Conflicting Testimony in Quid Pro Quo Deal b/n DoJ and St. Paul, Minn. Print
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Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 28 March 2013 13:00

Grassley Questions Contradicting Testimony by Justice Department

Official in Quid Pro Quo with St. Paul

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is pressing a key player in the quid pro quo deal between the Justice Department and St. Paul, Minn. to explain the contradiction between information given in a formal briefing to Senate Judiciary Committee staff and documents provided to the committee after the briefing.

In a letter sent today, Grassley asked Joyce Branda, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, to explain seemingly conflicting information she provided during a briefing to Judiciary Committee staff and emails she sent during the department’s handling of the deal.

“Documents clearly show that at the time of the briefing, the department was well aware of the ‘exchange’ between the Justice Department and the city of St. Paul. It makes me wonder whether Ms. Branda was instructed by higher-ups not to call the deal an ‘exchange’ when she briefed Judiciary Committee staff,” Grassley said.

Grassley has been conducting oversight of an apparent quid pro quo deal between the Justice Department and St. Paul, Minn., which turned a blind eye to potentially recovering hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Specifically, the Justice Department agreed not to intervene in a False Claims Act case in exchange for the city of St. Paul’s agreement to withdraw a separate case on housing issues that was supposed to be heard by the Supreme Court. The United States was not a party in the case before the Supreme Court, which makes it highly questionable that the Justice Department would find it appropriate to use that case as part of its deal with the city of St. Paul.  Unlike the False Claims Act cases the United States could have joined, and which could have resulted in a recovery of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, there was no direct interest of the United States in the outcome of the Magner case.  House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte and House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa are also investigating the deal.

Here is Grassley’s letter. A copy of the signed letter and the attachments can be found here.

 

March 26, 2013

VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION

Joyce R. Branda
Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530


Dear Deputy Assistant Attorney General Branda:

On February 5, 2013, you appeared before Congressional staff to provide information regarding the Department’s involvement in the decision of the City of St. Paul, Minnesota, to withdraw its petition for certiorari in Magner v. Gallagher.[1] The briefing was provided to the Majority and Minority staff of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.  It is my understanding you provided a similar briefing to staff for the House Committee on the Judiciary and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on December 5, 2012.

In the February 5 briefing, you told Committee staff: “We didn’t decline to intervene in exchange” for St. Paul withdrawing Magner.  On multiple occasions in the briefing, you disputed the characterization that it was an exchange.  At the time, the Department was withholding documents about this matter from Congress.

However, documents since produced by the Department show that on March 8, 2012, you received a list of significant cases from Michael Granston, then Deputy Director in the Commercial Litigation Branch’s Fraud Section, a direct subordinate to you.[2] Twenty-five minutes later, you forwarded the document to Jonathan Olin in the Civil Division front office, writing: “St. Paul updated and edited for clarity[.]”[3] The portion of the document relating to U.S. v. City of St. Paul read:

Government declined to intervene in Newell, and has agreed to decline to intervene in Ellis, in exchange for defendants withdrawal [sic] of cert. petition in Gallagher case (a civil rights action).[4]

Accordingly, I ask that you explain why your assertions to Congressional staff were directly contrary to the documentary record.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

Ranking Member

 

cc:        The Honorable Patrick Leahy, Chairman

U.S. Senate, Committee on the Judiciary

 

The Honorable Bob Goodlatte, Chairman

U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary

 

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member

U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary

 

The Honorable Darrell Issa, Chairman

U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

 

The Honorable Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member

U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform


The Honorable Michael E. Horowitz, Inspector General U.S. Department of Justice

 

[1] See Magner v. Gallagher, 132 S. Ct. 1306 (Feb. 14,2012) (dismissing writ of certiorari).

2 E-mail from Michael Granston to Joyce Branda (Mar. 8, 2010, 3:25 PM) [HJC/HOGR STP 001402-001404].

3 E-mail from Joyce Branda to Jonathan F. Olin (Mar. 8, 2010, 3:51 PM) [HJC/HOGR STP 001402-001404].

4 “Significant Affirmative Civil and Criminal Matters,” updated Mar. 8, 2012 [HJC/HOGR STP 001404] [emphasis added].