Has Anyone Asked Alice?

Every single time the name Alice Fisher appears in a potential DOJ corruption story? My spidey sense goes off.

In this particular case, with the intersection of Alice Fisher, Jack Abramoff, Robert Coughlin and the DOJ’s vaunted criminal division?  That’s where it starts getting interesting:

In a filing (PDF) Sunday, the government said Robert Coughlin II, the only Justice Department official to face charges in the Abramoff probe, would not be called as a witness at trial. Coughlin is a former lawyer in the Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison and was deputy chief of staff in the Criminal Division under then-AAG Alice Fisher.

He was also Ring’s prized contact in Main Justice, helping the lobbyist with the Choctaw matter, among others, in return for free concert tickets, luxury seats at sporting events, meals and golf outings. Coughlin pleaded guilty to a conflict of interest charge.

But Coughlin told prosecutors during a mock cross-examination last week that he was unfairly targeted for prosecution and that “the things of value Mr. Ring gave him did not influence his official actions,” according to a government letter to Ring’s lawyers.

Now, I have no way of knowing whether Coughlin is trying to sandbag the DOJ’s case against Ring.

But it’s awfully odd for a former deputy chief of staff at DOJ’s Criminal Division to disregard the contents of his criminal plea so blatantly (PDF):

On April 22, 2008, Coughlin pleaded guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. §§ 208 and 216(a)(2).  Among other things, Coughlin admitted under oath that he accepted things of value from Ring, things that Coughlin understood were paid for by Greenberg Traurig LLP (GT). Coughlin also swore to taking official actions that benefited Ring and his clients. For example, as outlined in the factual basis for his proffer,

Coughlin provided information, made recommendations, rendered advice, set up and attended meetings at DOJ and with lobbying clients, expedited DOJ action, strategized about how to reverse a previous DOJ decision about an application for a $16.3 million grant, and otherwise participated personally and substantially as a government officer, in particular matters in which [Ring] was lobbying DOJ. (Ex. 1 at 3 (specifying particular official actions).) One of those—helping to expedite review of the Eshkol Academy’s application to the INS to admit nonimmigrant students—predicated the illegal gratuity charged in Count II.

In fact, Coughlin quite pointedly admitted under oath that he “had a financial interest in the particular matters about which [Ring] and [GT] contacted him because [Ring] was providing him with a stream of things of value for and because of Coughlin’s official actions in connection with the successful lobbying efforts.” (Id. at 8.) Coughlin failed to report the things of value Ring gave him, though he was required to do so. (Id.) Coughlin also swore that when he left his position at the DOJ’s Office of Intergovernmenal and Public Liaison (OIPL) and was no longer in a position to help, “Ring abruptly curtailed buying him meals, drinks and tickets—only to reconnect as soon as . . . Coughlin returned to Main Justice.” (Id.)

Coughlin’s current whining about unfair prosecution is a bizarre deviation from what he had previously said.  Under oath and as the basis for his plea of guilty, mind you. 

And to do so right before trial? I smell something nasty in the works.

Where’s Alice Fisher in all of this? Especially given all of her conflicts of interest questions with Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, Barbara Comstock and others? Good question.  Since not nearly enough of the internal decision-making on why so many others were NOT charged has yet to come out publicly.

Especially when you also add a former top aide to John Ashcroft into the mix.

Oh what a mangled web you weave…

11 Responses to "Has Anyone Asked Alice?"
Christy Hardin Smith | Monday September 14, 2009 05:30 am 1

Intriguing stuff, I have to say. Will keep an ear to the ground on this one…

demi | Monday September 14, 2009 06:07 am 2

Good Morning, Christy.
It’s not just the Alice you featured in the photo above. Do you remember the A. A. Milne poem, They’re changing guards at Buckingham Palace? Christopher Robin went down with Alice?
I think there’s a Go Ask Alice line in there somewhere.
Changing guards. Same prizes. But, let’s not be so cynical, here, dear. He said those things of value did not influence him, didn’t he? And, maybe he was referring to things of value, like a good solid friendship? I couldn’t help myself with that last line. Honor among theives, and all.
Another Monday. Another week. Another set of inquires. We’re off and running.

Christy Hardin Smith | Monday September 14, 2009 06:17 am 3
In response to demi @ 2

It really is an odd about face from the plea proffer to the current one, isn’t it? So many potential motivations, so few solid answers.

demi | Monday September 14, 2009 06:25 am 4

And, I can’t help wondering what could have changed. Is there an undercurrent of a new day at the DOJ? Is there any possibility that with the changing of the guard, there might be some justice coming down the pikes? Or, did he hear from Jack that things in the slammer really aren’t as pleasant as on the outside?
Yes, please do keep that ear to the ground. I’m sure you’ll share.
How’s Monday in WV? It’s finally cooler here. Thankfully. It’s hard to crave apple cider when it’s still 100 +, and, as much as we humans dislike change, I’m ready for fall. Even though it’s not as dramatic a change here as it is in your neck of the woods. We have to buy colored autumn leaves for center pieces. *g*

Christy Hardin Smith | Monday September 14, 2009 06:27 am 5
In response to demi @ 4

It’s gorgeous here this morning. Cool at the moment, but will warm up considerably by this afternoon. Blue skies, lots of sunshine and newly filled bird feeders with lots of visitors.

I’ve moved my computer desk back into the sun room finally and I’m loving having my view back again.

demi | Monday September 14, 2009 06:41 am 6
In response to Christy Hardin Smith @ 5

I had forgotton about the compurter move when your fil moved in. Good for you. Mines in the living room, but I have a view out the sliding glass door, in front of where the grave vines have been growing. It was great to watch the birdies and squirrlies pecking and snatching the fruit. Nice to have a view of nature while we’re Taking Care of Business.

Christy Hardin Smith | Monday September 14, 2009 06:58 am 7
In response to demi @ 6

It is very nice. The view from these windows is so beautiful when the leaves begin to turn color and especially when it snows.

TheOtherWA | Monday September 14, 2009 07:35 am 8

Since Coughlin won’t be sentenced until November, isn’t it kind of stupid to renege on his guilty plea? I’m thinking he might get an extra long sentence if he keeps this up.

RevBev | Monday September 14, 2009 06:26 pm 10

This is so late…but to really make your stomach churn….seeTom Delay’s preview for his star dancing gig….or, Don’t. O my.

allan | Monday September 14, 2009 08:11 pm 11

Now hold on one gosh darn minute. According to NPR,

Then the other kind of resignation by those who have just had enough. The latest of these voluntary departures is Alice Fisher, the respected head of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department.

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