In 2015, I retired from the United States Department of Justice after more than 25 years of service as an Assistant United States Attorney. Counting five additional years as an Air Force JAG circuit prosecutor, I am proud to be able to claim three decades of service helping to enforce the laws of this country.
I had planned to serve longer, but instead retired a year short of my full retirement date, as that date was defined by Social Security computations. The reasons for my premature departure had nothing to do with the extraordinary people with whom it was my great pleasure to work, at least in the “worker bee” ranks. I loved almost all of the other prosecutors, administrative and support staff, and especially the heroic men and women of law enforcement at the local, state, and federal levels.
The reason I left the job I loved had everything to do with the corruption of the Department of Justice by the Obama/Holder/Lynch administration into something almost unrecognizable. Instead of honoring their oaths to uphold the laws of the United States, these individuals and their minions chose to ignore the laws with which they had political or philosophical differences, whether those laws concerned immigration, national security, or drug or weapons crimes. It seemed as though every policy decision inflicted upon the nation by the administration was driven—not by a motivation to keep the country safe and secure—but by this clique’s stated desire to reform the nation into something that they preferred for political—and often racial—reasons. I also became increasingly convinced that the Department’s ethics were compromised at the highest levels.
Politics is very properly recognized as an infection in the bloodstream of justice. Bias has no place in the adjudication of law if lady justice is to remain truly blind. Even DOJ’s own website ends its Departmental Ethics Office page on conflicts of interest with the following warning to its employees:
“Title 28, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 45.2, prohibits a DOJ employee, without written authorization, from participating in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with any person or organization substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation or prosecution, or any person or organization which he knows has a specific and substantial interest that would be directly affected by the outcome of the investigation or prosecution.”
That same webpage reminds employees against participating in any matter in which he has a financial interest, and instructs that “in addition to an employee's own financial interest, certain interests are considered his (“imputed” to him), such as those of his spouse, minor children and business partners.”
These Departmental regulations supplement the canons of ethics of every state bar, which also instruct attorneys to avoid even the appearance of impropriety arising from conflicts of interest. Every attorney working for DOJ is required to maintain a license and good standing with at least one state bar organization.
Against this backdrop, consider the following:
Eric Holder accepted his appointment as Attorney General despite having been associated with a law firm defending detainees at Guantanamo Bay, knowing that he would have to make decisions at DOJ on those same and/or related cases.
His successor, Loretta Lynch, met privately with the husband of the target of an ongoing investigation in an aircraft on the tarmac of an airport. Former President Clinton is very probably also a target of the same investigation.
Deputy Director of the FBI McCabe remains associated with the Clinton email investigation despite the fact that his wife was chosen by Clinton ally Terry McCauliffe to run for a Virginia state senate race, and McCauliffe’s PAC then funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds to McCabe’s spouse.
Deputy Attorney General Peter Kadzik remains associated with the Clinton investigation despite the fact that he is a close and longtime friend of Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, once even represented Podesta in a criminal investigation, and — according to leaked emails quoting Podesta — kept Podesta “out of jail.” Podesta has emerged as a central figure and potential co-conspirator in the Clinton email and foundation scandals.
I worked hundreds of criminal cases during my career as a prosecutor. Many of those matters involved defendants who were represented by “solo practitioner” defense attorneys. It was not at all unusual for a defense counsel, upon his or her first review of an investigation file, to call me and say that he or she would have to withdraw from the case because Mr. X — a witness against the new defendant — had been a client of that same defense attorney in a former case.
These were not lawyers earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in a guaranteed salary at the highest levels of the Department of Justice. They were often attorneys working case-to-case (the equivalent of paycheck to paycheck), and had a very real financial interest in staying on as many cases as they could handle. Despite that financial pressure, the vast majority of these attorneys did the right thing as soon as they saw even the appearance of a conflict of interest. They recused themselves and withdrew, forfeiting the potential of often sizeable paychecks.
The above-cited examples of the collapses of ethics at the current, hyper-political DOJ are readily evident conflicts which would be recognized by first-year law students after their first two hours of ethics classes. A neutral examiner would not hesitate to question whether the officials involved should retain their positions, and even their law licenses. This version of the Department of Justice appears to have a conflict of interest with the very notion of ethical practices.
Charles Ambrose is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, a former USAF JAG officer, and served for twenty-five years as an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia and in the Western District of Missouri. He is the author—under his pen name Marc Rainer—of a series of contemporary, historical, crime novels. The latest book, “A Winter of Wolves,” was just released and is available on Amazon.com.