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Sunday, March 04, 2007

When Will the US Attorney's Office Release the FBI's Zimmermann Tapes?

USA Rachel Paulose gets some favorable media coverage today in the Strib:

In a October 24, 2006 blog post titled "Moscow on the Mississippi", Pioneer Press reporter, Ruben Rosario criticized Rachel Paulose for poor relations with the media:

We’re not talking here about a KGB directive, but a new and questionable media policy instituted this week by Rachel Paulose, the recently appointed top federal prosecutor for Minnesota.

First a requisite lowdown on Paulose. The 32-year-old Minnesota native -- born and raised in the Twin Cities -- was appointed to the post after longtime federal prosecutor Tom Heffelfinger stepped down last year.

She is the first woman and the first Asian American to head the local federal office. She is the granddaughter of Indian immigrants and the daughter of Joseph Paulose of Eagan, an administrator for Hopkins public schools.

... According to TPM, Rachel Paulose has been a member of the Federalist Society. Paulose is also a friend of Scott Johnson of the Powerline blog. Rosario compares Rachel Paulose to her predecessors...

Heffelfinger, and his two predecessors, David Lillehaug and Todd B. Jones, played things close to the vest in terms of releasing information about active cases. But they all understood the critical role of the media in disseminating information about important cases or issues they felt the public needed to know about. They sat down with newspaper editorial boards. They held backgrounders on complicated cases or issues. They spoke in general terms about specific cases without hampering prosecution.

Were they perfect? No way. They never gave me any real good scoops. None approached Rudolph Giuliani, the former Manhattan federal prosecutor and still, in my eyes, the reigning master media manipulator in that position.

Paulose, who has worked the past few years on the civil litigation side of the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C., seems to be towing the agency line when it comes with dealing with the public through the mass media. Paulose, as far as I know, has turned down every request for either a face-to-face interview on the record or a simple and mostly informal meet and greet from members of the local media.

My request for a sit-down months ago, just to chew the fat and say hello, was unceremoniously turned down. No sweat off my back, but it spoke volumes about what was to come. So I was not surprised in the least when our standout legal affairs reporter, Shannon Prather, informed me of a new media policy issued by Paulose’s office.

The office’s long time public relations spokesperson, Karen Bailey, who ably worked for all three previous U.S. attorneys, is no longer doing that job. A recording identifying Bailey as the office’s “external relations specialist’’ also makes a point to inform callers that “if you are a member of the media’’ to call a general media hotline.

Here’s more from Prather’s missive on the Paulose edict: “New U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose has set up a media phone line where reporters are to leave messages outlining their requests. … The U.S. Attorney’s office will no longer be commenting on any open cases. They will not be confirming or denying investigations. They will no longer provide court documents to members of the media. You will be automatically referred to the clerk of courts."

Jeanne Cooney, the office’s long time executive secretary, emphasized that Paulose has nothing against the local media. According to Cooney, DOJ policy prohibits her from making any public statements or meeting with folks until the Senate confirms her.

Paulose was named to the interim post in March DOJ head Albert Gonzales, a move officially endorsed by President Bush.

...There's a lot of controversy lately about the firing and replacement of US Attorneys across the country. TPM Muckraker has been covering the controversy.. House Judiciary Committee hearings into the matter will continue next week.

Rosario goes on about his frustration with the US Attorney's office and concludes with this observation:

I can feel the love. I wonder how this policy had it been in place during the shootings at Red Lake High School or the high profile arrest of a suspected Al Qaeda terrorist linked to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Minnesotans and the local media, frankly, deserve better than this from the state’s top federal prosecutor.

I tried to get information about the release of the FBI tapes from the Gary Dean Zimmermann bribery trial, but my most recent phone call was not returned.

I saw the FBI tapes at the trial. I believe that the portions of those tapes shown at the trial should be released to the media. There is still quite a few people who believe the FBI "persecuted" Zimmermann and that Zimmermann was somehow "entrapped" by the FBI.

The tapes would also reveal a side of Zimmermann that few people could imagine.... Zimmermann's comfortable relationship with a Hummer-driving Republican who raised considerable cash for Senator Norm Coleman.

Zimmermann was caught on tape accepting and receiving bribes from Republican Gary Carlson who raised thousands of dollars for Senator Norm Coleman. At one point in the tapes, Zimmermann told Gary Carlson that he would have like to have been invited to Carlson's fundraiser for Norm Coleman:

In May 2005 Azzam invited Carlson to a Shriner’s function for African-American businesses (Azzam had told him it was the Sierra Club on Park Avenue). Carlson had a private conversation with Zimmermann outside when Carlson took a cigarette break. Carlson mentioned he had recently had a fundraiser for Norm Coleman at his house; Zimmermann chided Carlson for not inviting him. Carlson replied by saying he didn’t think Zimmermann [as a Green] would want to attend a Republican fundraiser.

Zimmermann responded by saying, “Liberals, Greens, Democrats, Republicans…it’s all money.”

Zimmermann also lobbied the City of Minneapolis on behalf of Crown Hydro, a company owned by another Republican, William Hawks who hosted a fundraiser at his Lake Minnetonka mansion for Michele Bachmann (with special guest Dick Cheney). Here's a quote from Zimmermann in the Skyway News:

"You better vote for Crown Hydro or I'll come and get you in the middle of the night," joked Zimmermann,"

Gary Dean Zimmermann is currently an inmate at the Federal Correctional Facility in Littleton, Colorado .

Zimmermann's supporters still maintain he is innocent. PULSE publisher, Ed Felein claims that Zimmermann was "stalked" and "nailed" by the FBI. If Zimmermann is innocent as his supporters claim, they should join me in asking the DOJ to release the FBI tapes.

Until those tapes are released, you can read notes on all 8 days of the Zimmermann trial at the Minneapolis Confidential blog.

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