U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey will address the Commonwealth Club of California at noon tomorrow in San Francisco’s Intercontinental Hotel on “how he has made public confidence in government a priority, and highlight the Justice Department’s success in investigating and prosecuting public corruption.”
But color U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., underwhelmed with Mukasey’s dedication to rooting out public corruption. She sent him a letter today asking him to explain the decision made earlier this month to disband and eliminate the public-corruption unit in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles; she worries whether pending and future cases of public corruption will be rigorously pursued given the reassignment of 17 lawyers away from this unit.
Of course, y’all could go ask Mukasey yourselves tomorrow. Tickets are available here; they’re $15 for club members or $30 for nonmembers, but premium seats in the first few rows costs $45 for members or $65 for nonmembers. The hotel is at 888 Howard St., and check-in starts at 11:15 a.m.; attendees will be subject to search, no bags or packages allowed.
UPDATE @ 1:35 P.M. THURSDAY: You can read Mukasey’s remarks as prepared for delivery here, on the Justice Department’s Web site. “Let me be clear: Politics has no role in the investigation or prosecution of political corruption or any other criminal offense, and I have seen absolutely no evidence of any such impropriety in my time at the Department, and would not tolerate it.”
Read the complete text of Feinstein’s letter, after the jump…
March 26, 2008
The Honorable Michael Mukasey
Attorney General of the United States
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Attorney General Mukasey:
I write to express my concern about the recent decision to eliminate the public corruption section in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
According to press reports, the 17 Assistant United States Attorneys assigned to the public corruption/environmental crimes unit in the Los Angeles office are being reassigned to other sections within the office. Public corruption cases will now apparently be mixed in with other types of cases and handled by a larger pool of prosecutors, rather than by a specialized section. Press articles have also mentioned the low morale and ill will that this decision has generated among prosecutors in the Los Angeles office, as well as the need to train new prosecutors to bring them up to speed on the complexities involved in corruption investigations.
While I respect the need for U.S. Attorney’s to make necessary management decisions, I have serious concerns about the potential impact of this change.
The decision raises serious questions about the future of public corruption cases, and whether they will be as vigorously pursued in the Central District of California especially given all the turn over and disruption that has occurred. And now, by eliminating the corruption unit, I am concerned that the Los Angeles office is sending a message that these cases will not receive sufficient attention, resources, and leadership.
Public corruption cases are ranked first on the FBI list of criminal priorities, ahead of fraud and organized crime – the units that will now apparently have the primary responsibility for prosecuting corruption cases in Los Angeles. There appears to be a disconnect between the FBI and the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s office on this issue. I want to ensure that these cases will be vigilantly pursued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
Please provide me with the Department of Justice’s rationale behind eliminating the public corruption unit in Los Angeles, including the specific facts, statistics, and circumstances that drove this decision. What initiated this decision? Who was consulted before making this decision? What was the role of Main Justice and the White House, if any? Did any of the DOJ’s prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section have any input into the decision-making process? How will this decision affect the public corruption cases that have been and are currently being investigated in Los Angeles?
I would appreciate your immediate attention to this issue, and look forward to your response to my letter.
United States Senator