Alice S. Fisher

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Alice S. Fisher was appointed by President George W. Bush in a recess appointment August 31, 2005, as Assistant Attorney General to head the Criminal Division in the Department of Justice.

Fisher was nominated March 29, 2005, and her nomination was sent to the Senate April 4, 2005. Her nomination was stalled over interrogation tactics at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval facility.


New Controversy Brewing: Abramoff

Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher is "the helm" of the "widest-ranging congressional corruption investigation in more than two decades," Anne Marie Squeo wrote in the January 5, 2006, Wall Street Journal.

Jack Abramoff "had a congressman insert statements in the Congressional Record, had a congressman endorse a wireless telephone contract for the House of Representatives, had a congressman agree to seek passage of legislation to help Abramoff's clients. Government officials and government action are not for sale," Fisher told reporters January 3, 2006.
"Abramoff gave things of value to public officials -- including foreign expensive trips, campaign contributions, expensive meals and entertainment and other things of value -- all with the intent and at time with the understanding that public officials would act to benefit Abramoff and his clients, ... As admitted by Abramoff, his actions often produced the official influence he sought," Fisher said.

"I was more than a little tweaked to turn on CSPAN and see Alice Fisher giving the press conference on behalf of" the Justice Department in the Abramoff case, Jane Hamsher wrote January 4, 2006, in The Huffington Post.

"Alice Fisher should have recused herself from this matter long ago," Hamsher said. "Fisher is a Republican who in her former job was registered as a lobbyist for HCA, the healthcare company founded by Bill Frist's father. Her appointment was also controversial due to the fact that like her boss Abu Gonzales, Fisher has no trial experience and with [James] Comey gone there would be no senior member of the Justice Department who was an experienced criminal prosecutor. But Senatorial oversight was dispensed with and BushCo. continued on its Brownie-esque rampage to replace experience with cronyism."

Connectedness

Fisher "had a substantive law firm career, and she worked for two years in the Criminal Division overseeing the Department’s prosecutions in the high-profile areas of counterterrorism and corporate fraud. She [had] also been a long-time protégé of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff," Vermont Senator Patrick J. Leahy said in his May 12, 2005, statement. "I am somewhat concerned, however, that Ms. Fisher is nominated for one of the most visible prosecutorial positions in the country without ever having prosecuted a case, and she brings to the position minimal trial experience in any context," he said.

Leahy also expressed concerns about Fisher's "views on checks of controversial provisions of the Patriot Act and her opposition to the Act’s sunset provision; her participation in meetings in which the FBI expressed its disagreement with harsh interrogation methods practiced by the military toward detainees held at Guantanamo, and her ideas about appropriate safeguards for the treatment of enemy combatants." Leahy was also concerned about "reports that she has had ties to Congressman Tom DeLay’s defense team" and "also [wanted] to know what steps she [intended] to take to avoid a conflict of interest in the Department’s investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and possibly Mr. DeLay." (emphasis added)

Nomination

"The President intends to nominate Alice S. Fisher, of Virginia, to be Assistant Attorney General (Criminal Division) at the Department of Justice. Ms. Fisher is currently a Partner with Latham & Watkins, LLP. She previously served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. Earlier in her career, Ms. Fisher served as Deputy Special Counsel to the U.S. Senate Special Committee to Investigate Whitewater Development and Related Matters. She earned her bachelor's degree from Vanderbilt University and her J.D. from Catholic University of America." --Personnel Announcement, White House, March 29, 2005.

Troubled Confirmation

"Democrats said their hesitation over Ms. Fisher's nomination was driven not by politics but by concerns over her possible role in overseeing detention policies at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. They are seeking access to an F.B.I. agent who wrote an e-mail message in May 2004 about weekly Justice Department meetings to discuss military interrogation tactics that they felt did not produce reliable intelligence," Eric Lichtblau wrote in the August 15, 2005, New York Times.

"The unnamed agent said that several senior officials, including Ms. Fisher, who was the second-ranking official in the criminal division, attended meetings with the F.B.I.

"But Justice Department officials said Democrats were misreading the memorandum, and they quoted the F.B.I. agent in a follow-up discussion as saying he did not recall any meetings with Ms. Fisher at which the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay was discussed. Ms. Fisher and the Justice Department say she never took part in such meetings," Lichtblau wrote.

Fisher, then working at the law firm of Latham & Watkins in Washington, where she was a partner, was awaiting Senate confirmation of her nomination.

Senator Arlen Specter said "in the interview on Friday [August 12, 2005,] that he had concerns about the depth of criminal prosecution experience at the top of the Justice Department after the departure of" Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey, who left in August 2005 to be Lockheed Martin's new general counsel. Comey had been "a veteran prosecutor in Manhattan."

"Judiciary Committee members said that for the first time in memory, none of the most senior officials at the Justice Department" -- Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Timothy E. Flanigan, Robert D. McCallum, Jr., or Alice Fisher -- "would have experience as a criminal prosecutor," Lichtblau wrote.

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