Employment of Kyle D. Sampson reflects poorly on Hunton & Williams, LLP, No.3

Updated March 10, 2009 to reflect Mr. Sampson’s leave of absence from Hunton & Williams.

Cross-posted at the Oxdown Gazette, Firedoglake‘s new diary blog.

My third e-mail to Ms. Field:

Andrea Bear Field
DC Office Managing Partner
Hunton & Williams

cc: Kyle D. Sampson , Partner
Hunton & Williams

Dear Ms. Field,

On behalf of The Grievance Project, I would appreciate Hunton & Williams‘s response to the following items:

1. The most recent United States Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility and Office of the Inspector General report, An Investigation into the Removal of Nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006, which describes* additional allegations of unethical conduct by Hunton & Williams partner Kyle D. Sampson.

Professor Marty Lederman succinctly summarizes this matter at Balkinization:

The basic thrust of the Report, as I understand it, is that Kyle Sampson was acting in cahoots with the White House Counsel’s Office to fire disfavored U.S. Attorneys — at least some for possibly impermissible reasons — and that AG Gonzales and others at DOJ therefore left the entire project up to Sampson, stepping in merely to rubberstamp whatever decisions he reached in accord with the Counsel’s Office.

Is this type of conduct typical at Hunton & Williams? If not, why does Hunton & Williams continue to condone and encourage this type of conduct through its partnership with Mr. Sampson?

2. The appointment of Nora Dannehy as Special Prosecutor to review this matter, including your partner’s apparently central involvement in this scandal.

Update: The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Slater has published a profile of Ms. Dannehy. (h/t emptywheel)

3. Like the previous report, An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring by Monica Goodling and Other Staff in the Office of the Attorney General, this most recent report again confirms my opinion that Mr. Sampson committed numerous violations of the rules of professional conduct of both Utah and D.C that raise a substantial question as to his honesty, trustworthiness and fitness to practice law. Has Hunton & Williams reviewed whether Mr. Sampson’s conduct violated the Utah and D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct? If so, what was the conclusion of that review? If not, why not?

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

E.M./The Grievance Project

*Section C of the DOJ OPR/OIG report:

As discussed above, Sampson was the person most responsible for creating the removal plan, selecting the U.S. Attorneys to be removed, and implementing the plan. Yet, after the controversy over the removals erupted, Sampson attempted to downplay his role, describing himself as the “aggregator” and denying responsibility for placing several of the U.S. Attorneys on the list.

We concluded that from start to finish Sampson mishandled the removal process. And, as discussed above, he inappropriately advocated bypassing the Senate confirmation process for replacing U.S. Attorneys through a strategy of “gum[ming] this to death” and “run[ning] out the clock” while appearing to act in good faith.

We were also troubled by Sampson’s claims that he did not recall the reasons for many of the removals or who had recommended that certain U.S. Attorneys be removed. For example, while Sampson said he did not place Iglesias on the list at the request of the White House, his recollection on this issue was varying and vague. We question why Sampson could not recall the precise reason why he placed Iglesias on the removal list, given the relatively short passage of time since the incident, and the fact that Iglesias’s name alone was added, for the first time, to the November 2006 list. Moreover, other misleading after-the-fact explanations for why Iglesias was placed on the list caused us to further doubt the candor of Sampson’s explanations. In the end, we question whether Sampson provided us the full story about Iglesias’s placement on the list, as well as the reasons for other U.S. Attorney removals.

As discussed in the sections that follow, we also concluded that Sampson made various misleading statements about the U.S. Attorney removals to the White House, Congress, and other Department officials.

1. Misleading Statements to the White House

Sampson’s misleading statements about the U.S. Attorney removals began as the selection process was unfolding. He misrepresented to the White House how the selections occurred. In an e-mail to Harriet Miers in January 2006 forwarding a list of names to the White House, Sampson wrote, “I list
these folks based on my review” of the EARS evaluations, and “my interviews with officials in the Office of the Attorney General, Office of the Deputy Attorney General, and the Criminal Division.” Sampson thus created the general impression that the EARS evaluations and his “interviews” of senior Department officials, including officials in the Criminal Division, formed the basis of his identification of specific U.S. Attorneys for removal.

However, Sampson admitted to us that he did not remember speaking to anyone in the Criminal Division about the performance of U.S. Attorneys, except “only in the most general terms.” He also acknowledged that he never reviewed any EARS evaluations. He told us that it would have been better if he had stated in the e-mail to Miers that it was based on his understanding of somebody else’s understanding of the reviews of the offices. [Footnote] 202[.] We believe that Sampson’s misleading statements to Miers gave the impression that the Department had engaged in a far more systematic and structured evaluation process to determine which U.S. Attorneys should be removed.

2. Misleading Statements to Congress

Sampson similarly misled congressional staff in his January 12, 2007, briefing that the removals were based on EARS evaluations. At this meeting, Sampson and Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative Affairs Richard Hertling briefed staff for Senators Patrick Leahy and Dianne Feinstein about the removals. Sampson told the Senators’ staffs that the Department had been engaged in a process to identify underperforming U.S. Attorneys and that the process included a review of the EARS evaluations. The two staff members for the Senators told us that Sampson initially explained that the terminations were based on the EARS evaluations, but backtracked when Feinstein’s counsel pressed him for copies. According to both staff members, Sampson then explained that some of the removals were based on EARS evaluations, and some on other factors such as caseloads and responsiveness to Department policy initiatives.

According to Hertling, who said he knew little about the controversy at the time, Sampson attempted to impress upon the congressional staff that the removals were the result of a process the Department undertook to identify U.S. Attorneys who were the “weakest performers,” and that the process included a review of EARS evaluations. Hertling told us that one of the things that stuck in his mind was Sampson’s “specific reference” to EARS evaluations as a basis for identifying these particular U.S. Attorneys for termination.

However, Sampson claimed to us that he mentioned the EARS evaluations only in connection with Ryan’s removal. He said that he doubted he would have suggested that the other removals were based on the EARS evaluations because “that wouldn’t have been accurate.” Yet, based upon the recollection of the other witnesses at the briefing, including Hertling, we believe that Sampson misled the congressional staff that EARS evaluations played a more significant role in the Department’s decision-making process than they actually did.

Second, Sampson included misleading statements in the Department’s response to a February 8, 2007, letter from several Senators asking for information about the circumstances of Cummins’s resignation and Griffin’s appointment. Sampson, who drafted the response and circulated it in the Department and the White House for comment, had the final sign-off on the language in the response.

The response, which was sent on February 23, 2007, contained three misleading statements. The first was the statement that “it was well-known, as early as December 2004, that Mr. Cummins intended to leave . . . .” As we noted in Chapter Five, we found evidence that in drafting the response Sampson discovered a small news item in a free weekly Arkansas tabloid reporting that Cummins might begin exploring career options before the expiration of President Bush’s second term. However, Cummins told us he did not intend to resign at that time and was not looking for other employment. We also found no evidence that anyone at the Department was aware of the article until February 2007.

The second misleading statement in the Department’s response was that “the decision to have Mr. Griffin replace Mr. Cummins was first contemplated in spring or summer of 2006 [and] the final decision to appoint Mr. Griffin . . . was made on or about December 15 . . .” This statement is directly contradicted by the January 9, 2006, e-mail Sampson sent to Miers in which Griffin is listed as a replacement for Cummins. The second part of the statement, that the final decision to appoint Griffin was made around December 15, is also misleading. As noted in Chapter Five, Sampson informed Goodling on August 18, 2006, that the Attorney General would appoint Griffin Interim U.S. Attorney following Griffin’s return to the Department.

The third misleading statement in the Department’s response was that “The Department is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin.” This statement is contradicted by Sampson’s e-mail on December 19, 2006, to Associate White House Counsel Christopher Oprison in which Sampson wrote, “I’m not 100 percent sure that Tim was the guy on which to test drive this authority, but know that getting him appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc.” While Sampson later explained this e-mail by stating that he “assumed” but did not know that Rove was involved in the decision to appoint Griffin, we found this explanation unpersuasive and belied by the evidence.

3. Misleading Department Officials

Sampson also misled Department officials and allowed them to mislead others about several aspects of the U.S. Attorney removals.

First, in mid-December 2006 after media reports began questioning the circumstances of Griffin’s appointment, Sampson drafted talking points for the Department’s Office of Public Affairs to use to respond to media inquiries. In these talking points, Sampson wrote that “Griffin was appointed Interim U.S. Attorney because of the timing of Cummins’s resignation.”

In fact, as Sampson knew, Cummins had been removed so that Griffin could take his place. The Department’s talking points left the misleading impression that Griffin was appointed as Interim U.S. Attorney because of the unexpected timing of Cummins’s resignation, when in fact Cummins was told to resign to create a position for Griffin.

Second and more important, Sampson’s failure to disclose what he knew about the White House’s involvement in the removals caused McNulty and Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General William Moschella to provide inaccurate testimony to Congress. Both McNulty and Moschella testified that based on what they knew at the time, the White House was not involved in the removals until October 2006 and at that point became involved only to sign off on the process.

Sampson was present at staff preparation sessions before both McNulty’s and Moschella’s congressional testimony where the group discussed what they should say in their testimony. Several other participants told us that the question about the White House’s involvement was raised during at least one of McNulty’s preparation sessions, and McNulty indicated that he would tell Congress that the White House was involved to sign off on the process because U.S. Attorneys are Presidential appointments. This was a misleading statement about the extent and timing of the White House’s role, which Sampson knew. However, Sampson did not correct McNulty’s mistaken belief or inform him of the full extent of the White House’s involvement.

Consequently, in a closed briefing session on February 14, 2007, McNulty told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the U.S. Attorney removal process began within the Department in September or October of 2006, and that the Department sent a list to the White House Counsel’s office in October and asked if they objected to the names. Similarly, Moschella testified incorrectly before a House Judiciary Subcommittee on March 6, 2007, based on what he had learned during the preparation sessions and from McNulty’s testimony, that the process to remove the U.S. Attorneys began in early October 2006 and that the White House eventually became involved in the removals, but only to sign off on the proposal because the U.S. Attorneys were Presidential appointees.

When we interviewed Sampson, he rationalized his not correcting the misimpression left at the preparation sessions by arguing that there were two separate phases of the process – the earlier “thinking” phase and the later “action” phase, and he said he was focused on the later action phase during the preparation sessions. We found Sampson’s testimony on this point not credible. Sampson sent three separate lists of U.S. Attorneys for removal to the White House for consideration before the fall of 2006. We believe that Sampson should have been more forthcoming at the preparation sessions about the White House’s involvement to ensure that McNulty and Moschella were aware of the facts and did not mislead Congress. Sampson’s failure to do so resulted in inaccurate and misleading testimony about a critical aspect of the controversy.

We concluded that Sampson engaged in misconduct by making misleading statements and failing to disclose important information to the White House, members of Congress, congressional staff, and Department officials concerning the reasons for the removals of the U.S. Attorneys and the extent of White House involvement in the removal process.

[Footnote] 202[:] However, even that would have been inaccurate because, as we noted in each of the U.S. Attorney chapters, with the exception of Ryan’s March 2006 EARS evaluation (which had not yet taken place), each of the EARS evaluations of the removed U.S. Attorneys was largely positive.

Report, pp. 346-351.

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Michael J. Elston

On July 7, 2008, CREW filed a complaint against Michael J. Elston with the Virginia Bar for his role in the illegal politicization of hiring practices at the Department of Justice. However, CREW did not file a complaint with the Illinois, Kansas or Missouri Bars, jurisdictions in which Mr. Elston is also admitted, as explained here, but only sent these associations a copy of the Virginia complaint. More importantly, because the CREW complaint addressed only the illegal politicization of hiring practices at the Department of Justice, CREW notably failed to address Mr. Elston’s role in the politicized firing of several sitting United States Attorneys. As set forth below, Mr. Elston is also in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Virginia regarding his role in the United States Attorney firings.

Personal Information:

  • Name: Michael J. Elston, Partner, McGuireWoods LLP
  • Washington Square, 1050 Connecticut Avenue N.W., Suite 1200
    Washington, District of Columbia 20036-5317
  • Telephone: 202-857-1700, Fax: 202-857-1737

Bar Information: Illinois

  • ID No.: N/A
  • Date of Admission as Lawyer by Illinois Supreme Court: November 10, 1994
  • Registered Business Address: Mcguirewoods LLP
    1750 Tysons Blvd, Suite 1800
    McLean, VA 22102-4231
  • Registered Business Phone: (703) 712-5366
  • Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law
  • Last Registered Year: 2008
  • Malpractice Insurance: (Current as of date of registration; consult attorney for further information) In annual registration, attorney reported that he/she has malpractice coverage.
  • Public Record of Discipline and Pending Proceedings: None

Grievance Information: Illinois

Bar Information: Kansas

  • ID No.: N/A
  • Status: Unknown
  • On July 2, 2008, Amanda Provorse, Attorney Registration, responded to my e-mail request for Mr. Elston’s status with the Kansas Bar that “Mr. Elston is currently active and in good standing. He was admitted 9/29/1998.”

Grievance Information: Kansas

Bar Information: Missouri

Grievance Information: Missouri

Bar Information: Virginia

  • ID No.: N/A
  • Status: Active
  • Registered Address: 1750 Tysons Boulevard, Suite 1800, McLean, VA 22102-4215
  • Registered Phone: 703-712-5366 and Fax: 703-712-5215
  • Member class: Active

Grievance Information: Virginia

While reviewing this matter, it is important to keep in mind that the privilege to practice law imposes duties and responsibilities on each attorney who accepts a license to practice law. These obligations are described in the Preamble to the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct :

The practice of law is a public trust. Lawyers are the trustees of the system by which citizens resolve disputes among themselves, punish and deter crime, and determine their relative rights and responsibilities toward each other and their government. Lawyers therefore are responsible for the character, competence and integrity of the persons whom they assist in joining their profession; for assuring access to that system through the availability of competent legal counsel; for maintaining public confidence in the system of justice by acting competently and with loyalty to the best interests of their clients; by working to improve that system to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing society; and by defending the integrity of the judicial system against those who would corrupt, abuse or defraud it.

To achieve these ends the practice of law is regulated by the following rules. Violation of these rules is grounds for discipline.

* * *

The quality of the legal profession can be no better than that of its members. Lawyers must exercise good judgment and candor in supporting applicants for membership in the bar.

Lawyers also must assist in the policing of lawyer misconduct. The vigilance of the bar in preventing and, where required, reporting misconduct can be a formidable deterrent to such misconduct, and a key to maintaining public confidence in the integrity of the profession as a whole in the face of the egregious misconduct of a few.

These obligations are also expressly stated in the Preamble to the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct, the Preamble to the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct and the Preamble to the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct, which provide, in part, that

A lawyer’s conduct should conform to the requirements of the law, both in professional service to clients and in the lawyer’s business and personal affairs. A lawyer should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others. A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges,
other lawyers and public officials. While it is a lawyer’s duty, when necessary, to challenge the rectitude of official action, it is also a lawyer’s duty to uphold legal process.

* * *

The legal profession’s relative autonomy carries with it special responsibilities of self-government. The profession has a responsibility to assure that its regulations are conceived in the public interest and not in furtherance of parochial or selfinterested concerns of the bar. Every lawyer is responsible for observance of the Rules of Professional Conduct. A lawyer should also aid in securing their observance by other lawyers. Neglect of these responsibilities compromises the independence of the profession and the public interest which it serves.

It is also important to bear in mind that although Mr. Elston denies improper motives or conduct, his denials and protestation must be evaluated based on the totality of the circumstances. As noted in the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, for Mr. Elston to believe that his conduct was proper, he must have “actually supposed the fact in question to be true” (which belief “may be inferred from circumstances”) and for that belief to be reasonable requires “that the circumstances are such that the belief is reasonable.” Additionally, because “a lawyer of reasonable prudence and competence would ascertain the matter in question” to be improper, Mr. Elston reasonably should have known that his conduct was improper.

As detailed more specifically below, Mr. Elston’s conduct violated the following the following rules of professional conduct:

Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct:

Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct

Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct

Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct

File a grievance against Mr. Elston

  1. Print, complete and sign the official Complaint Form for Illinois, Kansas, Missouri (or .pdf) and/or Virginia (or .pdf );
  2. Print and attach this page to the Complaint Form; and
  3. Mail the complaint to the address noted on the Complaint Form.

Allegation: Michael J. Elston engaged in conduct that was a violation of federal laws that prohibit the obstruction of justice when he threatened four (4) recently-resigned United States Attorneys.

Michael J. Elston’s participation in the scheme to fire multiple United States Attorneys is at least unethical, if not actually criminal. As set out in greater detail below, Mr. Elston’s role in the firing of numerous United States Attorneys included placing telephone calls to several of these U.S. Attorneys in which he conveyed the threat that the Department of Justice would publicly attack the U.S. Attorneys if they chose to testify to the United States House and Senate. As reported by Paul Kiel at TPMMuckraker on May 2, 2007,

U.S. Attorney for Arizona Paul Charlton told Congress that Michael Elston, the chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, called him and warned him to remain silent. “I believe that Elston was offering me a quid pro quo agreement: my silence in exchange for the Attorney General’s,” Charlton wrote in answer to questions from the House Judiciary Committee.

Charlton did not expound on the conversation in his answer, only saying that the call occurred after the firing on December 7th, but before the attorney general testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 18th of this year.

It’s not the first time that Elston has been accused by one of the fired U.S. attorneys of trying to intimidate them into silence. Two others have said the same thing.

U.S. Attorney for Little Rock Bud Cummins testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Elston had made a similar call to him in mid-February. Cummins produced an email written the day of the call that clearly laid out the threatening undercurrent to Elston’s message.

And U.S. Attorney for Seattle John McKay has said that he got a call from Elston in December. Newsweek reported that McKay says “he also got a phone call from a ‘clearly nervous’ Elston asking if he intended to go public: ‘He was offering me a deal: you stay silent and the attorney general won’t say anything bad about you.'” (Emphasis supplied.)

Prior to this article, Mr. Kiel had reported on the contents of Mr. Cummins’ e-mail on March 7, 2007:

In a February 19th article in The Washington Post, Cummins was quoted on the firings:

“They’re [the Justice Department] entitled to make these changes for any reason or no reason or even for an idiotic reason,… But if they are trying to suggest that people have inferior performance to hide whatever their true agenda is, that is wrong. They should retract those statements.”

The next day, Cummins got a call from Elston. And very unfortunately for the Justice Department, Cummins sent out an email no more than an hour after the call to the other fired prosecutors (you can see it here):

The essence of his message was that they feel like they are taking unnecessary flak to avoid trashing each of us specifically or further, but if they feel like any of us intend to continue to offer quotes to the press, or organize behind the scenes congressional pressure, then they would feel forced to somehow pull their gloves off and offer public criticisms to defend their actions more fully…. I was tempted to challenge him and say something movie-like such as “are you threatening ME???”, but instead I kind of shrugged it off…

Cummins, a lifelong Republican, continues in the email to refer to Elston’s “threat of retaliation” and the “threatening undercurrent in the call.” So it was abundantly clear to him that he was being threatened.

The most inflammatory part of the email is Cummins’ description of Elston’s reaction to the idea of the fired prosecutors testifying before Congress:

“He reacted quite a bit to the idea of anyone voluntarily testifying and it seemed clear that they would see that as a major escalation of the conflict meriting some kind of unspecified form of retaliation.”

Mr. Kiel also reported on these comments from fired U.S. Attorney John McKay:

Now another prosecutor, Seattle’s John McKay, says he got a similar call much earlier, before the firings had even been reported. From Newsweek:

After McKay was fired in December, he says he also got a phone call from a “clearly nervous” Elston asking if he intended to go public: “He was offering me a deal: you stay silent and the attorney general won’t say anything bad about you.”

Murray Waas of the National Journal reported on May 3, 2007 these details regarding Mr. Elston’s conduct:

The U.S. attorneys have said that Elston, in effect, told them that if they kept quiet about their dismissals, the Justice Department would not suggest that they had been forced to resign because of poor performance.

* * *

McKay, who was the first of the prosecutors whom Elston called, described Elston’s message to him: “The attorney general was not going to disclose that I or the other U.S. attorneys were fired or forced to resign.… ‘We have no intention of naming people.'”

McKay said that Elston never specifically suggested an explicit quid pro quo whereby Justice officials would not say that McKay had been fired for cause or poor performance if McKay did not talk to the media or Congress about his firing. However, McKay said, “a reasonable person would have felt both offended and threatened” by Elston’s call.

McKay said that the message he took away from the conversation was, “If you remain silent, we will not out you as someone who was forced to resign.”

McKay said that he made contemporaneous notes of his conversation with Elston, and dated them — something, he said, that was not his ordinary practice. He did so because of his concerns about what Elston was telling him, according to McKay.

Charlton said he got a similar phone call from Elston on the same day. In formal response to written questions posed to him by the House Judiciary Committee, Charlton said, “I believe that Elston was offering me a quid pro quo agreement: my silence in exchange for the attorney general’s.”

Cummins testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 6, at which time a contemporaneous e-mail he wrote within an hour of his phone call with Elston was released. In the e-mail, which he sent to five of his fellow prosecutors, Cummins said that the “essence of [Elston’s] message” was that if any of the fired U.S. attorneys had pressed their case in the media or before Congress, senior aides to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales might “feel forced to somehow pull their gloves off” and accuse the prosecutors of ineptitude or poor management.

Cummins also wrote in his e-mail that Elston had called him because he was upset about comments Cummins had made in the press about his firing. “[Justice officials] feel like they are taking unnecessary flak to avoid trashing each of us,” Cummins said in the e-mail to his fellow prosecutors. “I also made it a point to tell him that all of us have turned down multiple invitations to testify. He reacted quite a bit to the idea of anyone voluntarily testifying, and it seemed clear that they would see this as a major escalation of the conflict meriting some kind of unspecified form of retaliation.”

McKay, one of the prosecutors who got the e-mail, said: “[Cummins] wanted to send a message to all of us. We got that message, loud and clear: If you talk to the press or go to Congress, the Department of Justice will not consider you a friend. I considered it an act of intimidation.”

* * *

At the March 6 Senate Judiciary hearing, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., asked Cummins and three others U.S. attorneys what they would have done in their capacity as federal prosecutors had they learned that an interested party in one of their investigations had tried to discourage a witness from providing information or testifying. All four said that they would have investigated the matter to determine a possible obstruction of justice.

“Mr. Cummins, let me ask you first. I’d like to ask you to put your U.S. attorney hat back on,” Whitehouse said. “You’re still in office, and think of a significant grand jury investigation that you led as United States attorney in your district. And consider that a significant witness in that grand jury investigation has just come into your office to relate to you that prior to his grand jury testimony he was approached about his testimony and [told]… essentially exactly the words that Mr. Elston approached you. What would your next step be as United States attorney?”

Cummins responded: “We take intimidation of witnesses very seriously in the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorney’s office, so we would be very proactive in that situation.”

Attempting to moderate his statement, he added: “I would qualify that by saying that at the time this discussion was had, we weren’t under a subpoena; the idea of testifying was just kind of a theoretical idea out there. And I would say … to the extent we talked about testimony at all, it was the idea that running out and volunteering to be part of this would not be viewed charitably by the people that it would affect.”

Whitehouse pressed Cummins: “But if that sort of approach had been made to a witness in an active proceeding that you were leading, and you were extremely proactive about it, that would lead you where?”

“Well, we’d certainly investigate it and see if a crime had occurred.”

“And the crime would be?”

Cummins responded: “Obstruction of justice. I think there are several statutes that might be implicated — but obstruction of justice.”

Whitehouse posed the same question to John McKay, the fired U.S. attorney from Washington state.

McKay responded: “I would be discussing it with the assigned prosecutor and federal agents.”

“With regard to?”

“With regard to possible obstruction of justice.”

Whitehouse next put the question to David Iglesias, the fired U.S. attorney from New Mexico:

Iglesias replied: “Same answer, sir. I would contact the career [assistant U.S. attorney] and probably the FBI and talk about what’s the evidence we have to maybe move forward on an obstruction investigation.

Finally, Whitehouse looked toward Carol Lam, the fired U.S. attorney from San Diego.

She answered without hesitation: “Fundamentally the same answer: witness intimidation.” (Emphasis supplied.)

Lara Jakes Jordan adds in this article on June 16, 2007:

“I believe that Elston was offering me a quid pro quo agreement: my silence in exchange for the attorney general’s,” wrote Paul Charlton, the former U.S. attorney in Nevada.

John McKay, former top prosecutor in Seattle, said he perceived a threat from Elston during his call. And Carol Lam, who was U.S. attorney in San Diego, said that “during one phone call, Michael Elston erroneously accused me of ‘leaking’ my dismissal to the press, and criticized me for talking to other dismissed U.S. attorneys.”

A fourth former U.S. attorney, Bud Cummins in Little Rock, Ark., had made a similar accusation in an e-mail released in March. At the time, Elston said he was “shocked and baffled” that his Feb. 20 conversation with Cummins could be interpreted as threatening.

Finally, Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein report in the Washington Post on June 16, 2007:

Former U.S. attorney John McKay of Seattle told Congress that on Jan. 17 — before McKay stepped down — he received a call from Elston that he “greatly resented.” He said Elston attempted to “buy my silence by promising that the attorney general would not demean me in his Senate testimony.”

“My handwritten and dated notes of this call,” McKay told Congress, “reflect that I believed Mr. Elston’s tone was sinister and that he was prepared to threaten me further if he concluded I did not intend to continue to remain silent about my dismissal.”

Paul K. Charlton, who was the U.S. attorney in Phoenix, said that he, too, received a call that day in which Elston offered “a quid pro quo agreement: my silence in exchange for the attorney general’s.” Another former prosecutor, Carol C. Lam of San Diego, said Elston accused her of “leaking” word of her dismissal to the press “and criticized me for talking to other dismissed U.S. attorneys.”

Former U.S. attorney Bud Cummins of Little Rock also recounted a Feb. 20 conversation with Elston that Cummins said contained a “threatening undercurrent” warning that Justice Department officials would retaliate if he or his colleagues spoke to journalists or volunteered to testify in Congress.

As described by fired United States Attorneys John McKay, Bud Cummins, Paul Charlton and Carol Lam and as reported in the public record as noted above, the conduct of Mr. Elston clearly establishes that he committed criminal or deliberately wrongful acts that reflects adversely on the his honesty, trustworthiness and fitness to practice law. Additionally, Mr. Elston clearly engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.

Allegation 2:

Michael J. Elston engaged in conduct that was a violation of federal laws that prohibit politicization of hiring within the Department of Justice when he selected candidates for employment based on political criteria.

As described in thisletter to Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, and The Honorable John Conyers, Jr., Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary, United States House of Representatives from A Group of Concerned Department of Justice Employees, dated April 9, 2007, Mr. Elston engaged in conduct that was a violation of federal hiring laws:

Needless to say, many people were upset and confused. Why had so many potential interviewees been removed from the list? [Italics in original] Top supervisors requested answers, and on December 5 a meeting was held with Michael Ellston [sic], Chief of Staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty. Many division attorneys and staff were present, and Mr. Ellston [sic] was offensive to the point of insulting. Claiming that the entire group had not “done their jobs” in reviewing applicants, he said that he had a “screening panel” go over the list and research these candidates on the Internet; he refused to give the names of those on his “panel.” Mr. Ellston [sic] said that people were struck from the list for three reasons:grades, spelling errors on applications, and inappropriate information about them on the Internet, When the meeting attendees protested that these interviewees had excellent grades, Mr. Ellston [sic]replied that a Harvard graduate in the bottom half of the class was more desirable than the top students at a second-tier law schools. Although Mr. Ellston [sic] stated that he would entertain appeals to his decisions, few of these appeals were granted.

When division personnel staff later compared the remaining interviewees with the candidates struck from the list, one common denominator appeared repeatedly: 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. There are also reports that officials at Harvard’s Career Placement Office called DOJ personnel to ask why their students were not getting interviews and also to ask why decisions had not yet been made about the Summer Law Intern Program.

These allegations were confirmed by the United States Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility and Office of the Inspector Generals in their report,An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring in the Department of Justice Honors Program and Summer Law Intern Program, which provided the following details regarding Mr. Elston’s conduct:

…. However, we believe the most significant misconduct was committed by ELSTON, the head of the Screening Committee. ELSTON failed to take appropriate action when he learned that McDonald was routinely deselecting candidates on the basis of what she perceived to be the candidates’ liberal affiliations. We also concluded that ELSTON deselected some candidates – and allowed the deselection of others – based on impermissible considerations.

* * *

As explained below, we concluded that ELSTON violated federal law and Department policy by deselecting candidates based on their liberal affiliations. First, the data analysis indicates that highly qualified candidates with liberal or Democratic Party affiliations were deselected at a much higher rate than highly qualified candidates with conservative or Republican Party affiliations. Second, ELSTON admitted that he may have deselected candidates in a few instances due to their affiliations with certain liberal causes. ELSTON also was unable in specific cases to give a credible reason as to why highly qualified candidates with liberal or Democratic Party affiliations were deselected.

While ELSTON generally denied that he considered political or ideological affiliations in evaluating candidates, he admitted when questioned about certain candidates that he considered aspects of those candidates’ ideological affiliations in his evaluation. ….

In addition, ELSTON consistently was unable to provide credible explanations as to why he denied the appeals of the highly qualified candidates who had liberal or Democratic Party affiliations. His proffered reasons were also inconsistent with other statements he made or actions he took. ….

Similarly, we did not find credible ELSTON’s explanation that he may have denied the appeal of a highly qualified candidate who had worked for the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military because he concluded the candidate would not “stand up for the law with respect to sentencing and Department policy” due to the statement in her essay that she would be able to exercise prosecutorial discretion as a federal prosecutor. We also did not credit ELSTON’s other explanation for denying this candidate – that she was not academically qualified because she was in the top third rather than the top quarter of her class at Stanford Law – since it was inconsistent with his actions in approving other candidates from lower-tier law schools with lower grades. During his interview, ELSTON also frequently pointed to lines in candidates’ essays that may have been a basis for deselecting candidates because he said these statements could be indications that the candidates would improperly follow their own consciences rather than the Department’s policies. These included statements such as the candidate wanting to work for the Department because the job would allow the candidate “to consider what is best for my country.”

In addition to ELSTON’s failure to provide credible explanations for his actions during his interview, we concluded that ELSTON was not candid with others in the Department who questioned him during the hiring process about why candidates were being deselected. ….

Moreover, ELSTON tried to minimize his role in selecting candidates when he was questioned by others about the Committee’s decisions. ELSTON frequently explained that other Committee members had been responsible for the decisions and described his role as a conduit. However, the evidence demonstrated that he was casting the deciding vote on a significant number of candidates that Fridman had approved and McDonald had rejected.

In sum, we found that ELSTON was aware that McDonald was rejecting candidates based on her perception of the candidates’ political or ideological affiliations and that he failed to intervene, discuss it with her, or stop her from doing so. We also concluded that ELSTON committed misconduct, and violated federal law and Department policy, when he deselected candidates and denied appeals based on his perception of the political or ideological affiliations of the candidates.

* * *

IV. Conclusions and Recommendations

* * *

The documentary evidence and witness interviews also support the conclusion that two members of the 2006 Screening Committee, Esther Slater McDonald and Michael ELSTON, took political or ideological affiliations into account in deselecting candidates in violation of Department policy and federal law. For example, the evidence showed that McDonald wrote disparaging statements about candidates’ liberal and Democratic Party affiliations on the applications she reviewed and that she voted to deselect candidates on that basis.

We also found that ELSTON, the head of the 2006 Screening Committee, failed to take appropriate action when he learned that McDonald was routinely deselecting candidates on the basis of what she perceived to be the candidates’ liberal affiliations. The evidence also showed that ELSTON himself deselected some candidates – and allowed the deselection of others – based on impermissible considerations. Despite his initial denial in our interview that he did not consider such inappropriate factors, he later admitted in the interview that he may have deselected candidates in a few instances due to their affiliation with certain causes. In addition, ELSTON was unable to give a credible reason as to why specific highly qualified candidates with liberal or Democratic credentials were deselected.

We concluded that, as a result of the actions of McDonald and ELSTON, many qualified candidates were deselected by the Screening Committee because of their perceived political or ideological affiliations. We believe that McDonald’s and ELSTON’s conduct constituted misconduct and also violated the Department’s policies and civil service law that prohibit discrimination in hiring based on political or ideological affiliations.

However, because both McDonald and ELSTON have resigned from the Department, they are no longer subject to discipline by the Department for their actions. Nevertheless, we recommend that the Department consider the findings in this report should either McDonald or ELSTON apply in the future for another position with the Department.

[Footnote] 59 However, we found evidence that McDonald knew that using political and ideological affiliation was inappropriate, but did it anyway. As noted above, in an e-mail dated October 25, 2006, unrelated to the Honors Program and SLIP, McDonald advised a friend applying for a career position with the Department “there’s not much I can do apart from recommending you because there are legal constraints on career hiring to ensure that it’s not political.”

[Footnote] 60 Although ELSTON stated that he did not know whether McDonald’s no votes were actually based upon the negative comments she was making about the candidates’ liberal affiliations, we found that statement disingenuous. Fridman told ELSTON that McDonald was doing this, and the notations on the applications, which ELSTON recognized as McDonald’s handwriting, showed that McDonald was circling and commenting on these groups. Moreover, many of these candidates had stellar credentials, and there was no other apparent reason for McDonald recommending their deselection.

[Footnote] 61 OPR Counsel H. Marshall Jarrett recused himself from the evaluation of DeFalaise’s conduct.

(Emphasis supplied.)

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Text of the Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct violated by Mr. Elston.

CREW files grievances against Michael J. Elston and Esther Slater McDonald

As far back as 2006, I began contacting various parties – including CREW – to suggest that an organized effort to file grievances would be an effective tactic for responding to the litany of attorneys engaged in questionable ethical conduct. Like most people and organizations I contacted, CREW never responded. Of the few responses I did receive, only one or two were in support of the idea and the rest usually just stated a simple reason or two why the idea wouldn’t work. As attorney after attorney continued to violate their ethical obligations with impunity, my frustration grew that there was no organized effort to promote a grievance strategy. As a result, I launched The Grievance Project in October, 2007.

When the DOJ IG report An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring in the Department of Justice Honors Program and Summer Law Intern Program was released, I began preparing a grievance complaint against Michael J. Elston for his conduct described therein as well as for his role in the firing of United States Attorneys, including John McKay, Bud Cummins, Carol Lam and Paul Charlton. When I first saw Marcy Wheeler’s headline today declaring that CREW had filed grievances against Mr. Elston, my initial thoughts were that I just got ‘scooped’ by CREW and that I had wasted a lot time working on my Elston complaint. Almost immediately, I was quite pleased that CREW had finally adopted a (my?) grievance strategy and had filed the complaints.

A few thoughts now that I’ve read both Wheeler’s post and CREW’s press release:

  • Marcy Wheeler notes that this may have an affect on the law firms that have hired Mr. Elston and Ms. Esther Slater McDonald, stating that “[a]t the very least, one would hope this would embarrass the big corporate firms these two alleged law-breakers work for. After all, it appears that Alberto Gonzales still has only temporary employment. If all these hacks found themselves unemployable because of what they did, that’d be a start.” This was precisely my point regarding Hunton & Williams when they hired Kyle D. Sampson .
  • Although Mr. Elston is a member of the Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Virginia Bars, CREW filed a complaint against Mr. Elston only in Virginia and only sent copies of Virginia complaint to the the Illinois, Kansas and Missouri Bars. I believe a stronger approach would not just provide these states with a copy of the Virginia complaint but would also be to file official complaints against Mr. Elston in Illinois, Kansas and Missouri (or .pdf ).
  • CREW’s complaint against Mr. Elston only addresses his violations of his ethical obligations with respect to the issues raised in the DOJ IG report . Because Mr. Elston is also in violation of his ethical obligations due to his involvement with his role in the firing of United States Attorneys, including John McKay, Bud Cummins, Carol Lam and Paul Charlton, I will finish my Elston complaint with respect to to these violations.
  • Now that CREW has adopted a (my?) grievance strategy, I’ve prepared grievance complaints against Alberto Gonzales, Kyle D. Sampson, Lisa Murkowski, Harriet E. Miers, Mark Everett Fuller, and John Yoo that are ready for CREW to simply print and file. If you agree, contact:
    • Naomi Seligman, CREW’s Deputy Director and Communications Director, at 202.408.5565 or nseligman @ citizensforethics.org, and
    • Melanie Sloan, CREW’s Executive Director, at msloan @ citizensforethics.org.

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Kyle D. Sampson

Updated July 28, 2008, to include the recent report, An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring by Monica Goodling and Other Staff in the Office of the Attorney General, by the United States Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility and Office of the Inspector General, which concluded that Kyle D. Sampson engaged in conduct during the course of his employment at the Department Justice that calls into question his fitness to practice law.

Personal Information:

  • Name: Sampson, Kyle D.
  • Bar: Utah
  • ID No: 8112
  • Status: Active

Grievance Information: Utah

Grievance Information: Washington, D.C.

Allegations:

Illegal Utilization of political considerations personally and in conjunction with Monica Goodling in Hiring and Firing Personnel at the Department of Justice in violation of the Hatch Act

As originally reported by Dan Eggen in the Washington Post,

“The Justice Department considered political affiliation in screening applicants for immigration court judgeships for several years until hiring was frozen in December after objections from department lawyers, current and former officials said yesterday. “The disclosures mean that the Justice Department may have violated civil service laws, which prohibit political considerations in hiring, for as long as two years before the tenure of Monica M. Goodling, the former aide to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales who testified about the practice this week. “Goodling told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that she “crossed the line” in considering political affiliation for several categories of career applicants at Justice, including immigration judges.

* * *

“The department’s hiring practices have come under scrutiny in the furor over the firings last year of nine U.S. attorneys. A Justice Department investigation of the dismissals has been expanded to include whether Goodling and other Gonzales aides improperly took politics into account in hiring for nonpolitical jobs. “Goodling testified that Sampson told her that the department’s Office of Legal Counsel had concluded that immigration judges were not covered by civil service rules. The Justice Department said after her testimony that it had “located no record” of an OLC opinion that reached that conclusion.”

Officials Say Justice Dept. Based Hires on Politics Before Goodling Tenure, Dan Eggen, Washington Post, May 26, 2007

Additional Sources:

Letter regarding Investigation of Kyle Sampson, From U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, August 24, 2007

Document Shows Widening Probe Into DOJ Hiring , Paul Kane, Washington Post, August 30, 2007

This has now been confirmed by the United States Department of Justice Offices of Professional Responsibility and Office of the Inspector Generals in their report, An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring by Monica Goodling and Other Staff in the Office of the Attorney General:

We concluded that Sampson violated Department policy and federal law, and committed misconduct, by considering political or ideological affiliations when hiring IJs. Sampson knew that, historically, most IJ hiring was handled by career employees at EOIR. However, he moved that authority from EOIR and placed it in the OAG. Sampson told us that he had understood it was appropriate to consider “political criteria” in selecting IJs. He stated that his understanding was based on a conversation he had with Ohlson in April 2004 about the Attorney General’s direct appointment authority for IJs, combined with advice he claimed to have received from OLC that IJ hiring was not subject to civil service requirements.

However, as detailed above, Ohlson said he did not tell Sampson that direct appointments were exempt from federal civil service laws. Ohlson said he merely noted to Sampson that direct appointments had been used occasionally in the past to appoint IJs. Nor does the evidence support Sampson’s claim that OLC advised him that civil service laws did not apply to the career IJ positions. Neither OLC nor we could find any record of OLC ever providing such advice to Sampson, and the two officials he identified as possible sources of the advice – AAGs Goldsmith and Levin – had no recollection of advising Sampson that civil service laws did not apply to IJ hiring. To the contrary, the evidence showed that neither would have offered legal guidance on this point informally. While it is possible that Sampson mistakenly inferred on his own that civil service laws did not apply to direct appointments by the Attorney General, there is no evidence that he was ever so advised by OLC.

Moreover, as described in the document attached to his October 8, 2003, e-mail, Sampson sought to use the Attorney General’s direct appointment authority to appoint candidates as IJs who had been recommended by the White House and screened using political criteria
well before those conversations with OLC and Ohlson supposedly occurred. It is clear from Sampson’s October 8 e-mail that he contemplated using political considerations in IJ hiring at least 6 months before his conversation with Ohlson; at least 9 months before Levin (one
of the OLC Assistant Attorney Generals he cited as a possible source of OLC’s legal advice) became the head of OLC in July 2004; and before any conversation he had with Goldsmith (the other OLC Assistant Attorney General cited by Sampson), who did not begin serving in OLC until October 3, 2003, just 5 days before Sampson’s e-mail.

In sum, we concluded that the evidence did not support Sampson’s claim that he was advised by OLC that IJ positions were exempt from federal law governing career civil service positions.

Because the Attorney General’s direct appointment authority to hire IJs is a departure from the usual Department career hiring practices, we considered the possibility that Sampson may have been confused or mistaken about whether civil service laws apply to such hires. Yet, even if Sampson was confused or mistaken in his interpretation of the rules that applied to IJ hiring, we do not believe that would excuse his actions. His actions, which were carried out over a lengthy period of time and were not based on formal advice from anyone, systematically violated federal law and Department policy and constituted misconduct.

Report, pp. 117-118.

In sum, the evidence showed that Sampson, Williams, and Goodling violated federal law and Department policy, and Sampson and Goodling committed misconduct, by considering political and ideological affiliations in soliciting and selecting IJs, which are career positions protected by the civil service laws.

Report, p. 137.

Rules Violated (Pursuant to Rule 8.5. Disciplinary Authority; Choice of Law , Utah Rules of Professional Conduct):

  1. Rule 8.4 – Misconduct – This Rule governed the practice of law in the District of Columbia from January 1, 1991, through January 31, 2007. As of February 1, 2007, the New Rules took effect.

Misleading Statements to Congress

Chairman Rep. John Conyers, Jr., provided this summary of the misleading testimony of Kyle Sampson, Chief of Staff to then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, in the Executive Summary of his memo to the members of the House Committee on the Judiciary:

Mr. Sampson appears to have made at least two significant misstatements to Congress. On January 18, 2007, he emailed the Senate Judiciary Committee Chief Counsel that “last year, eight USAs [were] asked to resign” and further assured him “per my prior reps to you, the number of USAs asked to resign in the last year won’t change: eight.” However, as the Committee subsequently learned, Mr. Graves was in fact forced to resign in January 2006. On February 23, 2007, Kyle Sampson drafted a Department letter, which was also approved by Chris Oprison of the White House Counsel’s office, stating that Karl Rove did not play any role in the decision to appoint Tim Griffin as interim U. S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Documents subsequently came to light showing that before proposing that statement be made to Congress, Kyle Sampson had written to Mr. Oprison that the appointment of Mr. Griffin was “important to Harriet, Karl, etc.,” and just a week before Mr. Oprison signed off on the statement, Tim Griffin had emailed both Karl Rove and Mr. Oprison and others regarding the U.S. Attorney position.

Memorandum to Members of the Committee on the Judiciary, from Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Chairman, regarding Full Committee Consideration of Report on the Refusal of Former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten to Comply With Subpoenas By the House Judiciary Committee, July 24, 2007, page v.

Rep. Conyers’ memorandum provides additional, sourced details:

Mr. Sampson has made a number of statements to Congress that may have been inaccurate. One such statement appears to have concealed the forced resignations of U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, which was not confirmed by the Department as a forced (as opposed to voluntary) resignation until May 2007. On January 18, 2007, Kyle Sampson emailed the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Chief Counsel that “last year, eight USAs asked to resign” and further assured him, “per my prior reps to you, the number of USAs asked to resign in the last year won’t change: eight.” [FN113] Such misstatements hampered the Committee’s investigation by concealing Mr. Graves’ connection to the firing process while many hearings and interviews on the matter were conducted, and caused the Committee to expend substantial resources trying to learn which U.S. Attorneys had been forced to resign by the Department and which had not. [FN114]

Mr. Sampson also led the drafting of a letter send by Richard Hertling on February 23, 2007, to several U.S. Senators that inaccurately stated that “The Department is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin,” a letter that the Department subsequently acknowledged was in part “contradicted by Department documents.” [FN115] Mr. Sampson’s knowledge of the inaccuracy of his statement regarding Mr. Rove is shown by his prior email stating “getting [Mr. Griffin] appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc.” [FN116] Mr. Sampson’s effort to explain this contradiction to the Senate Judiciary Committee by claiming that he had merely assumed that the Griffin appointment was important to Mr. Rove, and had not truly “known” that fact, is hard to credit. White House information, and particularly documents of Mr. Rove, would be critical in determining whether Mr. Sampson’s statements on this issue were truthful.

Mr. Sampson’s testimony regarding reasons for the firings and the development and maintenance of the firing list may itself prove to have been false or incomplete. As described below, many of the reasons offered by Mr. Sampson for the removal of these U.S. Attorneys do not appear to hold up to scrutiny. [FN117] And Mr. Sampson’s inability to remember many important details of the process, including critical recent details such as who suggest that David Iglesias be placed on the firing list just months prior to Mr. Sampson’s testimony on the subject, is particularly troubling. [FN118] Finally, the Committee has some concern about the email described above, transmitted to Mr. Moschella as he was preparing to testify before this Committee, in which Mr. Sampson appeared to validate an inaccurate version of events.

[FN113] OAG 1805-06. [This and subsequent like citations refer to numbered documents provided by the Office of the Attorney General to the Committee – E.M.]
[FN114] The Attorney General’s prepared testimony to the House Judiciary Committee in May 2007 also suggested that only eight U.S. Attorneys had been fired, referencing “the decision to request the resignations of eight (of the 93) U.S. Attorneys,” although there appears to be no fair basis for excluding Mr. Graves from the discussion of these issues other than the fact that the Committee had not learned at that time that Mr. Graves’ resignation had been forced. See Alberto Gonzales May 10, 2007, H. Comm. on the Judiciary, Prepared Testimony at 2.
[FN115] Letter from Richard Hertling to John Conyers, Jr., Chairman, H. Comm. on the Judiciary, and Linda Sanchez, Chair, Subcomm. on Commercial and Admin. Law, Mar. 28, 2007.
[FN116] OAG 127
[FN117] See Section I.D.1 and I.D.2 below.
[FN118] Sampson, Apr. 15, 2007, Interview at 143.

Id., at pages 16-17.

In Section I.D.1 and I.D.2 referenced in footnote 117 above, the memorandum makes clear that Mr. Rove “raised the idea with officials in the White House Counsel’s office of replacing some or all of U.S. Attorneys[,] [FN135] and that “Mr. Rove’s request was forwarded to Kyle Sampson, then a deputy Chief of Staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who responded that most U.S. Attorneys ‘are doing a great job, are loyal Bushies, etc.’ and that even ‘piecemeal’ replacement of U.S. Attorneys would cause political upheaval. [FN137] The memorandum adds that with “‘That said.’ Mr. Sampson wrote, ‘if Karl thinks there would be political will to do it, then so do I.'” [FN138]

[FN135] OAG 180; Greenburg, E-mails Show Rove’s Role in U.S. Attorney Firings, ABC News, Mar. 15, 2007; Shapiro, Documents Show Justice Ranking US Attorney, NPR, Apr. 13, 2007 available at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyID=9575434.
* * *
[FN137] OAG 180.
[FN138] Id .

Rules Violated (Pursuant toRule 8.5. Disciplinary Authority; Choice of Law , Utah Rules of Professional Conduct):

  1. Rule 3.3 – Candor Toward the Tribunal – This Rule governed the practice of law in the District of Columbia from January 1, 1991, through January 31, 2007. As of February 1, 2007, the New Rules took effect.
  2. Rule 3.4 – Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel – This Rule governed the practice of law in the District of Columbia from January 1, 1991, through January 31, 2007. As of February 1, 2007, the New Rules took effect.
  3. Rule 3.4 – Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct (effective February 1, 2007)
  4. Rule 3.9 – Advocate in Nonadjudicative Proceedings – This Rule governed the practice of law in the District of Columbia from January 1, 1991, through January 31, 2007. As of February 1, 2007, the New Rules took effect.
  5. Rule 3.9 – Advocate in Non-adjudicative Proceedings of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct (effective February 1, 2007)
  6. Rule 4.1 – Truthfulness in Statements to Others – This Rule governed the practice of law in the District of Columbia from January 1, 1991, through January 31, 2007. As of February 1, 2007, the New Rules took effect.
  7. Rule 4.1 – Truthfulness in Statements to Others of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct (effective February 1, 2007)
  8. Rule 8.4 – Misconduct – This Rule governed the practice of law in the District of Columbia from January 1, 1991, through January 31, 2007. As of February 1, 2007, the New Rules took effect.

Providing Misleading Information in violation of Federal Law to Assistant Attorney General Richard Hertling which Sampson knew AAG Hertling would communicate to Congress

As noted in the previous allegation, Rep. Conyers reports that:

Mr. Sampson also led the drafting of a letter send by Richard Hertling on February 23, 2007, to several U.S. Senators that inaccurately stated that “The Department is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin,” a letter that the Department subsequently acknowledged was in part “contradicted by Department documents.” [FN115] Mr. Sampson’s knowledge of the inaccuracy of his statement regarding Mr. Rove is shown by his prior email stating “getting [Mr. Griffin] appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc.” [FN116] Mr. Sampson’s effort to explain this contradiction to the Senate Judiciary Committee by claiming that he had merely assumed that the Griffin appointment was important to Mr. Rove, and had not truly “known” that fact, is hard to credit. White House information, and particularly documents of Mr. Rove, would be critical in determining whether Mr. Sampson’s statements on this issue were truthful.

[FN115] Letter from Richard Hertling to John Conyers, Jr., Chairman, H. Comm. on the Judiciary, and Linda Sanchez, Chair, Subcomm. on Commercial and Admin. Law, Mar. 28, 2007.
[FN116] OAG 127

As further reported at TPMMuckraker.com:

“On February 23, acting Assistant Attorney General wrote Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other senators in response to questions about the appointment of Timothy Griffin, a former aide to Rove. In the letter, Hertling stated “The Department is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin.”

“But emails subsequently released by the Justice Department showed that wasn’t the case. Last December, for example, Sampson wrote in an email that Griffin’s appointment was “important to Harriet, Karl, etc.” Other emails showed that Rove’s deputy had been intimately involved in the effort to get Griffin installed as the U.S. Attorney in Eastern Arkansas.

“In a letter accompanying documents sent to Congress today, Hertling admits that the assertion in his letter isn’t true, adding, “We sincerely regret any inaccuracy.” And to answer questions about who was responsible for that inaccuracy, he accompanied his letter with 202 pages documents “reflecting the preparation and transmittal of the February 23 letter.”

“Among the documents is a February 8th email from Kyle Sampson providing what ultimately, with a few small revisions, comprised Hertling’s letter. And in that email Sampson wrote that Hertling should say, “I am not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the Attorney General’s decision to appoint Griffin.”

“Now, Hertling might not have known of Rove’s role in Griffin’s selection, but Sampson sure did.”

New Docs Show Sampson Behind Misleading Statement to Congress, TPMMuckraker.com, March 28, 2007.

White House OK’ed Sampson Statement on Rove, TPMMuckraker.com, March 28, 2007.

Rules Violated (Pursuant toRule 8.5. Disciplinary Authority; Choice of Law , Utah Rules of Professional Conduct):

  1. Rule 4.1 – Truthfulness in Statements to Others – This Rule governed the practice of law in the District of Columbia from January 1, 1991, through January 31, 2007. As of February 1, 2007, the New Rules took effect.
  2. Rule 4.1 – Truthfulness in Statements to Others of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct (effective February 1, 2007)
  3. Rule 8.4 – Misconduct – This Rule governed the practice of law in the District of Columbia from January 1, 1991, through January 31, 2007. As of February 1, 2007, the New Rules took effect.

Text and comments of the Utah and Washington, D.C., Rules of Professional Conduct violated by Mr. Sampson