When a reporter last year asked about political litmus tests for Department of Justice officials, a guy in the press office said that’s “crap.”
But he was lying.
That amounts to “misconduct,” according to the DOJ Inspector General’s report today.
The press flack was John Nowacki, who is now the deputy director for the Executive Office for United States Attorneys’ Staffs. He’s one of the only DOJ officials named in today’s report who is still working for the department.
Nowacki was a staunch defender for Monica Goodling. She helped hire him at DOJ and both are graduates of Regent University, the evangelical school in Virginia founded by televangelist Pat Robertson.
Nowicki is reportedly on assignment in Iraq and was unable to be reached for comment.
In March of last year, Nowacki received an email inquiry from Legal Times reporter Ted Goldman, who wrote:
Several longtime ausa’s are telling me that the detaillee [sic] program at the [Executive Office of the U.S. Attorneys] has become far more politicized than ever before. … if you’d like to give me a response, i’d very much appreciate it:
Nowacki knew at the time that Goodling was considering party affiliation and other political criteria when selecting people for DOJ positions. That’s what he told the IG during its investigation.
Nevertheless, he set gears in motion to spin the reporter with a false denial.
Shortly after receiving this e-mail, Nowacki forwarded it to Acting EOUSA Director Steven Parent. In his e-mail, Nowacki commented, “Steve – Let’s talk about this tomorrow. It’s crap.”
Nowacki began to circulate a draft statement in response to the reporter’s inquiry that would go out under Parent’s name.
In my tenure with EOUSA, I am not aware of any attempt to screen candidates on the basis of party affiliation by anyone, including Monica Goodling; that issue simply has never come up in any interviews in which I have participated. To suggest that those career employees who have been selected to serve details to EOUSA is based on anything but professional experience unfairly detracts from those career employees and is simply wrong.
The DOJ ultimately never sent the response, partly because “Parent said he did not want the statement to be attributed to him since he was not sure of the facts,” according to the report.
The IG suggested DOJ should take disciplinary action against Nowacki.
We concluded that EOUSA Deputy Director John Nowacki committed misconduct by drafting a proposed Department response to a media inquiry which he knew was inaccurate. … Nowacki is still employed by the Department. Therefore, we recommend that the Department consider appropriate discipline for him based upon the evidence in this report.
A spokesman for the DOJ did not respond to a request for comment.
Here at TPMmuckraker, we recall a lot of dubious statements coming out of the DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs. If providing false statements to reporters amounts to misconduct, then the DOJ may have more people to deal with than just Kowacki.