Loose Lips

Ron Machen Offers to Focus on Mayor’s Office in Document Fight

U.S. Attorney Ron Machen attempted to resolve a document dispute with District Attorney General Irv Nathan by offering to focus his request on Mayor Vince Gray, other Executive Office of the Mayor employees, and the Department of Healthcare Finance, according to letters between Machen and Nathan obtained by LL.

Machen and Nathan have been at an impasse since November over more than 5,000 documents held by the Office of the Attorney General relating to a city settlement over a dental contract with Chartered, the Medicaid firm owned by alleged shadow campaign financier Jeff Thompson. Machen wants the OAG to hand them over, but Nathan claims that documents related to the $7.5 million settlement in 2011 are protected by attorney-client privilege. Last month, Nathan offered to let a judge view the documents and decide whether they were privileged, as a compromise.

In a Nov. 25 letter from Machen to Nathan, the U.S. Attorney makes his own attempt at a compromise. In exchange for holding off for now on internal OAG documents, among other requests, Machen told Nathan he only needed communications involving Gray, any other mayor's office employees, and the Department of Healthcare Finance.

Responding in a Dec. 5 letter, the most recent obtained by LL through the Freedom of Information Act, Nathan agreed to most of the compromise. Instead of producing communications with the Department of Healthcare Finance, though, Nathan insisted on restricting the request to OAG communications with the agency that mention Gray, Thompson, or other mayoral employees.

But the negotiations still haven't produced a deal, with spokesmen for the U.S. Attorney's Office and the OAG both saying that discussions are continuing. A spokesman for Gray referred questions about the negotiations to the attorney general.

The lack of a deal hasn't convinced Machen to stop seeking the documents. In one letter to Nathan, he hints that the dental contract could tie into the larger investigation into Thompson. "The investigation has identified connections and communications between D.C. Chartered's agents and District officials that you likely do not know about," Machen writes. "It also appears that some communications with your office—both before and after your tenure as Attorney General—were the direct result of communications between D.C. Chartered's agents and District officials."

The two lawyers have also traded barbs in their letters, with Nathan describing Machen's two-year-old investigation as "prolonged" and his office's work with a grand jury as going on "quite a while."

Nathan also suggested that the Justice Department is being hypocritical by claiming attorney-client privilege in an investigation by Congress into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms' Fast and Furious operation, then asking the OAG to waive its own privilege. "I also predict that the courts would find unpersuasive your 'privilege for me but not for thee' argument," Nathan wrote.

For his part, Machen suggested that the District may have disregarded its attorney-client privilege by providing information about the settlement to reporters. A week after Thompson's house was first raided by federal agents in March 2012, mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro organized a background meeting for reporters about the settlement, according to a letter from Nathan to Machen. Healthcare Finance director Wayne Turnage, meanwhile, emailed documents related to the settlement to reporters at the Washington Post and Washington Examiner, actions Machen suggested meant the District had waived its attorney-client privilege rights (Nathan disagreed).

Despite their differences, Machen and Nathan write in their letters that they want to figure out together who leaked news of the spat to the media. Writing to Machen a day after the the Post first reported the dispute on Nov. 13, Nathan suggested the leak came from Machen's office:

As we discussed yesterday, a local reporter called the Mayor's office and advised that that reporter had been informed that at least one individual in our office opposed the $7.5 million settlement with Chartered in 2011 and that this has led your office to reconsider whether that might have been a quid pro quo for the campaign contributions from Jeffrey Thompson. Of course, only someone connected to your office would know what your office is considering and why. Another reporter called me and reported the same. I was surprised and disappointed…I look forward to hearing what you discover about the origin of these leaks.

Machen responded that Nathan should consider whether an OAG employee was behind the Post story. "Regardless, going forward I hope that our communications will remain confidential," Machen wrote.

Ron Machen's Nov. 13 letter to Irv Nathan

Nathan's Nov. 14 letter to Machen

Machen's Nov. 25 letter to Nathan

Nathan's Dec. 5 letter to Machen

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Tom M

    DC Attorney General needs to get this done and out there. This dicking around is not serving the investigation or the voters/taxpayers of DC. I'm just sayin'

  • HowardAlum96

    Gray thinks he can run for reelection while he is obstructing a law enforcement investigation. This smacks of Richard Nixon.

    Ron Machen is an African-American professional who is doing his job (enforcing the law).

    Vince Gray is a one-termer.

  • HowardAlum71

    Grow up HowardAlum96.

    Get a life or go help our Alma Mater get out of the mess it is in because of politics much worse than that mess in which Vince Gray finds himself.

    There has been so much political underhandedness going on at good ole HU since Dr. James Cheeks, they've almost had to close one of the foremost institutions of learning for Blacks in this country.

    Ron Machen is the politician who smacks of Richard Nixon. Were you born when Richard Nixon's sitting Attorney General went to jail?????

    Alexander Butterfield's 'smoking gun' told what Tricky Dick knew and when he knew it when he told the committee about the tapes in the Oval Office.

    Machen and his entire gang of crooks can't even keep what happens in their office to themselves. Why should anyone have any trust in an African American or any other kind of American leader of a prosecutorial team which leaks info to the press in an attempt to besmirch another African American leader, or any other kind of leader he obviously can't indict without a witch hunt.

    Don't be surprised HUA96 if yo boi, Machen doesn't end up in da slammer for something like the 'for me but not for thee argument.' That is some mighty sloppy work for such a supposedly bastion of confidentiality. After all, they tell the Grand Jurors they could be jailed for leaking information. Oh, but I forgot.....that's another 'for me, but not for thee privilege.'

  • HowardAlum71

    Pray tell.....What does 'awaiting moderation mean'?
    Does that smack of Richard Nixon or something?

  • Purify

    I'm confused, how does attorney-client privilege factor in this case? Nathan is not Gray's attorney, he's an attorney who works for the city that Gray is the Mayor of. Can OAG just claim a/c privilege any time someone asks them about anything involving anything related to a city emplloyee/administrator or transaction? Sounds a little over-reaching to me.

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  • Will Sommer


    Some comments on the blog get randomly sent to the moderation queue. I've approved your earlier comment.

  • SEis4ME

    Machen wanted the documents. Nathan wanted a judge to look at them.

    That didn't work.

    Machen suggests limiting the scope of the search. Nathan somewhat agreed. So now we're just waiting.

    And while doing so, witnessing a pissing match between two "DC" lawyers and the leak that came out of it.

  • stick2yourguns

    so I hope this reaches back to Fenty since he was apart of corruption as well....he just never got caught.

  • SAM


  • asuka


    Far from "professional," Machen is an incompetent oaf. Gray was an easy target, and this dumb dumb still couldn't connect the dots. What a pathetic excuse for an AG, but par for the course in this administration's "Justice" department.

  • HowardAlum71

    Okay, asuka, let us suppose there were no dots to connect. That would be the most likely reason along with the fact that the word 'target' smacks of something nefarious.

    If that man Gray had been charged, indicted and tried I could understand a lot more than I do.

    Now let's not get started on administration justice departments. Nixon's Justice Department spoke for itself and in Papa Bush's Justice Department, the third ranking person from his Attorney General, Eliot Richardson, was charged, indicted, tried, found guilty and sentenced for cocaine charges. Wonder how much time he served? Wonder if he was in fact, the fall guy?

    Think I'll make looking up all of that a project for today. Will get back at cha.

  • asuka

    If there were no dots to connect, then why has he been conducting an investigation for years, insinuating that an indictment was just around the corner? There were either dots and he's too f'ing stupid to find them, or there weren't and he's too F'ing stop to know when to stop wasting resources and hounding an innocent man.

    And enough with the ad hominem attacks (you're a Howard grad, so you probably don't know what an "ad hominem is) - so what if Nixon's or Bush's or Teddy Roosevelt's DOJ was a mess, it doesn't make Obama's excuse for a DOJ any less terrible. So go ahead and waste your time trying to substantiate a logic fallacy.

  • HowardAlum71

    My, my, my.
    Your handle is so phonetically appropriate.
    So you can utilize ad hominem attacks but I can't?
    Just read your comments of 12/22/13 @11:34 am.
    The old thee, but not me argument?
    Do a little critical analysis if you can.
    But don't expect another response from me.
    I don't do a**holes, either literally or figuratively speaking.

    '....substantiate a logic fallacy'? That in itself is priceless regarding your total lack of insight.