July 30, 2007

The Sticky Problem of Being a Mob Lawyer

During a conversation I had with a friend recently, he brought up the interesting point that lawyers for scandal-ridden Presidents frequently get it caught in a wringer themselves. Many of us are old enough to remember John Mitchell, Nixon's avuncular, pipe-smoking attorney general (and we remember too his batshit crazy wife), and of course John Dean (who now operates in his post-Extreme Makeover Mode), who was Nixon's White House counsel before turning rat fink. They both were convicted of multiple felonies and both did federal time. And now we watch Alberto Gonzales twist and turn in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, up to his eyeballs in Bushian misprision and illegality, shucking and jiving his way through one hearing after another as he tries to extricate himself from perjury, illegal spying, conspiracy charges and God knows what else. Just on a professional-peer note: I wonder what the hell Gonzo is thinking. What makes him believe he can go in front of a panel full of ex-prosecutors and wing it, making up answers that can easily be checked against other, live witnesses and voluminous documentation? One must conclude that this little datum, all by itself, probably indicates that Alberto is in way over his head.

I think anyone who wants to take on the job of Attorney General for George W. Bush should probably consult first with Bruce Cutler, noted mouthpiece for many New York Mafia figures, including John Gotti. I would imagine that Mr. Cutler is a virtual gold mine of useful, practical information on safely representing the compulsive criminal mentality. The first thing that Cutler would have told Gonzo is that while a lawyer definitely represents a client, first and foremost he is engaged to resolve the client's problem. There is a real difference. Failure to maintain that professional distance is the path to certain ruin, especially when representing clients, like the principal members of the Bush Administration, who obviously have an inclination toward breaking the law. I doubt that Bruce Cutler ever has any illusions about the personalities he represents; if he did, he'd be in jail too, and his career, of course, has been marked by efforts of the prosecutors to go after him personally. Because of Bruce, and his withering cross-examinations of prosecution witnesses (which the New York papers took to calling "Brucifying" the witness), Gotti beat three federal raps. He acquired the moniker the "Teflon Don" because of Cutler's skill. Finally, the New York prosecutors succeeded in getting Cutler disqualified from the fourth (and last) Gotti trial on the ground he was effectively the "house counsel" to the Gambino crime family, and then the Teflon got scratched and the Don went down hard.

Gonzo doesn't see that his patron, George W. Bush, is a dangerous client. That's where Cutler's tutelage could have been so instructive. Bush, when confronted with two paths which lead to the same result, one legal and one illegal, will compulsively choose the illegal way. I don't think this is an exaggeration. Consider the FISA law, which Bush began routinely, and feloniously, violating in late 2001. His private opinion of this quaint federal statute banning wiretapping on a domestic basis without the rubber-stamp approval of the FISA court was that it was too "onerous" and antiquated for modern high-speed communications. Maybe there was something to this; if so, the submissive Congress, dominated at the time with Republicans and Democrats who were willing to agree to anything that looked anti-terrorist, would gladly have amended the statute (Bush is now seeking, in 2007, just such an amendment). Instead, Bush simply went ahead with illegal wiretapping. He gave Alberto the thankless job of coming up with a rationale, and the best Gonzo could do was to say that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (passed in a sweaty panic on September 18, 2001) must have made it OK. The AUMF stated, in relevant part, "(a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons." Well, I think Representative Jerry Nadler was on to something when he called this reasoning "specious." Indeed, "specious" is a pretty tame word. And the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan pretty much finished off this line of "reasoning;" the AUMF was not a blank check for violations of the FISA law and the Fourth Amendment, or for that matter, torture and Bush's abolition of due process for anyone of Muslim faith. And don't forget, Gonzo, that when your amigo Bush desperately rammed through the Military Commissions Act in 2006, as the Republican train was leaving the station, he included that little gem, incorporated from the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which provided “good faith reliance on advice of counsel that interrogation practices were not unlawful could serve as an affirmative defense in a criminal prosecution for abuse of detainees." Suh-weet, huh? Yeah, sweet. For everybody except you, Gonzo. You're the counsel. You and John Yoo and Bruce Bybee and Addington and the rest of Torquemada's Law Firm. See how clients can hang you out to dry when you don't maintain that distance?

So, now you're really in a jam. Bruce Cutler had to endure a little punishment for contempt because of some intemperate remarks he hurled at a judge, but you can't say he ever got snared in the same net as the Gambinos. They were the RICO defendants; he was the lawyer. Nice, clear lines of demarcation. That's quite an accomplishment; after all, he had to get paid, and that money came from somewhere (places he probably didn't want to think about). But you, Alberto, you don't have the drill down. No one from the White House will even go on Fox News now to defend you. On Fox News. The House wants to impeach you, the Senate wants to try you for perjury. All because, dutiful soldier that you are, you tried to hide the shenanigans about the U.S. Attorney firings from the Senate. You tried to conceal the palace revolt at Justice caused by the "Terrrorist Surveillance Program" (aka, "illegal wiretapping").

Gonzo, look: in case you're Googling for a lifeline and you come across this, take this advice. Get away from those people. They're using you. They've been using you. You don't really seem like a bad guy. You're just too malleable, too trusting, too certain of Bush's good intentions. Do what a man considerably smarter than you, John Dean, did. Turn state's evidence. Cooperate with your tormentors. Otherwise, after they take your belt and shoelaces, you're going to have to use your last dime to call Bruce Cutler.

1 comment:

  1. Buhbb5:11 PM

    Bravo Hesch. Well researched...and dam'n good advice