Jeff Thompson
Jeff Thompson

What does U.S. Attorney Ron Machen know that District attorney general Irv Nathan doesn’t? That’s the question that motivated one part of the January agreement between the two to share Office of the Attorney General-held documents about a city settlement with shadow campaign mastermind Jeff Thompson‘s company. The evidence that Machen offered to share with four OAG officials in exchange for more documents was expected to be so damning that the agreement required District officials to wait 90 days before discussing them.

So what did Nathan think of the purportedly explosive revelations? Eh.

In letters between the two obtained by LL through the Freedom of Information Act, Nathan writes about how unimpressed he was with the evidence Machen hoped would convince him to provide more city-held documents. Nathan handed over the extra files anyway.

“We are doing so despite the fact that nothing your office shared with us demonstrates or comes even remotely close to demonstrating the commission of a crime or fraud by any District official or employee or any abuse of the attorney-client privilege,” Nathan wrote on Jan. 22.

A baffled Machen wrote back on Feb. 10 that he couldn’t understand how  Nathan wasn’t worried about the evidence he’d seen.

“Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine how you and your colleagues were not deeply concerned by the information we provided you,” Machen wrote. “Given your role as the District’s chief lawyer, I can understand your optimism that the actions of D.C. officials were entirely legitimate, but I cannot understand your failure to recognize evidence of potential wrongdoing by those officials.”

It’s worth wondering how much of these ostensibly private letters were written for the benefit of the public. Nathan, who’s apparently become so used to FOIA requests that he complained about the District’s “very liberal” open records law in one letter, accuses Machen in a Feb. 21 letter of trying to distort the public perception of the evidence OAG representatives saw via his own letters. To counter it, Nathan asks Machen to break the confidentiality portion of their agreement and allow OAG officials to reveal what the U.S. Attorney’s Office showed them.

“Since we were shown virtually nothing about [redacted], and since what we were shown does not relate to any criminal wrongdoing by any D.C. official, it is hard for us to comprehend how public disclosure of what was revealed to us could have any adverse impact on any future criminal proceeding,” Nathan writes. “Failure to allow us to disclose our perception, while leaving your characterizations in the public record, will only create a seriously misleading, distorted picture of what we were shown.”

Spokesmen for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Attorney General both declined to comment.

[documentcloud url=”https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1159798-will-sommer-foia-usao-and-oag-redacted.html”]

[documentcloud url=”https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1159799-to-r-machen-2-21-14.html”]
Photo by Darrow Montgomery