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…

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