« Extraordinary | Main | Why Smart, Capable, Fully-Equal Women Need Free Stuff »

August 12, 2014

Obstruction at Justice

A while back, the Editorial Staff alerted the assembled villainry to what appeared to be a serious breath of legal ethics by the Obama Justice department:

...look who's defending the IRS in court!

Defending IRS commissioner John Koskinen against the claims of the pro-Israel group Z Street is Andrew Strelka — and before joining the Department of Justice’s civil-trial section, Strelka worked at the IRS for Lois Lerner, who was then the agency’s head of exempt organizations. As it happens, this is the very IRS division at which the mistreatment of Z Street is alleged to have occurred — and Strelka worked there at the very time Z Street’s application for tax-exempt status was being considered.

Scott Coffina, a partner at the Washington, D.C. law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath and a former Justice Department prosecutor says

Strelka’s representation could violate Washington, D.C.’s rules of professional conduct for lawyers in “several” ways, in particular the rule that prohibits a lawyer from representing a client in a matter where “The lawyer’s professional judgment on behalf of the client will be or reasonably may be adversely affected” by his personal interests.

...While at the IRS, documents indicate, Strelka was kept abreast of the agency’s targeting practices.

Today we learn that Herr. Strelka has been withdrawn as counsel, not just for the Z Street case, but in two other pending cases against the IRS:

It was fishy enough when Democratic donor Barbara Bosserman was appointed to lead the Justice Department investigation of IRS targeting of conservative groups. Now there are new questions about Justice's staffing choice on one of the private lawsuits brought against the IRS.

We've been telling you about the pro-Israel group Z Street, which sued the IRS in 2010 on grounds that the agency engaged in viewpoint discrimination when it singled out 501(c) groups with Israel-related missions for additional scrutiny. The case has been handled by Justice Department trial attorney Andrew Strelka, who previously worked in the IRS office run by Lois Lerner that handled tax-exempt applications.

... Mr. Strelka was thus both Justice's lawyer on the case and potentially a witness.

...We say "was" because recently Mr. Strelka was withdrawn as the Justice Department's counsel of record on the Z Street case. A review of court dockets showed that he has also withdrawn from two other cases involving tax-exempt groups, including Judicial Watch's suit against the IRS.

...Cleta Mitchell, who represents conservative groups who saw their applications for tax-exempt status slow-tracked, says she talked to Mr. Strelka when he was at the IRS starting in June and July of 2010 about a client whose tax-exempt application was delayed. After applying for 501(c)(4) status in October 2009, the client heard nothing until June 2010, when Mr. Strelka asked to see ads the group had run that were critical of Administration health-care policy.

This means Mr. Strelka was directly engaged in the policies at the Exempt Organizations Unit that led to the lawsuits charging the agency with viewpoint discrimination. Under the Rules of Professional Conduct, barring special exceptions, "A lawyer shall not act as advocate at a trial in which the lawyer is likely to be a necessary witness."

We are shocked... SHOCKED, we tell you, to find unethical behavior going on in this administration. Fortunately, at any moment our Constitutional Law Prez should be along to clean house.

Then again, perhaps not:

The highly visible wartime vacation (Obama allowed himself to be photographed on a putting green Saturday with NBA star Ray Allen and retired pro-football player Ahmad Rashad) was not looking any better Monday as Iraq’s political crisis worsened, NATO’s chief declared a “high probability” of Russian military intervention in Ukraine and Gaza remained on a knife edge.

By Monday afternoon, the crises had forced Obama to revise his schedule. The White House announced that the president, after returning from the beach, would make an unscheduled statement about Iraq. He freshened up at his 8,100-square-foot vacation home, then stepped outside, in a blue blazer and open collar; his aides wisely chose a wooded backdrop rather than one with the infinity pool and the sweeping water views. Obama finished his four-minute statement and then hopped in his motorcade for the ride to a Democratic fundraiser.

...Criticism from Clinton. War with the Islamic State. Trouble with Maliki. It’s enough to make a man hook his drive into the sand trap.

Don't worry, folks. America's IG Corps are still hard at work:

The 47 IGs minced no words: “Each of us strongly supports the principle that an inspector general must have complete, unfiltered, and timely access to all information and materials available to the agency that relate to that IG’s oversight activities, without unreasonable administrative burdens. The importance of this principle, which was codified by Congress in Section 6(a)(1) of the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended (the IG Act), cannot be overstated. Refusing, restricting, or delaying an IG's access to documents leads to incomplete, inaccurate, or significantly delayed findings or recommendations, which in turn may prevent the agency from promptly correcting serious problems and deprive Congress of timely information regarding the agency’s performance.”

Three specific examples were described in the IGs' letter, including blatant obstruction of important investigations at the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Justice and the Peace Corps.

... The experience of Justice Department IG Michael Horowitz is especially outrageous. In a Senate hearing in April, Horowitz said his office must go through Attorney General Eric Holder to gain access to DOJ documents and officials. Giving Holder the power to veto an IG’s access in that manner egregiously violates the 1978 law and other statutes. Obstruction like Holder’s risks “leaving the agencies insulated from scrutiny and unacceptably vulnerable to mismanagement and misconduct – the very problems that our offices were established to review and that the American people expect us to be able to address,” the IGs said in their letter to Congress.


Posted by Cassandra at August 12, 2014 08:48 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Surprise (!?!)

Posted by: CAPT Mike at August 12, 2014 10:53 AM

The only thing that continues to surprise me about these folks is just how brazen they are, and how contemptuous of the public they are sworn to serve.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 12, 2014 01:48 PM

I'm not.

As long as brazen action is met by the public with a collective yawn, it'll continue to get even more brazen. Hell, just objecting to this stuff gets you marked as the enemy who deserves even more abuse.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 12, 2014 03:18 PM

Hmmm.... so what you're saying is that I should be worried about all those .gov hits on this post?

Posted by: Cassandra at August 12, 2014 03:33 PM

Anyone who makes a big enough stink should.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 12, 2014 04:03 PM

Well, I'm long past the days of getting 2000 visits a day :p

Posted by: Cassandra at August 12, 2014 04:09 PM

But for us small fish, even in the highly unlikely event of an inappropriate audit, we certainly wouldn't be viewed sympathetically.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 12, 2014 04:11 PM

Well, at the very least it'll then go right along with the looks of disgust, disdain and vile contempt they would be receiving from me.
So, everybody's happy!

Posted by: DL Sly at August 12, 2014 04:33 PM

Totally expected. The term "Strelka" is a slavic word meaning rifle or firearm in general, but has a specific negative connotation in Russian -- member of the Streltsy.

The Streltsy were a class of armed Russians who functioned as a Praetorian Guard in the medieval court of Moscow. Like the Praetorians in Rome, they held the true reins of power in Muscovy and raised or deposed Tsars at their whim. They were considered corrupt and oppressors of the people.

One of the Tsars, one of the Ivans iirc, finally exterminated them and centralized power in the person of the Tsar. The modern connotation of Streltsy, is a picture of a corrupt, petty tyrant of low moral character --cruel, greedy, and grasping in his ways.

Seems to work in this instance also.

Posted by: a former european at August 12, 2014 08:43 PM

Heh. I see future irony in this; Obama is undermining Dem senate candidates.
Will be pretty funny to watch him work w majority leader McConnell
Another heh.
Ginsberg won't be able to retire!

Posted by: CAPT Mike at August 18, 2014 04:24 AM