A former high-ranking Justice Department official is being accused of criminal conflict of interest in the latest case stemming from the investigation of disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Robert Coughlin was deputy chief of staff of the Justice Department’s criminal division before his resignation a year ago.
In court papers filed Monday in federal court in Washington, prosecutors accused Coughlin of providing assistance to a lobbyist and the lobbyist’s firm while receiving gifts from the firm and discussing prospective employment there. The lobbyist isn’t named but The Associated Press has previously reported that Coughlin was lobbied during the period in question by Kevin Ring, a member of Abramoff’s lobbying team who also is under investigation.
Update: The filing today is a criminal information, meaning that Coughlin will very likely be pleading guilty sometime soon. We’ll have that document up soon.
Coughlin stepped down about a year ago as the investigation of Kevin Ring, a former DoJ official and aide to Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), was heating up.
Update: Here is the charge filed today, which has very little in the way of facts about what Coughlin might be admitting. As I said, it’s an information, which means that a guilty plea is likely to follow.
Update: The Washington Post reported last year that Coughlin, who worked with Ring on John Ashcroft’s Senate staff, had accepted tickets to sporting events from Ring, who was by then one of Jack Abramoff’s closest associates. Those coveted skybox seats, remember, constituted one of Abramoff’s prime means of wooing lawmakers and staffers. Coughlin worked in the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs at the time. It looks from the information that Ring and Abramoff also talked to Coughlin about working for Abramoff after Coughlin was done with public service.
When Coughlin later moved to the criminal division, the DoJ said that he recused himself from any dealings with the Abramoff investigation.