The Daily Caller has learned that the author behind the recent report from the Department of Justice that targeted five former U.S. attorneys for excessive travel expenses has had, according to our sources, a troubled history in the DOJ and attempted in the past to use her position to smear conservatives.
When the report surfaced last week, the investigation’s timing and targeting especially of New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie, who has steadily been raising his national profile, raised red flags.
According to the DOJ report, Christie — favored by many conservatives to run against President Obama in 2012 — spent a total of about $2,000 more than his budget allowed on 23 trips he took between 2007 and 2009. Almost immediately after the report’s release, conservative media and the blogosphere lit up with accusations that the report was politically motivated and meant to malign a rising star in the Republican Party.
Tom Fitton, the president of DOJ watchdog organization Judicial Watch, agreed with that sentiment, telling TheDC that his first instinct was that the report was nothing more than a hit job from an “ideological and hostile Justice Department that leaked the report.”
New information obtained by TheDC shows that that narrative may be true.
The report’s author, Maura Lee, began her DOJ career in the civil rights division, but now works in the DOJ Office of Inspector General. Hans von Spakovsky, former counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights, supervised Lee and told TheDC that he was “astonished” when he found out she was the author of the report.
According to von Spakovsky, Lee was “one of the most belligerent, unprofessional lawyers” he encountered during his time at the DOJ. “Because of her,” he said, “we had to completely change our security protocol.”
Another former senior DOJ official who asked not to be named confirmed Lee’s involvement in strategizing to leak information to the Washington Post, saying that she was not a trustworthy person and had major political motivations.
Von Spakovsky described one case where Lee was caught breaking into the e-mail of a colleague, Joshua Rogers, specifically because Rogers was conservative and Christian. “Lee was radically left. She made it plain that she didn’t like Rogers,” von Spakovsky said.
He went on to call Lee’s efforts at DOJ a “major security breach.”
“She was one of the most partisan career people I ever met,” von Spakovsky told TheDC. So partisan, in fact, that he describes Lee as someone who would encourage other DOJ lawyers not to pursue cases so that the Bush administration would not be able to take credit for being progressive on voter and civil rights issues.
When asked, von Spakovsky said Lee is “so biased, there is no way she could investigate and write an objective report. I can’t imagine anyone more inappropriate to be working on this kind of report in the IG office.”
According to another former DOJ employee who worked closely with Lee, Lee first got into trouble while working in the Voters Rights Division during the Bush administration. There, according to the former coworker, Lee was caught breaking into other employees’ e-mail accounts and spreading around personal information.
The former coworker also alleges that Lee sent out e-mails to the more “left-leaning DOJ employees,” suggesting that they leak sensitive information to the Washington Post. According to this former DOJ employee, once Lee was found out, the entire security system within the Voters Rights Division had to be revamped.
Not only that, but according to this source, Lee’s superiors – including von Spakovsky – were authorized by the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility to search her e-mails. They found evidence of Lee’s attempts to leak information to the Washington Post on, among other things, the Texas redistricting issue in 2005 when a handful of DOJ attorneys argued the new plan was unconstitutional because it unfairly favored Republicans.
Shortly thereafter, Lee moved to the Inspector General’s office, where she authored this latest report. Although the report did not mention Christie by name, it mirrored accusations made in 2009 about Christie’s travel expenses that nearly derailed his gubernatorial campaign.
When contacted by TheDC, Lee refused to comment.
Both von Spakovsky and the former DOJ employee are of the opinion that considering the history of its author, the recent report targeting Chris Christie is absolutely politically motivated. Moreover, both said that another IG report was also done on internal travel expenses of DOJ employees that, in some cases, exceeded the budget limit by tens of thousands of dollars. That report, however, was never released.
“There is absolutely no logical explanation for why this report [for the five attorneys general] would get leaked and the one about internal employees was kept confidential,” said von Spakovsky.
Christie’s office has not yet returned TheDC’s request for comment.