Chairman Conyers: AG Mukasey Must Answer Congress about New Hampshire Phone Jamming

Today, Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers demanded answers from the Justice Department about allegations that Department officials delayed a key indictment in the New Hampshire Phone Jamming case to minimize the political impact of the scandal on the 2004 election.

Justice Department delayed prosecuting Republican official for jamming Democrats' phones
Greg Gordon, McClatchy Newspapers – December 19, 2007

The Justice Department delayed prosecuting a key Republican official for jamming the phones of New Hampshire Democrats until after the 2004 election.

An official with detailed knowledge of the investigation into the 2002 Election Day scheme said the inquiry sputtered for months after a prosecutor sought approval to indict James Tobin, the Northeast regional coordinator for the Republican National Committee.

The phone-jamming operation was aimed at preventing New Hampshire Democrats from rounding up voters in the close U.S. Senate race between Rep. John Sununu, a Republican, and Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat.

Questions about that issue were raised in a letter that Conyers and other Judiciary Committee Members sent on October 3 to Acting Attorney General Keisler, and press reports yesterday include statements by a knowledgable official confirming the allegations. Today’s letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey demands answers to the questions posed in the first letter and seeks relevant documents and access to Department officials with knowledge of the events.

Full text of the letter:

December 20, 2007

The Honorable Michael Mukasey
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

On October 3, I (along with several other Members of the House Judiciary Committee) wrote to Acting Attorney General Keisler regarding the Justice Department's handling of the New Hampshire phone jamming case and other matters (letter enclosed). In that case, Republican political operatives jammed the telephones of the New Hampshire Democratic Party and Manchester Fire Fighters Association on Election Day 2002, in an effort to disrupt get out the vote operations. Although over two months have passed, I have yet to receive any response to the questions posed in that letter.

One concern about the Department's handling of the New Hampshire matter stated in that letter is that Department officials may have intentionally delayed the indictment of James Tobin, the 2002 Northeast Regional Director for the Republican National Committee, until after the 2004 Presidential election to minimize the political impact of the indictment on Republican electoral interests. That decision allowed Mr. Tobin to serve the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign through virtually the entire 2004 election cycle — indeed, if a journalist had not publicly exposed Mr. Tobin's role in this serious election day misconduct(a role that was well-known to the Justice Department officials controlling the timing of the indictment), it appears that Mr. Tobin would have served the campaign on Election Day itself.

Now, important new information has come to light that corroborates that exact allegation and raises further suspicion about the other issues that the Judiciary Committee has been investigating. According to the McClatchy newswire, an official “with detailed knowledge of the investigation” confirms that “senior” officials of the Department “slowed the inquiry,” which “protect[ed] top GOP officials from the scandal until the voting was over.”1 The McClatchy piece contains a detailed timeline of these events, asserting that the frontline prosecutor handling this case aggressively pressed for action, but that various Justice Department officials ordered delays, moved slowly on requests for action, and resisted his efforts to expand the probe.

These charges are of great concern to me. As you know, the United States Attorney firing scandal has revealed that former Department leadership brought an unreasonable and improper focus on political considerations into Department decisionmaking, and that political officials at the White House had unprecedented and entirely improper access to Department officials (a policy that I appreciate your timely steps to correct). That problem appears to have infected personnel decisions at both the career and political level, and there is grave concern that it may have led to politically selective prosecutions such as the bringing of questionable indictments of Democratic officials or discouraging meritorious prosecutions of Republicans. Our investigation into the firing of David Iglesias has revealed direct political pressure on the U.S. Attorney regarding the timing of an indictment to serve Republican electoral interests, charges that resonate in the McClatchy New Hampshire story described above.

Against this backdrop, it is clear that the Judiciary Committee must press on with its investigation of this serious matter. Accordingly, in furtherance of the Committee's investigation, and in accord with the March 29th agreement between the Department and the Committee in which the Department previously made top officials available to the Committee under mutually agreeable procedures, I request information and documents and the taking of interviews in this matter.

While some Department officials involved in the matter are known to us, many others are not. Accordingly, as a first step in scheduling productive interviews, I request a list of all Department personnel, current and former, who had input into the decisions whether to investigate the phone jamming matter and the scope of any such investigation, and all Department personnel, current and former, who had input into the decision whether to bring any indictments in the phone jamming matter, including the scope and timing of any such indictments. Please include the title and dates of Department service for each such person.

In addition, I request that the Department produce to the Judiciary Committee all documents in its possession relevant to the approval, timing, and scope of any indictments in this matter, and all documents relevant to the approval, timing, and scope of the Department's investigation of these issues, including both internal documents and communications with other government officials and private parties

I am hopeful that we can proceed together in a cooperative and voluntary manner on this important issue. Accordingly, please provide the list of personnel requested above no later than Friday December 28, 2007, so that interviews can be timely scheduled in the new year, and please produce the requested documents and a complete response to my October 3, 2007, letter no later than Friday, January 5, 2008. Responses should be directed to the Judiciary Committee office, 2138 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 (tel: 202-225-3951; fax: 202-225-7680). Thank you for your cooperation.


John Conyers, Jr.

cc: Hon. Lamar S. Smith
Hon. Jerrold Nadler
Hon. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott
Hon. Linda T. Sánchez
Hon. Trent Franks
Hon. Louie Gohmert
Hon. Chris Cannon
Hon. Paul Hodes
Hon. Brian Benczkowski

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