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Unfortunately I believe that we are limited in what we can focus on. I think that if we proceed with the partisan sideshow of prosecuting Bush admin. officials, healthcare will get lost in the brouhaha.
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Justice Official Pleads Guilty in Abramoff Case

POSTED: 02:55 PM ET, 04/22/2008 by The Editors

A former Justice Department official today admitted accepting more than $4,000 worth of meals and sports tickets from Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff in exchange for helping a variety of Abramoff's clients, including a Mississippi Indian tribe seeking federal money to build a prison, reports The Post's James Grimaldi.

Robert E. Coughlin II, the former deputy chief of staff of the Justice Department's criminal division, pleaded guilty to a one-count charge of violating the federal conflict-of-interest statute while he served in the department's offices of legislative affairs and public liaison between March 2001 and October 2003.

Citing personal reasons, Coughlin resigned on April 6, 2007. He is one of more than a dozen people -- including a congressmen, lobbyists, Capitol Hill staff members and executive branch officials -- who have been convicted or pleaded guilty in the wide-ranging lobbying scandal. The federal investigation is continuing.

Coughlin, 36, admitted that he leaked inside Justice Department information, attended meetings and contacted officials as part of his efforts to help Abramoff, his firm, Greenberg Traurig and in particularly one of Abramoff's key lobbying colleagues, Kevin A. Ring. Coughlin and Ring are longtime friends who worked together on Capitol Hill a decade ago, court records filed today said.

Coughlin entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle in Washington. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His attorneys said they planned to ask for a sentence of less than six months, while prosecutors under the plea agreement could seek a term of up to 10 months and a $10,000 fine. The agreement indicated that Coughlin has promised to cooperate with the federal investigation. Coughlin said in court he has already met with federal investigators. No sentencing date was set but a status hearing was scheduled for September.

Ring, a former aide to Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), remains under investigation by the task force probing the activities of Abramoff, who is in federal prison. Doolittle, who along with his wife is also under scrutiny, has announced he will not seek re-election.

Documents filed in court refer to Coughlin's contacts with Lobbyist A and Lobbyist B and their firm. Although the lobbyists and the firm are not specified in the documents, sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said the circumstances make clear that Ring is Lobbyist A and Abramoff is Lobbyist B, and that the firm is Greenberg Traurig.

According to the documents Coughlin identified officials in the Justice Department that the Abramoff lobbying team could consider "friendlies," employees who would assist Abramoff in achieving results for their clients. Coughlin aided in providing information for clients in disputes, and in one case forwarded an e-mail from Ring to Immigration and Naturalizations Service officials seeking to help a student get government approval to attend Abramoff's yeshiva, Eshkol Academy. The INS agreed to expedite the matter.

In particular, Coughlin helped Ring and Team Abramoff in his efforts to secure $16.3 million from a division of the Justice Department to build a jail for the Mississippi band of Choctaw Indians, one of Abramoff's clients, and in the process waive a competitive-bidding requirement, the court documents show.

Excerpts from e-mail exchanges between Ring and Coughlin included in the court papers show that Ring often sprinkled meal invitations with requests for aid, including asking Coughlin to attend an April 2001 meeting "so some of the clowns there know that I have friends, if you get my drift." When the grant was finally approved, Ring sent Coughlin an e-mail on June 25, 2002, with the subject line: "CHA-CHING!!!!"

Ring wrote to Coughlin, "We need to celebrate this issue finally being over." Three days later, Ring bought Coughlin lunch at Abramoff's downtown restaurant, Signatures.

Ring declined comment.

Coughlin told prosecutors he did not recall having a substantive conversation with Abramoff. Coughlin, who has been sharing meals and drinks with Ring for 16 years, said that he did not know that Ring was billing their social gatherings as lobbying expenses. "Coughlin also was unaware that Lobbyist A [Ring] held Coughlin out to be one of his most valuable lobbying contacts at DOJ," said the document, known as a statement of offense.

In exchange for assistance to Abramoff and Ring on a variety of matters, Coughlin accepted meals and drinks on 25 occasions at pricey restaurants, primarily Signatures, the document said. He also accepted 20 tickets to seven sporting events at the Verizon Center, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and FedEx Field, where Abramoff had leased luxury suites; five tickets to three concerts; and one round of golf. Prosecutors estimated the value of the gifts to be about $6,180, but Coughlin's estimate is about $4,800.

"Coughlin failed to report these things of value on his financial disclosure forms for the 2001, 2002 and 2003 years," the document said.

Twice, in March and April of 2002, Ring also discussed with Coughlin a possible job at Greenberg Traurig, the court filing said. One of the discussions occurred at Signatures.

Coughlin and Ring have known each other since 1992, the document said, and worked together as staffers in the 1990s to then-Sen. John D. Ashcroft (R-Mo.), who became attorney general in 2001.

When Coughlin joined the criminal division in 2005, he was recused from the Abramoff inquiry because of his friendship with Ring. Investigators came across Coughlin's name while trying to ascertain whether Ring improperly sought or received favors for lobbying clients from people in government, sources told The Washington Post last year.

In 2006, Coughlin won a prestigious award presented by then-Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales for his efforts to prevent fraud and white collar crime. At the awards ceremony at Constitution Hall, Gonzales said Coughlin and others deserved recognition for "exceptional dedication and effort to prevent, investigation, and prosecute fraud and white collar crimes."

The case against Coughlin was handled by a special prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore because Coughlin had worked in the criminal division at Justice Department main headquarters.

Abramoff, who has provided extensive assistance to prosecutors, is in federal prison in Maryland serving time for a Florida fraud conviction and is awaiting sentencing on separate charges of mail fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion.

Coughlin is the second Justice Department official whose name has surfaced in the wide-ranging Abramoff investigation. Sue Ellen Wooldridge, deputy assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources, abruptly resigned in January 2007 when her boyfriend, whom she later married, was notified that he was a criminal target. J. Steven Griles, former deputy secretary of the Interior Department, later pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Abramoff.

By The Editors |  April 22, 2008; 2:55 PM ET Abramoff Scandal
Previous: Check McCain's Tax Return | Next: A Sticking Point in the Farm Bill

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



I'm wondering why the "elephant in the living room" is being ignored.
specifically, how Jack Abramoff and his team worked with corrupt
legislators such as former Rep. Tom DeLay to help Microsoft Corporation
procure "official acts" in exchange for "things of value" between 1995 and
2000. Microsoft expended in the neighborhood of $100 million on political
expenditures during these six years. In exchange, they received three
legislative acts that have been worth billions annually to the firm's
profitability. Microsoft wishes to further enhance their profitability and
starting in 2005 retained an original member of "Team Abramoff," Michael P.
Smith at Cornerstone Government Affairs to press for additional special
work visa program expansions. http://www.cgagroup.com/staffContent.aspx?id=20&pid=1


Here's a link to my ten page investigative article, "The Greedy Gates Immigration Gambit" that was published in The Social Contract in January, 2008. http://www.thesocialcontract.com/pdf/eighteen-one/tsc_18_1_nelson.pdf


Gene A. Nelson, Ph.D., Programmer
NumbersUSA.com
Arlington, VA 22209
(My email address begins gnelson[at])

Posted by: Dr. Gene Nelson | April 22, 2008 4:13 PM

This is what happen when the checks and balance of congress are done away with. The administration has been he worst abuser of public trust ever. The citizen of the country better wake up.

Posted by: l.young6635 | April 22, 2008 4:24 PM

Parties to the international Torture Convention are required to investigate any person who is alleged to have committed torture. If appropriate, they must then prosecute - or extradite the person to a place where he will be prosecuted. The Torture Convention is also more explicit than Geneva in that it criminalises any act that constitutes complicity or participation in torture. Complicity or participation could certainly be extended not only to the politicians, but also the lawyers, cronies and confederates involved in the condoning of the dozens of simultaneous techniques combined with hundreds of simultaneous sophisticated techniques of obstruction of justice, murders and more.

Americans need to know that organized crime lurks in their most trusted institutions. An evil that revels in injustice, but has yet to learn, the meaning of American justice.

Posted by: Singing Senator | April 22, 2008 5:13 PM

welcome to the zoo or the united states of liemerica...

Posted by: jwh | April 22, 2008 5:33 PM

DrGene Nelson,
Let's not forget Loyal Bushie Ralph Reed who worked directly for Microsoft.
The Bush regime conducted burglaries and violent attacks on open source software companies as well.
And let's not forget how they replaced an excellent IBM email system with Microsoft junk so that they could edit, lose and delete millions of White House emails.
America is great because it is the land of immigrants - By all means, replace Windows with Linux, but the real wrongdoing is in places like DC, Texas and Florida, not Seattle.

Posted by: Singing Senator | April 22, 2008 5:46 PM

Those of you who voted for the Republicans have created this mess. Fix it!

Posted by: 274627 | April 22, 2008 6:33 PM

Dear Singing Senator: You will find information about Abramoff's buddies Ralph Reed, David Safavian, Grover Norquist - and several more when you read my investigative article, which includes a full-page organizational chart. Additional details have been uncovered since the article was published.

I strongly urge all interested Washington Post readers to use the free citizen activism tools at NumbersUSA.com to push for much-needed reforms to this corrupt situation.

Posted by: Dr. Gene Nelson | April 22, 2008 6:36 PM

Can't we just behead Caughlin in public?

BRING BACK THE GUILLOTINE!

Posted by: Mikey | April 22, 2008 6:38 PM

And who WAS THE HEAD OF THE CRIMINAL DIVISION DURING THE TIME COUGHLIN WAS ACCEPTING HIS GIFTS? THE SAME PERSON WHO SIGNED OFF ON THE YOO TORTURE MEMO, WHO CO-WROTE THE PATRIOT ACT, AND OF COURSE, PRESIDED OVER THE KATRINA DISASTER-KNOWN OTHER THAN YOUR VERY OWN SEC. OF HOMELAND DISASTER-MICHAEL CHERTOFF!

Posted by: FARFALLE | April 22, 2008 6:46 PM

Take away his tube of KY and send the POS to a federal prison in general population.
Make sure the other inmates know he is a former corrupt justice department attorney so he gets a real special welcome.

Posted by: Jackson | April 22, 2008 7:00 PM

High-level funnybusiness, big buxx, justice NOT served? Time will tell if the next administration takes heed of this and gets a handle on the disbursement of federal funds under questionable circumstances. Abramoff didn't happen in a vacuum, there's many signs that the ethical standards in Washington have been on a steady decline for YEARS. And, falls Washington, well...deduce for yourself what the future looks like for everybody ELSE, because, in theory at least, D.C., our national seat of government, is supposed to be the keeper of such standards, rather than standing there slurping down a latte and watching it all go to blank. It does not bode well for the states nor for our military nor our neighbor countries to have any tolerance of a departure from a standard of public accountability. The people that get elected and appointed and stuff have to toe a bright line, and drive a hard bargain, and maintain a tough standard, and incorporate the word 'no' into their daily dealings. Again, I don't believe that Abramoff happened in a vacuum. I also think that further digging into the matter of native american tribes across the nation in connection with Large Sums Of Government Money might yield up even MORE dirt. 9.4 trillion, and counting...cursed be he who first cries 'enough'? Um, 'no'. Cursed be he who last pries the government doughnut out of their mouth and says, 'whaaaaat'?!?!?!?

Posted by: Bert | April 22, 2008 8:51 PM

May the flaming tire of corruption hang aptly around the neck of the Republican Party for decades.

They scrood America for the good of their own misdeeds.

Posted by: PV | April 23, 2008 7:30 AM

How do we get the wheels of Justice tirning?? How do we Start? You seem to have a great case here, but we need some sort of key to get the case moving, and to get the prosecution in moption. Tel us what to do. Please!!

Posted by: Kenneth B. Smith, P.E. | April 23, 2008 2:50 PM

Why has no one done and up-date on the Gus Boulis murder trial and the Abramoff-Kidan connection?? I guess the theft of the 31 million dollar Sun-Cruz Casino Ship lines and a Mafia hit is not news worthy????

Posted by: Wayne Smyer | May 1, 2008 9:59 AM

slowly the truth comes out more and more.I fear in the next few years we will see just how bad this country was run by inept and crooked people the last near 8 years.Sadly, most will get a walk because "I was just following orders".

Posted by: pinkydink53 | August 21, 2008 5:10 AM

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