Last week a BIG story broke. So far it is under the radar, but that will change.
McClatchy Newspapers broke the story, and explained why this might be a problem for the Bush DoJ:
Making the situation more awkward for the embattled Justice Department, Robert E. Coughlin II was deputy chief of staff for the criminal division, which is overseeing the department's probe of Abramoff.
Coughlin resigned on April 6 and since then the probe of the Abramoff scandal has been reinvigorated—as if an obstacle or a blockage to justice has been removed.
Coughlin was a gate keeper, a Republican scandal traffic cop. He made sure that everybody did the slow walk in slow motion.
But he was more than that; he was a young Prince of the Right.
To the jump...
Back in the day—way back in the day, folks who suffered a disgrace in the East would pull up stakes and leave town. Often they would mark their old homes with a GTT, short for Gone to Texas.
That is just what young Master Coughlin has done:
When contacted at his home in Washington, Coughlin said he resigned voluntarily because he was relocating to Texas. "I was not asked to resign," he said in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers. "It's important to me that it's made clear that I left voluntarily."
He said he couldn't comment on the Abramoff investigation or on whether he has a job lined up in Texas. And he declined to say where he was moving to in Texas. He referred all other questions to friend Michael Horowitz.
After George W. Bush, does Texas really need any more Yankee scoundrels moving to the Lone Star State?
Maybe young Master Coughlin will be a ranch hand on W’s Dude Ranch for the Wayward Sons of the Privileged, but I digress.
Now, it may be a coincidence that right after Coughlin resigned the long stalled Abramoff investigation suddenly heated up on many fronts, but I doubt it.
Take a look at this timeline:
- Friday, April 6: Couglin Resigns from Department of Justice.
- Monday, April 9: It is reported that Abramoff is talking in hopes of a shorter prison sentence for his Sun Cruz crimes.
- Friday, April 13: Kevin Ring Resigns from his law firm.
- Friday, April 13: John and Julie Doolittle’s home is raided by the FBI.
- Friday, April 20: Doolittle steps down from seat on Appropriations Committee.
- Friday, April 20: Doolittle starts a defense fund.
- Monday, April 23: Zachares Guilty Plea is announced
- Tuesday, April 24: Zachares pleas guilty and announces cooperation with prosecutors.
- Tuesday, April 24: The Zachares plea ties Rep. Tom Feeney (FL-24) to the Abramoff scandal
- Wednesday, April 25: The Houston Chronicle reports that the Abramoff investigation is closing in on Ed Buckham and Tom DeLay.
- Friday, April 27: The news of Coughlin’s April 6 resignation breaks.
- Sunday, April 29: Reporters start connecting the dots in the the Zachares plea to link Rep. Don Young (AK-AL) to the Abramoff scandal.
- Monday, April 30: Reporters start connecting the dots in the the Zachares plea to a suppressed 2002 Guam/CNMI security report.
And this timeline is missing developments in the Rick Renzi scandal, the White house emails and Susan Ralston subpoenas, and the mounting evidence linking the Abramoff and Attorney Purge scandals through yet another scam to exploit tribal land and steal natural resources from Native Americans.
After months and months of slow walking, the Abramoff task force seems to be on the move.
We have ourselves to thank for that. It was the attention that we gave to the purge of US Attorneys that has turned the tide. That and Democratic control of the 110th Congress.
And it is a good thing that the investigation is on the move because there are a lot of crimes and cover-ups waiting to be revealed.
Everything in the Bush White House is about political control—especially Justice—and ways to obstruct it. That is how they play the game. And every key player in the Republican Party has been implicated in this ongoing assault on our legal system and the Constitution.
For example, take John McCain.
As soon as the beltway media darling started to review the Abramoff scandal, it was clear that any investigation had to be slow-walked. McCain did his part. He dragged out his investigation. He designed an investigation that would function as a cover-up. He shaped the scandal narrative to a narrow focus. He protected his Party through two election cycles and helped Bush stay in office. And he suppressed tens of thousands of pages of evidence.
McCain received over 750,000 pages of documents related to Jack Abramoff, his work and his connections in and out of government. So far only about 8,000 or less have been released. Here is a snapshot:
There are a lot of crimes embedded in the documents McCain suppressed. I hope that the Democrats in the 110th Congress are correcting McCain’s error and are actually reviewing the massive pile of documents. More than that, I hope they will release them to the public.
As good as he was, Bush and the GOP could not rely on John McCain alone to slow-walk the Abramoff investigation. Sure, the man from Arizonia went beyond the call of duty to obstruct justice, but the scandal was just too big. Crimes were leaking out. The Bush/McCain cover-up was leaking. They needed team players in the Justice Department to slow down the wheels of justice. They needed loyal Bushies to stand in the gap and protect the Party.
They found one in Robert E. Coughlin II, not only was he a loyal Bushie, he was also one of Team Abramoff’s contacts in the Department of Justice. Last Saturday, the Washington Post added a few details:
Coughlin and Ring were friends on Capitol Hill in the 1990s when both worked as staffers to then-Sen. John D. Ashcroft (R-Mo.), who became attorney general in 2001. [snip]
Investigators came across Coughlin's name while looking into whether Ring improperly sought or received favors for lobbying clients from people in government, the sources told The Washington Post. [snip]
Coughlin is the second Justice Department official whose name has surfaced in the wide-ranging Abramoff investigation. Earlier this year, Sue Ellen Wooldridge, deputy assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources, abruptly resigned when her boyfriend -- now her husband -- was notified that he was a criminal target. J. Steven Griles, former deputy secretary of the Interior Department, has since pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Abramoff.
Coughlin also shows up in the CNMI billing records as one of Ring’s contacts in an effort to get some DoJ grant money for the CNMI in early 2001. Coughlin and Ring were on John Ashcroft’s staff. They are just two more links in a long series of links between Jack Abramoff and the former Attorney General (take a look at this list gathered by Fired Up America). I think that John Ashcroft might have some "exposure" to the Abramoff scandal, and I would not be surprise to see him pulled into the Abramoff scandal narrative before the dust settles (especially if the Senate releases McCain’s 750,000 pages of Abramoff documents).
If Ashcroft is pulled into the scandal, Robert E. Coughlin will be part of the story.
By now, you may be asking, who is Robert E. Coughlin?
Well, he is a young Prince of the Right. He has pedigree. He has family connections. His Grandfather was Louis Wyman a former New Hampshire Congressman and NH Supreme Court judge. In 1974 Wyman ran for the Senate against John Durkin. It was the closest Senate Race in US History:
On election day, Wyman barely won with a margin of just 355 votes.
Durkin immediately demanded a recount. That recount shifted the victory to Durkin—but by only 10 votes. Reluctantly, the Republican governor awarded Durkin a provisional certificate of election.
Now, it was Wyman’s turn to demand a recount. The state ballot commission tabulated the ballots in dispute and ruled that Republican Wyman had won—but by just two votes. The governor cancelled Durkin’s certificate and awarded a new credential to Wyman.
As a last option, Durkin petitioned the Senate—with its 60-vote Democratic majority—to review the case. [snip]
Following this review, the Rules Committee sent 35 disputed points to the full Senate, which spent the next six weeks debating the issue and took an unprecedented six cloture votes, but resolved only one of the 35 points in dispute. Facing this deadlock, Durkin agreed to Wyman’s proposal for a new election. [snip]
A record-breaking turnout gave the election to Durkin by a 27,000-vote margin.
The race, the recounts, the stalemate in the Senate and finally the loss of the seat frustrated and angered Republicans, especially those on the extreme Right. They reacted as many of us reacted to Bush v Gore—they organized. They got involved.
This was a pivotal time. It was formative for young operative like Karl Rove, Lee Atwater and many others. These young lions of the extreme Right decided they had the calling to fight Democrats by any means necessary to win. A new political ethos was born out of Wyman’s defeat.
By 1978 these angry young wingers were ready to test out the new tactics. There was another Senate race in New Hampshire, this time between Democratic incumbent Thomas J. McIntyre and the New Hampshire state chairman of the Conservative Caucus, Gordon Humphrey. In a surprise upset, Humphrey won.
McIntyre was stunned and appalled by the new level of vitriol that came his way in the campaign and he wrote a book, The Fear Brokers, that chronicled the rise to power of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. On December 31, 1978 the Washington Post wrote about McIntyre and his assessment of the campaign. It was prophecy (emphasis added):
Defeated Sen. McIntyre Lashes Out at 'the Radical Right'
Sen. Thomas J. McIntyre (D-N.H.) is not sure what happened to him Nov. 7, but one thing is certain: he plans to write a book about it.
He has already begun. The book concerns what McIntyre calls "the radical right," and the author promises that it will be a forceful indictment of people he feels are not conservatives at all, but radicals "who profess to love this country more and understand it better than you do or I do," in the words of his introduction. [snip]
But McIntyre's concern with the far right was not just a product of his defeat by Humphrey. He had begun to write his book—tentatively called "The Fear Brokers"— before the election, and, as he likes to point out, he has been fighting the right for years in the persons of publisher Loeb and Gov. Meldrim Thomson Jr. —who, to add to the irony, was defeated by the same electorate that picked Humphrey over McIntyre.
The early chapters of McIntyre's book, written before his defeat, contain repeated warnings that the right wing is becoming more powerful and more ingenious. [snip]
"Its the scare technique," McIntyre said the other day, sitting at his senator's desk, although all his senatorial photographs had been removed from the walls. "They oversimplify," he added, "making up slogans" that reduced complex issues to catch-words and phrases. "I've always been plagued by the grayness of issues," McIntyre said, "but these guys know they're right, inalienably right. I think it's dangerous." [snip]
McIntyre says all the slogans and simplifications have a single purpose. "They do it to gain political power. They realize that the easy answer is the slogan, the quick way to the minds of our voters. These people are simply building hysteria into the issues in order to be able to gain their votes and to obtain their end, which is political power."
McIntyre’s words could describe almost any effort of the George W. Bush years or the Gingrich/DeLay Congress. The game plan was field tested in New Hampshire and Iowa in 1978. In 2001, the Cook Report highlighted the importance of 1978 to the angry Right-wing warriors (emphasis added):
When [Iowa Senator Dick] Clark came up for re-election in 1978, Roger Jepsen, then the state's conservative Republican lieutenant governor, challenged him in a hard-edged race that focused on abortion rights and Clark's support for a treaty "giving away" the Panama Canal. Jepsen beat Clark, 51 percent to 48 percent, in one of two key "New Right" Senate victories that year. The other Republican victory was in New Hampshire, where Gordon Humphrey defeated Democrat Thomas McIntyre. These two New Right wins served as a model for conservative challengers nationwide. They helped spur the conservative sweep of 1980 and the introduction of the abortion issue into American electoral politics.
In 1980 many of us were stunned when Reagan and a wave of Radical Republicans swept into office. It wasn’t an accident. While Democrats became complacent, Republicans were organizing. Wyman’s defeat in 1974 was the spark that called many to action. 1978 was the model of how to brand liberals, reduce issues to polarized bumper stickers and win by any means necessary.
Many of the key players in the Modern Republican Party grew out of the campaign workers and operatives of 1978 and 1980. Not surprisingly, many of these players are involved in the Abramoff scandal. Two names stand out: Jack Abramoff and Grover Norquist. In 1980 these two young movement conservatives had organized enough College Republican chapters in Massachusetts to collect and deliver over 25,000 absentee ballots for the General Election. That was more than five times the number of votes in Reagan’s narrow victory over Jimmy Carter in the State.
Clearly, by 1980 Abramoff and Norquist were already smart and able political players. They both were Massachusetts college students in 1978 and I suspect that both were inspired by and part of the successful effort to defeat McIntyre in nearby New Hampshire. Ever since 1980 both have been key players in a radical right movement to establish one party rule in the USA. Until his fall from grace, Abramoff was a movement legend and a star.
Jack’s involvement in paying back the Democrats for their humiliation of his Grandfather would have been especially influential to Robert E. Coughlin II (Reagan’s 1980 coattails helped defeat many Democrats including Coughlin/Wyman nemesis Senator Durkin). It is even possible that young Master Coughlin was one of the hundreds of College Republicans that Jack mentored and supported over the years.
By the late 1990s, young Master Coughlin had secured a position as a member of Senator Ashcroft’s staff. There he became friends with Kevin Ring, Lori Sharpe and other Abramoff connected members of Ashcroft’s inner staff.
The 2000 elections must have been especially hard on the lad. The recount in Florida must have had him reliving the pain of his Grandfather’s lowest political moment—the 1974 New Hampshire Senate vote recount. And then there was the extremely close Senate race his boss was in. John Fund of the WSJ wrote about the connection:
Rather than give up Senate control, both parties could be ready for a long siege. It's happened before. In 1974, New Hampshire Democrat John Durkin ran for the Senate and very narrowly lost. A recount overturned the original result and gave Mr. Durkin a 10-vote lead over Republican Louis Wyman. But then the state's Ballot Law Commission recounted the ballots and certified Mr. Wyman the winner by two votes. Mr. Durkin had no real evidence of fraud, but he contested the election anyway. The Democrat-controlled Senate sided with him and refused to honor the state's certification. The seat remained vacant for seven months. The debate spanned 100 hours over 30 days with 35 inconclusive roll-call votes--and at the time the Democrats had a solid majority, 63-37. Imagine how bitter the debate will be over contested seats in an evenly divided Senate. (The 1975 impasse ended only when Mr. Durkin agreed to a special election. He won that race, but then lost a bid for a second term in 1980.)
Yep, 2000 must have been pretty painful for young Master Coughlin. It must have dredged up all sorts of family lore, angst and anger. The defeat of John Ashcroft by a dead guy must have added some fresh anger to those feelings.
When Ashcroft became Attorney General, Robert E. Coughlin II moved to the Justice Department. He started out as a Special Assistant in the Criminal Justice Division (see PDF) and by his resignation had become Deputy Chief of Staff for the Criminal Division. In this role, Coughlin had oversight and the ability to influence the pace of investigation into the many corruptions of the Republican Party. Abramoff was one of these, but there were others.
For months I had been hearing rumors that somebody in the Department of Justice was protecting John Doolittle. When Ring resigned and Doolittle’s home was searched I felt that the probe of the US Attorney purge had kicked something loose.
It had: Robert E. Coughlin II.
I suspect that Coughlin is one of the many names that would surface in the 750,000 pages of Abramoff documents that McCain hid from view. There is much more to Coughlin’s role in this story, especially after Abramoff’s fall from grace.
For example, it would not be a surprise to find that Coughlin had a role in the slow-walking of DoJ investigation of the New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal (or that there really is an Abramoff connection).
I would not be surprise to find that Coughlin was a main contact point between Team Abramoff and the DoJ. I would not be surprise to find that he was continuing in the footsteps of John McCain and intentionally slow walking the investigation.
I wonder what Louis Wyman would think of his grandson, this corrupt young Prince of the Right. According to the May 23, 2002 edition of the Union Leader, Manchester NH young Master Coughlin was a speaker at Wyman’s funeral:
Friends, colleagues pay tribute to Wyman
A Who's Who of the New Hampshire Republican Party, as well as a few Democrats, were among those attending a Manchester memorial service yesterday for former U.S. Rep. and Superior Court Judge Louis C. Wyman, who died May 5 at his West Palm Beach, Fla., home at age 85. The service at Brookside Congregational Church included tribute letters from former Presidents George Bush and Gerald Ford and from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, all of whom served in Congress with Wyman, and from U.S. Sens. Judd Gregg and Bob Smith, as well as recollections from fellow judges and his son and grandchildren. [snip]
His grandson, Robert E. Coughlin II, who brought a tribute from his boss, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, said his grandfather had provided him with important life lessons. Among them: You can't succeed if you aren't in the game. Coughlin said: "My grandfather was always in the game."
Young Master Coughlin was in the game, but unlike his grandfather he played it without honor and without respect for the law.
Thirty years ago other young men decided to get in the game. They decided to win by any means necessary. As McIntyre wrote almost three decades ago:
"They do it to gain political power. They realize that the easy answer is the slogan, the quick way to the minds of our voters. These people are simply building hysteria into the issues in order to be able to gain their votes and to obtain their end, which is political power."
For Abramoff, Norquist, DeLay, Atwater, Bush, Rove and the rest it has always been about getting and holding power. They were in the game. It is not a surprise that Young Master Coughlin wanted to follow them.
To meet the goal of one party rule any action was justified. Any crime committed in the pursuit of power was no longer a crime. If something served the goal of Republican rule it could not be wrong. It could only be right. The goal of the Bush Department of Justice was to protect the power these players had built up over the last thirty years.
That is the game Robert E. Coughlin played. And now he is out of the game. He has Gone to Texas, but this story may pull him back to a Courthouse in DC.
The wheels of justice are turning again. It is time to clean house.
We need to speed things up.
2007 is a year for gathering facts. 2008 is a year to defeat these scoundrels at the ballot box.
- Write letters, contact the press, call talk shows, post comments, and otherwise promote this effort. Demand the release of these 750,000 pages of documents.
- Research. Follow the money. Find the quid pro quos. Dig into the ties of the GOP to CNMI and Guam, or to Coughlin and the DoJ, or the New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal, or to ripping off Native Americans, or to any of the entry points into the web of scandal. Grab a mask and a shovel and start digging into the many aspects of this cesspool of corruption.
- Get out the truth and hold the GOP accountable in 2007 and 2008. Perhaps Republican candidates will want to explain to voters why they wanted to kill the Abramoff and other corruption investigation. We should force the question.
Let’s push this hard.