As a follow-up to my posts (here and here) from last Thursday on the Washington Post’s outrageous front-page story alleging that senior DOJ political appointees improperly interfered with the government’s litigation against tobacco companies, here is the full text of a letter to the editor in today’s Post from two of the DOJ’s most distinguished career prosecutors. (I have italicized the most relevant passages.)
Regarding “Prosecutor Says Bush Appointees Interfered With Tobacco Case” [front page, March 22], which describes claims made by a former Justice Department employee that the department’s conduct of its Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case against the major tobacco companies was improperly influenced by political considerations:
One of us is the senior career official in the Justice Department’s criminal division, has served in the department for 56 years through Democratic and Republican administrations, and also served as the criminal division’s principal decision maker in the tobacco case during the relevant period. The other one of us is the career chief of the organized crime and racketeering section in the criminal division and has served at Justice for 16 years, also during Democratic and Republican administrations.
The allegations reported in the article are entirely groundless. The Justice decisions at issue adopted and followed the authoritative positions we developed and the specific recommendations we made and approved as senior career prosecutors in the criminal division, which by Justice regulation is vested with authority over enforcement of civil and criminal RICO. Those positions, recommendations and decisions were based entirely on legal considerations, not political ones — as the department’s office of professional responsibility, staffed exclusively with independent career attorneys, concluded after the matter was investigated.
Robert D. McCallum, Peter Keisler and Daniel Meron acted in accord with the highest, nonpartisan traditions of the department we serve by adhering to the law in the face of false accusations of the sort you recounted.
Deputy Assistant Attorney General
BRUCE G. OHR
Chief of the Organized Crime
and Racketeering Section
The Post’s ombudsman ought to be busy investigating how the Post’s reporter (who, it seems from her previous reporting on the case, surely must have known better) got it so wrong.