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Posted at 4:13 PM ET, 01/11/2011

Irv Nathan keeps mum on Team Thomas probe

By Mike DeBonis


Make no mistake: There's a new attorney general in town. And he's much quieter than the last one.

In contrast to his voluble predecessor, Acting Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan is keeping mum about the hot topics that Peter J. Nickles left on his plate -- not least of which is an open investigation into Team Thomas, the now-defunct sports organization run by D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. that appears to have collected donations from persons and groups with government business.

Nathan was set to meet Monday afternoon with Thomas' attorney to determine whether and how the documents demanded by Nickles, including detailed financial records, would be delivered pursuant to a subpoena whose deadline for enforcement came over the weekend.

What happened at that meeting is not known: Nathan, via his personal assistant and an aide, said he will not be speaking to the conduct of an ongoing investigation.

On one hand, this is encouraging. Many investigatory bodies -- the Department of Justice, for instance -- decline to comment on ongoing investigations as a matter of policy. It's difficult to argue with that approach, to let evidence and legal arguments stand for themselves outside the realm of political pressure.

On the other hand, this is frustrating. The Team Thomas probe has played out in media reports for months, and there are now real questions of public trust regarding the group -- not least of which is whether Thomas has complied with a court-enforced subpoena or whether Nathan moved to void that subpoena.

This reporter is at least hoping that Nathan will explain how he plans to proceed with the case. And I'm also hoping that the attorney general's office does not suddenly become a black hole of communication. While Nickles was accessible and forthright perhaps to a fault, there is a balance to be struck in explaining the attorney general's policies and activities without violating the sanctity of pending investigations.

I expressed as much earlier today to Nathan's assistant, the delightful and always helpful Valerie Scott, who previously worked for Nickles. She said she'd pass on the message. I haven't heard back just yet.

For his part, Thomas said this afternoon that he is "complying with the law and working with the attorney general's office." He directed further questions to his attorney, Fred Cooke, who has not returned calls for comment yesterday or today. Updates will be forthcoming.

UPDATE, 5:30 P.M.: Cooke is similarly mum: "I have obligated myself to have no comment." (Meanwhile, Thomas told Washington City Paper that he's ready to hand over the documents and share them with the public.)

Asked if he knew when the public might be hearing further about Team Thomas' activities and the AG's investigation, he said: "I don't know. I just don't."

By Mike DeBonis  | January 11, 2011; 4:13 PM ET
Categories:  The District  
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Mike, sometimes, unfortunately, we get accustomed to buffoons running the government and we begin to think that it is good. Hopefully, we will have respectful government in DC under this administration as opposed to the self-agrandizing folks who were prominent in the last

Posted by: topryder1 | January 12, 2011 7:28 AM | Report abuse

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