By Ken Stone
Retired attorney Robert “Bob” Rose says lawyers have a hard time agreeing to sign anything “where they aren’t able to make amendments or change words.”
But Rose — and at least eight other former San Diego federal prosecutors — did just that when they agreed to add their names to an open letter that said Donald Trump would face “multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice” if he weren’t president.
“But for the OLC memo, the overwhelming weight of professional judgment would come down in favor of prosecution for the conduct outlined in the Mueller Report,” said a Department of Justice “alumni statement” posted Monday on Medium.
As of Wednesday, it had about 800 signatories.
At least nine were former prosecutors in the San Diego-based U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California.
Besides Rose, who spent 12 years working under Presidents Ford through Reagan, they were:
- Stephen Anear, who served for seven years during the George W. Bush and Clinton administrations.
- Alberto Arevalo, 14 years under Bush I, Clinton and Bush II.
- Raymond J. “Jerry” Coughlan Jr., 10 years under Nixon, Reagan, Ford and Carter.
- Thomas “Tom” Coffin, 21 years under Reagan, Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Ford and Carter.
- George Hardy, 34 years under Reagan, Clinton, Carter, Obama and both Bushes.
- Gay Hugo-Martinez, 16 years under Carter, Reagan, Bush I and Clinton.
- Pamela “Pam” Naughton, eight years under Carter and Reagan.
- And Robert Semmer, 11 years under Nixon, Ford and Carter.
The 930-word letter said the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller describes several acts that “satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge.”
“All of this conduct — trying to control and impede the investigation against the President by leveraging his authority over others — is similar to conduct we have seen charged against other public officials and people in powerful positions,” the letter said.
Reached by Times of San Diego, several of the former prosecutors stressed that the letter “ignored party lines” just as they once did for the government.
“We valued honesty above all other things,” said Rose, 68, retired from the San Diego firm Sheppard Mullin. “And then to see this play out for political purposes is disturbing.”Said Coughlan, 75: “U.S. attorneys’ offices are by definition just nonpartisan. I don’t ever remember thinking about a case in terms of politics. You wouldn’t. That’s out of bounds.”
Said Hugo-Martinez, 76: “For almost 20 years I prosecuted people, and I didn’t care whether they were Republicans or Democrats. All I cared about was: Did they commit a crime, and did they meet the federal guideline for being prosecuted? And that was it.”
Hugo-Martinez, Coughlan and Rose had something else in common: They once were Republicans.
Rose says he was a registered Republican until about three years ago, and now holds no party affiliation.
He left the GOP because “it didn’t resemble anything I ever believed in,” he said Tuesday in a phone interview. “Really, the party is dead as it once existed. It now resembles … the Whigs of the 19th century.”
Coughlan, a Democrat now, said “Reagan probably ended it.”
And Hugo-Martinez, a former Del Mar councilwoman who voted for Barry Goldwater for president in 1964, said: “Under current circumstances, I would never be a Republican.” (She says she was active in the “Flip the 49th” drive that led to Democrat Mike Levin succeeding GOP incumbent Rep. Darrell Issa.)
Naughton, who works for DLA Piper in San Diego, declined to give her party affiliation but said “the letter speaks for itself.”
An assistant U.S. attorney in San Diego from 1981 to 1987, Naughton went on to become counsel to the House Iran-Contra probe, deposing Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese, a former San Diegan. She also was counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during 1988-1989 impeachment proceedings against federal Judge Walter Nixon of Mississippi.
“She examined witnesses at hearings, including Judge Nixon, conducted depositions and interviews, prepared exhibits, reviewed grand jury and other documents, drafted legal memoranda on the history of impeachment and attached legal standards, drafted factual summaries and prepared members of Congress for the proceedings which culminated in the impeachment of Judge Nixon by the US House of Representatives,” says her professional biography.Hugo-Martinez, who prosecuted Jerry Dominelli lover Nancy Hoover in the 1980s Ponzi scheme case, said she “wholeheartedly” agreed with Monday’s letter “because it’s the truth.”
Before moving to San Diego, she spent seven years with the U.S. Department of Justice going after organized crime figures in Chicago — including prosecutions involving obstruction of justice. In San Diego, she focused on white-collar crime.
Still a Del Mar resident, she owns an apartment in Paris. But when she travels to France “I’m ashamed [Trump’s] my president…. Their game is to delay, delay, delay [congressional oversight] until the election. … And Trump loves this.”
Rose was critical of public comments by U.S. Attorney General William Barr.
“It becomes aggravating to see people — both laymen and the highest law enforcement officer in the country — just distort the law and issue conclusions that are false,” Rose said. “Barr’s an intelligent, experienced former attorney general. I don’t think there’s any way honestly he could believe the statement that he made (on Trump not obstructing justice). But he made it.”
Rose said 10 acts of potential obstruction have been known for a couple of years.
He’s also suspicious of Barr for saying Trump didn’t commit a crime by conspiring with Russians to win the election but then, “without any corrupt intent, do everything possible to block an investigation of his innocence.”
Coughlan, a former lawyer for ex-San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, still works as a mediator. He says he read some of the Mueller report online but now has the Washington Post version in hard copy.
“No doubt about it,” he said. “I actually think Volume 1 is brutal — on all the contacts that Russia had with his campaign … and their failure to do anything about it. It must have been a very close call for Mueller to decide there’s not quite enough there to charge him.”
Calling Trump the worst client in the world, Coughlan said once the president is out of office, “he’ll be called on the carpet by some U.S. attorney’s office.”
He says he’s seen obstruction of justice several times in his career, but usually the prosecutor tells a defense attorney to say stop it, and it ends there.
“None of this should have happened,” Coughlan said of Trump’s documented efforts to impede Mueller.
Rose likens Mueller’s findings to a doctor who diagnoses a patient with pleurisy through symptoms.
“You can’t be sincere and say that there’s no possibility of obstruction when there’s been no underlying crime,” he said.
Referring to Barr’s disputed summary of Meuller’s conclusions, Rose said: “Maybe we shouldn’t accept the first thing we were told that there’s nothing to see here — move along, case closed.”
Updated at 12:50 p.m. May 8, 2019
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