Another Justice Attorney Bashes Gonzo

I don't know John S. Koppel from a hole in the ground. But the Justice Department attorney Sunday offered precisely the sort of in-house denunciation of Alberto R. Gonzales that ought to shake President George W. Bush out of his pouty stupor so he can finally fire one of the worst Attorneys General in history. "I have never been as ashamed of the department and government that I serve as I am at this time," Koppel's op-ed piece begins. You get the idea where it ends.

Koppel's courageous criticism of his current bosses-- clearly not a loyal Bushie, you wonder why he hasn't been fired-- cuts directly at one of Gonzales' most glaring and unquestionable failures at Justice; his inability to protect both the independence of the Department and the professional reputation and morale of the good men and women who work there. Men like Koppel.

What else does the opinionated attorney say about Gonzales and Company? "In more than a quarter of a century at the DOJ, I have never before seen such consistent and marked disrespect on the part of the highest ranking government policymakers for both law and ethics." Koppel's piece ran the same day as this Washington Post story about how the White House intends to blow off Congress again over the U.S. Attorney investigation.

From a quick Google search, you get the sense that John S. Koppel may have been willing in the past to express criticism of the government for which he works (although the energetic letter-writer "John S. Koppel? could be a different one, I suppose). And you get the sense that whomever out there still willing and able to support Gonzales will point to these earlier declarations as proof that Koppel is biased and prejudiced toward the Department and the White House. Maybe so. But it still takes a great deal of guts to write this to end your detailed blast at the folks who sign your paycheck. Here's how Koppel finishes:

"I realize that this constitutionally protected statement subjects
me to a substantial risk of undlawful repriese from extremely
ruthless people who have repeatedly take such action in the
past. But I am confident that I am speaking on behalf of countless
thousands of honorable public servants, at Justice and elsewhere,
who take their responsibilities seriously and share these views.
And some things must be said, whatever the risk."

Any Attorney General who would countenance the sort of atmosphere within the Department that would generate such a statement from a career professional lawyer is not a friend to good governance or the rule of law or you or me. But the sad truth is that given the White House's track record in such affairs Koppel is more likely to lose his job more quickly than is the man who has truly let us down. Gonzales-- "derelict in the performance of his duties," according to Koppel-- will stay. Koppel will go. And a sinking Justice Department will fall further into a cloud of scorn and ridicule.

By Andrew Cohen |  July 9, 2007; 8:30 AM ET agag
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Comments

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Maybe the Gonzales subpoenas have taken a shift. A man named Tom Flocco has a web site that has identified the reason and common thread of all fired DOJ attys. It seems they had filed billion dollar medicare complaints against Tenet Health care and subsidiaries-Novation.

What is worse, Pres and Jeb Bush's first cousin Jonathan Bush-Athenia corp, created the software and sold it to the company. Jeb's Tenet Health care $260,000 in stock placement on the board two weeks ago has not helped the situation.

But in Texas, two women DOJ's investigating and speaking before Wash DC subcommittee on medicare fraud "accidently drowned" a day before in their swimming pools. In Florida, 2003 had a Tenet Health care Billion dollar fraud filing. All the investigations nationwide against tenet and subsidiaries all seemed to have been negotiated in a 90 day period in 2005....

Gonzales' asst and Pres Bush political employee being subpoena'd had Kansas' DOJ Tenet subsidiary complaint as an attachment to be read by staff et all...

Maybe there is a reason the president is demanding executive ignorance, or maybe........

Posted by: peggy | July 9, 2007 11:27 AM

Andrew, what do you think about a slower pace than one column a day, what about 2-3 a week, or is that required by your employers? One a day is rather brutal at times giving a sense of ADD, and if something significant is discussed one day (the responses are often very disproportionate depending on issue) it may be swept away in "on to the next day".

Posted by: Ted Ballstein II | July 9, 2007 12:07 PM

From above article: "But it still takes a great deal of guts (indeed, and probably a "last straw" sort of desperation) I realize ..unlawful reprisals..from EXTREMELY RUTHLESS PEOPLE..risk'" Indeed so, and no ambiguity in Mr. Koppel's quote!

Posted by: Rex | July 9, 2007 12:20 PM

Andrew, your lawyerly opinion please (pro bono, natch):

In Peter Baker's story today, it says, "President Bush directed two former aides today to defy congressional subpoenas and refuse to testify about the dismissals of nine U.S. attorneys, asserting executive privilege for the second time in two weeks..."

Since the two former aides apparently don't work for the Executive Branch any more, what actual authority and power does Bush have to keep them from testifying before Congress? Especially if they're subpoenaed?

Posted by: TexLex | July 9, 2007 02:08 PM

"Since the two former aides apparently don't work for the Executive Branch any more, what actual authority and power does Bush have to keep them from testifying before Congress? Especially if they're subpoenaed?"

If a client is entitled to privilege, then it would be unethical for the aide to break it even if they're 'former' aides. Yes, regardless of whay heinousity they were talking about.

I don't know that they would be breaking any laws, but if they talked before privilege was waived or denied they'd have a hard time ever getting a job with anyone who needed to trust them. (And if they were lawyers, they'd get disbarred. I don't know that both aides are.)

Posted by: Jeremy B. | July 9, 2007 03:41 PM

Yes, Jeremy B.

But what happens in a situation where those individuals are at two or three removes from the "client". What happens in a case where the "client's" role was by his own admission, and those of his staff, entirely tangential to the matter.

Taylor in particular never directly advised the president on this matter. It's not even clear that her boss, Karl Rove, did either.

The line of defense seems to go: Bush was not involved, but the communications about these matters, in which he had no involvement, must be protected because it could have a chilling effect on future advice that he may receive on other matters of this nature.

Nevermind that these advisors are no longer part of the White House staff, so that chilling effect as it relates to Miers and Taylor is non-existent.

Nevermind that no national security or diplomatic secrets were involved here.

Nevermind that meritorious justifications are better brought to light than hidden from public view.

Nevermind that these firings broke with 220 years of precedent--and in at least one case HAVE effectively interfered with a prosecution for partisan advantage.

There is no defense for this White House. It's justifications don't wash. At this stage it has no credibility.

Posted by: JP2 | July 9, 2007 04:16 PM

Bush and Cheney need to go to jail. It's really as simple as that. Cheney first, then Bush.

Posted by: Mark F. | July 9, 2007 05:38 PM

> The line of defense seems to go: Bush was not involved, but the communications about these matters, in which he had no involvement, must be protected because it could have a chilling effect on future advice that he may receive on other matters of this nature.

This may go back to the "serves at the pleasure of the President" bit. As far as I've been able to determine, USAs are hired and fired with pieces of paper that bear the presidential signature. Which pieces of paper are presumably prepared by his minions and presented to Himself with the advice that he sign them.

So I guess you could contrive the argument that sausage-making at lower levels of DoJ could, in the end, wind up affecting advice to da Prez.

This is interesting but off-topic to the original question, in which I'm still intersted and appreciate the two above comments.

Posted by: TexLex | July 9, 2007 05:51 PM

Criminal incompetence by the Bush Crime Family lackeys. Wrapped first in the flag, now in the cloak of executive privilege, they will stall and stonewall until the clock runs out. They'll use every diversionary tactic they can think of to block investigation of their criminal activities and then, like GHWB, pardon everyone they can think of and take the money and run. The Crime line goes all the way back to Prescott and the Nazis. It's nothing less than treason. Impeach NOW!

Posted by: thebob.bob | July 9, 2007 06:35 PM

Regarding the question originally posed by TexLex, I think that even if these two lawyers never directly advised the president, the president (and the White House as an entity) would still be entitled to assert attorney/client privilege on the same theory that a corporation could assert privilege with respect to matters within the purview of subordinates in its in-house legal department (i.e., a General Counsel's subordinates, who only ever had communications directly with the GC, but never with the corporation's management). For that matter, even an associate in an outside law firm who only ever communicated with that associate's partner at his/her firm, but never directly with the client, would still be subject to the privilege.

This of course does not address the larger question of whether the president is legally entitled to assert executive privilege in directing the two lawyers in the case at hand not to testify. In other words, the attorney/client privilege is the means by which the president, in this situation, would implement his assertion of executive privilege.

Posted by: HipHopLawyer | July 9, 2007 06:37 PM

> In other words, the attorney/client privilege is the means by which the president, in this situation, would implement his assertion of executive privilege.

OK, we're getting there, but my question is entirely on the level of implementation and practical consequences.

Let's say that now, for whatever reason, one or both of the former aides decides to go before Congress (particularly if subpoenaed) and Tell All? What can the White House do then?

It isn't a trial in which testimony can be disallowed. Perhaps the lawyer-aides could be, as suggested earlier, disbarred -- but if they testified under subpoena? Could the WH take civil action against them for some sort of breach of hiring agreement (assuming there was one)?

Posted by: TexLex | July 9, 2007 07:52 PM

I agree with HipHopLawyer in reference to corporate litigation. The analogy though is a little rough when talking about the Federal government. The Executive branch doesn't run if Congress fails to allocate money for it. Congress is the only branch with the power to amend the Constitution. Congress holds the ultimate trump card in impeachment, etc, etc. So Executive privilege and attorney-client privilege are not exactly parallel either.

A closer analogy here might be to look at the Federal government as a publicly traded company with the legislative branch serving as the Board of Directors, and the president as the CEO. The courts, well those are still the courts. And the people are the shareholders.

In many ways Bush's administration resembles Enron circa 2001. The Republican rubber stamp congress circa 2001 to 2006 behaved, perhaps more like Arthur Anderson, the accounting firm than the B.o.D, still it's not entirely off the mark; Team Bush behaves in a manner similar to Team Lay; and the ordinary shareholders? Well, we've been getting screwed pretty much all along.

TexLex, in reference to your specific point, I would recommend checking out:
http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/003629.php

Posted by: JP2 | July 9, 2007 08:38 PM


> TexLex, in reference to your specific point, I would recommend checking out:
http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/003629.php


Thanks, that's useful.

Posted by: TexLex | July 9, 2007 10:45 PM

Bill Clinton's attorney was determined to be an employee of the PEOPLE rather than the PRESIDENT so he was forced to testify in the Whitewater matter, even though Clinton claimed executive privilege and atty-client privilege. The same laws still apply to Miers, but so much in love with the executive weasel that she would never rat him out. She would lie and go to prison before saying giving up anything on her fantasy man.

Posted by: Frank | July 10, 2007 01:50 PM

I worked with these far right wing neo-cons at the RTC some years back and they are not human. They lie, distort, mock, ridicule, debase people, and slander constantly. The term "extremely ruthless" fits them to a Tee. That is why they must all march lock step together because if you don't fall in line they will make your life miserable. Killing someone, - right up their alley. I'm sure they are behind the anthrox scares a few years back too.

Posted by: | July 11, 2007 07:34 PM

Peggy, what you say about the Texas female DOJ's is troubling, and unfortunately, not totally surprising if true . Was it really like that?

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