Annual Meeting 2008

Why NBC’s Legal Reporter is Feuding With Karl Rove

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From his perch as chief legal correspondent for NBC News, Dan Abrams has developed opinions on everything from the politicization of the Justice Department to news coverage of Barack Obama. At a luncheon speech at the ABA Annual Meeting on Friday, he was happy to share.

Abrams began with criticism for the former Justice Department staffers accused by ethics watchdogs of taking political considerations into account when making hiring decisions. “This is about hijacking the Justice Department for power,” he said.

Abrams says evidence suggests that former White House political adviser Karl Rove was behind political decisions in DOJ. Rove has resisted a subpoena by the House Judiciary Committee in its probe into whether politics influenced the firings of nine U.S. attorneys and the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat.

Abrams finds the suggestion “frightening” that Rove or any White House staffer could be involved in the decision to prosecute Siegelman. For his part, Rove denies any involvement and has made that assertion in what Abrams calls a “five-page angry letter.”

“I have somehow developed an ongoing feud with Karl Rove,” Abrams said.

Abrams also commented on:

• The New Yorker cover depicting Barack Obama dressed as a Muslim and his wife attired in combat boots. Abrams thought it was satire and didn’t find it objectionable. The point, he said, is about the absurdity of accusations surrounding the couple.

• Lawyers who refuse to realize that media coverage can be important to their clients’ cases. Abrams has this message for lawyers who say they don’t want to become media whores: “There is a middle ground between whoring and abstinence.”

Abrams spoke to the ABA Litigation Section. Before his remarks, the section gave its International Human Rights Award to Karen Tse, the founder of International Bridges to Justice. Tse’s group trains lawyers who represent criminal defendants in countries that have failed to implement due process rights.

Annual Meeting 2008:

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