bill mainly outside of the country to void his possible attempts to pay her for his impeachment by her impeachment.

Posted by: aepelbaum | April 23, 2007 07:04 PM

Neither Clintons nor Bushies took care about fair justice for middle class. Maybe, the new president would!

Posted by: aepelbaum | April 23, 2007 07:07 PM

Has Fox News reported on any of this yet? I want to watch them choke down their own vomit on YouTube.

Posted by: toddpw | April 24, 2007 02:49 AM

Ohhhhhh, Canada....

Posted by: Robert K. Poropatich | April 24, 2007 09:53 AM

there are some mothers of some at DOJ that should have aborted their pregnancies...

Posted by: Terry B. | April 24, 2007 11:54 AM

There it is again.... Eugenics.

Posted by: Dave | April 24, 2007 09:55 PM

Mike Elston has been in over his head from day one. Even apart from his other management inadequacies, you can beleive only half of what he says -- and soon enough it's no trick to know which half. If McNulty falls, it wlll be for his mistake with Elston more than anything else.

Posted by: G. Hall | April 25, 2007 05:23 AM

2 words will fix a lot of this: Budget cuts.

Posted by: Bert | April 25, 2007 12:07 PM

I am simply amazed at some of the people who comment here. The vitrolic comments aimed against the Clintons (unjustified by the way. You all are still willing to accept anything the Republican dirty tricks squad comes up with.) have nothing to do with the subject of this posting. It is the very partisan operation of the nations legal system for specific gain of the few, that is the subject. When Mr. Clinton replaced most of the U.S. attorneys
at the beginning of his term in office, he chose from both parties, looking for people with the best and brightest experience. This is patently not the case with this administration who fired people from THEIR OWN PARTY, who were not being politically partisan enough, but attempted to do their jobs in the proper and legal manner. How short the memories of people are. In the eight years of the Clinton Presidency we had the best enconomy of the last half century, and made real inroads into reducing the federal deficit to boot.
This is not just a statement the facts and figures are there to prove it. But the economy went sour and has remained consistantly in a slump while this administration has pissed away a mountain of our tax dollars on an unnecessary war.
Not to mention the loss of American lives.
And people her can sit back in their easy chairs and dismiss those loses, because those people weren't related to them. This is an old story and not partisan either. The next president will have to bail the country out of this in the same way that Mr. Nixon had to bail us out of Lyndon Johnson's little war. The parallels are all too similar. And all the while the incopetent still have the run of Justice, where our rights as citizens are in Jeopardy each day now.

Posted by: David K. Eplett | April 25, 2007 02:15 PM

Well, Well, Well, I just read this today- McNulty's Aide huh? The same Paul McNulty, Deputy Attorney General, who blamed a 33 year old aid for HIS "dissembling" testimony (euphemism for lie) before Congress?

What sort of man with integrity does that, much less a Deputy AG of the Dept. of Justice? A man with NO integrity, that's who, a man who is incapable of telling the truth, if it means it will make him or his Republican bosses look bad, that's who.

McNulty is unfit to hold ANY office in the DOJ, but G. Hall you are SO WRONG that it will be about Elston that will cause McNulty's fall-we'll just have to see what Monica Goodling has to say about McNulty here, now won't we?

And then of course, there may be even MORE sordid information about Paul McNulty, former US Attorney for the EDVA, his prosecutors, and his colleagues to be at Main Justice to come foward in the weeks ahead....(smile)

Posted by: spaceexplorer | April 25, 2007 05:08 PM

He's just obeying his royal highness King George 1 of America. Sign the new Magna Charter at

Posted by: onephantom | April 25, 2007 05:29 PM

I can't wait for the deBushification of the Federal government. No need to wait until January, 2009. Let's start now. Investigate, isolate, interrogate, incriminate, and incarcerate. And then impeach. He has to be impeached or he can pardon all of their sorry b*tts

Posted by: thebob.bob | April 26, 2007 12:29 AM

I cant wait for 2009, hopefully we will be able to exterminate the white house and the departments under its control. Its amazing how idealogue has infected all areas of our goverment. I called the division and wage dept the other day to discuss AT&T's violation of fmla laws and the clerk answering the phone did all she could to discourage me from filing a claim.

Posted by: john hanson | April 26, 2007 04:47 AM

You'll see how this really works if and when you *The blue collar worker* have to deal with the *Board of Professional Responsibility* after being fleeced by a lawyer. That's when it becomes evident that there is a class distinction in this country. This is just the tip of the ice berg in our justice system. Our lawyers make sure that their own is very well taken care of and the laws that apply to the laymen doesn't apply to lawyers. The code of ethics are not law and are nothing but words written on paper to appease the publics trust. It's the fox guarding the hen house and *We The People"
* be damned by the defencive nature of the American Bar Association ie *They Take Care of Their Own* I've been a victim of it myself! If you haven't been there then you don't know the half of it!

Posted by: Hollis | April 26, 2007 07:44 AM

Has anyone ever tried to connect the dots? On one page I read that one issue of contention on Wolfowitz is his appointees deleting policy concerning abortions in World Bank affairs, another we have aides at DOJ culling Honors Attorneys based on ideology, and, of course we have Alito and Roberts changing our national approach to a woman's right to choose. I find it so ironic that one legacy of these ideologues who have supported Bush and put him and his minions in power will be the blood of Iraq, the deaths and maiming of our soldiers and the people of Iraq. I have never been able to understand how "Right to Life" types almost uniformly support arming our populace. We are seeing such a great experiment in Iraq about the efficacy of an armed population with its own militias. Do we have enough computer power to actually connect all the dots of these ideological minions?

Posted by: Darrell Wiard | April 28, 2007 07:54 AM

After stealing the election of 2000 and in the years that followed, Bush, Cheney & Co. created a "Partisan Rewards" program that has been doling out favors, funding, high appointments, no-bid contracts, judgeships, ambassadorships, cabinet posts, etc. to any and all political hacks whose only qualification was fealty to the partisan aims of this administration. As the firing of the eight US attorney's shows, those who didn't fully comprehend the strict knee-bending requirements of the "Rewards Program" where the main aim was warped and zealous partisanship above anything else and who may have had other considerations in mind(such as adherence to the Constitution and the Rule of Law as their precedent authority) were dealt with in a manner consistent with the despotic and imperious nature of this administration. Perhaps before accepting their appointments, one might have thought that the "attorneys eight" should have known better than to expect the worse if they didn't toe the line. Mr. Bush, who is starting to consider his legacy (I saw it on 60 minutes a few weeks ago) will, hopefully, and deservedly, be honered as the worst president in this nation's history. This man, and even more so, his ultra-doctrinaire vice president, are leaving behind a country whose stature will be second to none in overall hatred and enmity by the rest of the world (when I travel abroad I make like I'm a Canadian), a country that has seen its rgulatory regime flushed down the toilet (OSHA standards, unsafe food supply, religion and profits undermining the FDA, toothless EPA), and a country where the rights and protections of individuals have been purposefully and systematically stripped away by this administration's innovative approaches (to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Geneva Conventions, etc.) As for the eight U.S. attorneys, it's sad to think that the eventual resignation of Alberto Gonzales will close the book on this (the democrats don't have the courage nor the stomach to soldier on) when the real story of what happened to them took place as much in the White House (if not more so, Rove, Miers, etc.) and that it is Mr. Bush who should be held accountable for the sins of his administration.

Posted by: Rocco | April 29, 2007 07:12 AM

It is very sad to see such character assasination of my brother. Maybe Mr. Cohen should do a little more research and less broad statements with no facts. Why does he use the term "infamous"? Cohen seems to be upset about Elston receiving an award with monetary honorarium of $2000. Perhaps the Post needs to give Mr. Cohen a raise. As far as the "letter", what a joke! Every boss or supervisor I've talked to says if a letter is anonymous, it usually should be ignored. And what is with this groupd of concerned folk at Justice? They can't even spell the name correctly of the person they are complaining about in a letter to Congress? What did Elston do specifically that was so insulting? Cohen and other's character assasination is why it is so difficult to keep good people in government positions. If Cohen did his job as a reporter and researched why Elston received the Marshall award he might discover the kind of work he was being honored for. Cohen, you should resign as a reporter because you are as incompetent as you claim Gonzalez is. I would love to see a response from Cohen, but I know he likes to hide behind his computer screen while he tries to trash honest, hardworking public officials.

Posted by: relston | April 29, 2007 07:53 PM

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