Loose Lips

Machen: Election Won’t Affect Gray Investigation Timing

For a guy who is constitutionally incapable of speaking about the most interesting parts of his job, U.S. Attorney Ron Machen sits for a lot of interviews. That was the case last night on Capitol Hill, when the U.S. Attorney was interviewed by NBC4's Tom Sherwood and discussed, among other things, a certain unnamed mayor under federal investigation.

Put the kettle on, LL's got some tea leaves to read.

For starters: Yes, Machen realizes his two-year investigation into Vince Gray's 2010 campaign is about to bump into the 2014 Democratic primary. Still, Machen he said the impending election won't affect the timeline of the case. "We're sensitive to that but at the same time there's nothing we can do," Machen said. "We can't just wrap up an investigation when we're in the midst of gathering information."

Don't blame Machen for the wait, though, he said. Blame the guy who shredded the notebook. Or the guy who lied to the FBI. Don't forget the guy who allegedly tried to send a witness to Brazil.

"Some of the same people who are saying 'Hurry up, hurry up' may also be involved in not coming forward with the information we need so we could hurry up," Machen said. "We're trying to move as quickly as we can, but we're not going to go away just because there are obstacles put in our way."

The latest obstacle comes in the form of District Attorney General Irv Nathan, who's refusing to give Machen documents related to the city's $7.5 million settlement from 2011 with Jeff Thompson's health care firm on the grounds that the records are protected under attorney-client privilege. Earlier Wednesday, Gray echoed Nathan's concerns about attorney-client privilege.

Machen has already rejected a compromise proposed by Nathan in which a federal judge would consider whether the documents are protected. At Hill Center, Machen wouldn't explain what he's looking for in the docs, except to say that they're necessary for his case. "You can have an idea of what's going on, but I'm charged with proving it, and to prove it I need documents," Machen said.

As for his own ambitions for elected office or the judiciary, Machen said he's not planning for either right now. If he has his way, he's staying right where he is. "I think you stay as long as you can," Machen said. "I love this job. This is the greatest job."

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • ThomasH

    I don't understand the Nathan's "Attorney-Client privelege" claim. Last I checked, I paid my taxes, I live in this city, and as such we should have a right to know. I get how this may be relevant to private parties, but there are public dollars potentially being misused, and the Mayor is stonewalling. Didn't the Supreme Court deal with this type of question in U.S. v. Nixon? Isn't Nixon's claim of executive privelege the same?

  • nivin

    Machen just wants to go fishing. Why has he not issued a supeona for the documents? the same reason he has not accept Nathan's compromise. He knows a judge would decide he does not have sufficient cause to demand the documents.

  • SEis4ME

    @ThomasH, I don't believe "the taxpayer" has an absolute right to see private documents. If the documents haven't been realized to the public at all...it stands to reason that there is at least "some" justification for keeping them private. You can't just go look at a politician's mortgage contract just because they're an elected official. I think the Mayor is following the city AG's lead here.

    Either way, if attorney/client priv is indeed an issue, it sseems to make sense that Machen would allow a court to decide it.

  • george

    @ThomasH, they're completely different concepts. Attorney-client privilege is basically the idea that lawyers and their clients have confidential relationships. Talking to your lawyer is supposed to be safe, like talking to your doctor, a therapist, or a priest. It can be waived in the course of an investigation, but Machen is trying to get Nathan to waive it without even going through the formal legal process of a subpoena. It could undermine people's trust in you if you waive it without being forced to.

    Executive privilege is the idea that the president has certain rights to withhold information because they're the president. It especially pertains to national security concerns. You don't want the president spilling his guts about top-secret missions in court just because he gets a subpoena. Or maybe you do, but that's the idea anyway.

  • Tasha

    U.S. Attorney Ron Machen is doing a fine job.Take as much time as you need...just make sure you get your man.In the end the citizens of our district will have no doubt as to the conclusion.

  • truth hurts

    Of course, Gray and Nathan could cooperate with investigators. But they prefer stonewalling. Nothing to hide, Mr. Mayor? Then come clean and clear your name. I know, I see you. That's not going to happen because you were at the center of the biggest corrupt election in DCs history.

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  • SEis4ME

    lol@TH, Still bitter over Fenty's loss hunh? Well guess what? He ain't coming back..whether Gray goes down or not. What we DO know is that Adrian ain't coming back!

    Now of course you would think the Machen has a legitimate reason for now allowing the courts to decide whether there is an issue w/atty-client priv. Why wouldn't you think otherwise.

  • drez

    Fenty's gone. Done and moved on. Okay fine, and good for him.
    This is about a federal probe into campaign finance and election fraud, not Fenty.
    It's not Fenty, it's Gray.

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