If my friend Rachel Paulose were a liberal Democrat, she would be a celebrity. Serving as the United States attorney for Minnesota, she is the first woman, the first immigrant (Indian), the first Asian, and, at age 34, the youngest attorney ever to hold the position. A graduate of Yale Law School, she has compiled an impressive academic record and stellar professional credentials. She’s not a liberal Democrat, however, she is a conservative Republican, and she has been the subject of an old-fashioned, low-tech media lynching.
After graduation from law school, Paulose clerked for Chief Judge James Loken at the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. After her clerkship she entered the Justice Department’s Honors Program and worked as a trial attorney in the department’s civil-rights division. Returning home to Minnesota, she worked for three years as a federal prosecutor in the office she now heads. Heading back to Washington, she worked at Williams and Connolly with David Kendall (the Clintons’ personal attorney) before heading back to the Justice Department where she worked as senior counsel to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty.
When United States Attorney Tom Heffelfinger resigned as the United States attorney for Minnesota, Paulose was appointed to succeed him in March 2006. She has served since then in that capacity and was confirmed unanimously by the Senate after midnight just before the adjournment of the last Congress. Since the Bush administration’s firing of eight United States attorneys in December 2006 was turned into a faux scandal of epic proportions, Paulose has become a target of career prosecutors in her office.
In a page-one story earlier this week, the New York Times framed Paulose’s continued service as raising a test of new Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The Times more or less called on the Mukasey to fire Paulose. Among the counts in the Times’s bill of particulars against Paulose, she was deemed “representative of much that went wrong at the department under Alberto R. Gonzales” (although it also acknowledged that she “has not been accused of bringing politically motivated prosecutions.”) So how is she a symbol of much that went wrong under Gonzales? She was named to her post in part because she is a Republican; the Times is apparently unfamiliar with the nature of political appointments. In the “are you now or have you ever been?” category beloved by the Times, Paulose is also identified as a member of the Federalist Society.
The Times rehashes the story that “Paulose is the focus of a wide-ranging investigation by the Office of Special Counsel.” This seems a grandiose characterization of the charge that Paulose retaliated against the office’s former first assistant by demoting him after he reported her for a purported security violation. Paulose has never responded publicly to leaked accounts of the charge. In fact, according to Paulose, she self-reported the incident to the Justice Department and was absolved of any security violation. As for the alleged retaliation, the Times omits to mention that the first assistant voluntarily resigned his managerial position to return to his post as assistant United States attorney, as the Times itself reported in its aptly headlined April 7, 2007, story “Deputies to a U.S. Attorney step down.” Did the former first assistant retaliate against himself?
The Times recites that Paulose is also charged with having “used a racial epithet in reference to another employee.” I’ve known Rachel for ten years. For those of us who know her, the allegation is absurd on its face. Among other things, Rachel is herself an Indian-American immigrant sensitive to racial slights. I’ve never heard Rachel utter a swear word or cast a racial aspersion. In her first on the record statement regarding this charge, Paulose states: “I NEVER made any such statement. I have told the department so, and the department is defending me against this outrageous and defamatory lie.”
Paulose adds: “The McCarthyite hysteria that permits the anonymous smearing of any public servant who is now, or ever may have been, a member of the Federalist Society; a person of faith; and/or a conservative (especially a young, conservative woman of color) is truly a disservice to our country.”
The Times story had additional counts in the indictment against Paulose. She is said to have embraced the Bush administration’s law-enforcement priorities, including the administration’s call for aggressive prosecution of child pornographers and criminals involved in human trafficking. Here Paulose pleads guilty, taking special pride in the tripling of child-pornography cases and the 32 trafficking indictments brought by the office under her leadership, including perhaps the largest pending trafficking case in the country. Indeed, trafficking expert and National Review Online contributor Donna Hughes of the University of Rhode Island testifies that Paulose “has quickly become one of the leading anti-trafficking prosecutors in the country.” Hughes adds: “That alone is enough to make her the subject of attack.”
Paulose now stands accused by the Times of having embraced the prosecutorial priorities of the Bush administration. The Times puts it this way: “It was Mr. Heffelfinger’s abrupt departure as United States attorney in February last year that led to the initial suspicion that Ms. Paulose had been sent to Minneapolis to serve Mr. Gonzales’s agenda rather than that of career prosecutors in the office.” The Times has things backwards; it either labors under, or desires to promulgate, a basic misunderstanding. The office of the United States attorney does not exist to serve the agenda of career prosecutors. It is proper for the president and attorney general to set law-enforcement priorities and for their appointees to implement them. Indeed, refusing to do so is insubordinate. (One could add another count to the indictment against her; Paulose believes in the administration’s prosecutorial priorities.)
In short, the Times finds the gravamen of the case against Paulose in her implementation of the priorities of her superiors and heedlessness to the dictates of her subordinates. In its own peculiar way, the Times seems to have lurched into the truth of the case against Paulose: It presents a test for Michael Mukasey after all, but it is one that he will pass only by standing behind her.
— Scott W. Johnson is a Minneapolis attorney and contributor to Power Line.