U.S. Attorney Ron Machen
U.S. Attorney Ron Machen

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Two of the District’s top lawmen are at odds again. In January, District attorney general Irv Nathan and U.S. Attorney Ron Machen settled their dispute over whether Machen could review documents related to a city settlement with Vince Gray shadow campaign financier Jeff Thompson‘s company.

A day after their agreement was signed, though, an FBI agent took an action that led Nathan to accusing Machen of going behind his back, according to letters between the two obtained with a Freedom of Information Act request.

Machen and Nathan cut the deal on Jan. 6. The next day, a FBI agent showed up unannounced at the home of an unnamed male District government employee and interviewed him without a lawyer present. In a Jan. 22 letter to Machen, Nathan portrays the interview as a bad-faith attempt at getting around the District’s attorney-client privilege.

Worse, in Nathan’s eyes, was the fact that FBI agents had canceled a scheduled October 2013 interview with the employee arranged by the Office of the Attorney General.

“These actions were unfair to [redacted] and have unnecessarily strained relations between our two offices,” Nathan wrote in a Jan. 22 letter obtained by LL through the Freedom of Information Act.

In a Feb. 10 reply, Machen all but tells Nathan that his attorneys can’t be trusted around the investigation.

“As you can understand, District employees might be more candid when their responses are not being monitored by attorneys who report to [redacted],” Machen writes.

Here’s more of Machen’s reply, which is not even the first instance of a putdown in his letters to Nathan:

While we appreciate your willingness to coordinate interviews with D.C. employees when appropriate, we cannot agree to conduct every interview under the watchful eye of your office, which consists of attorneys who report to and represent the officials whose actions are under review in this investigation. Put simply, the integrity of your investigation will at times require us to act independently of your office.

Machen adds, “In the future, we will coordinate with your office in appropriate circumstances, particularly when the privilege you assert is implicated, but we cannot channel every investigative step through your office.”

Unsurprisingly, Machen’s letter didn’t mollify Nathan. In a Feb. 21 letter, Nathan wrote that the interview was “simply unfair to the District and to this District employee.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to respond to LL’s request for comment. Nathan’s office would only say that there are no longer any document disputes between the two offices.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery