In the Loop: Snowden retains a legal heavy hitter

Edward Snowden’s new attorney is well versed in the world of espionage, but Plato Cacheris is also well known as a stealth legal navigator for those who find themselves suddenly notorious. In some instances, such as Snowden’s case, the two go hand in hand.

But a New York Times story published Tuesday morning about Cacheris taking on Snowden’s case leaves out perhaps the lawyer’s most famous clients: Monica Lewinsky, President Bill Clinton’s mistress, and Fawn Hall, the Oliver North secretary involved in the Iran-contra scandal. Cacheris helped Lewinsky receive immunity from prosecution, freeing her to testify about her sexual relationship with Clinton. He also got immunity for Hall so she could speak freely.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

A veteran D.C. legal warrior, Cacheris, born just before the Great Depression, brings Snowden’s case a level of credibility, which is precisely what The Washington Post wrote when Lewinsky retained him. From a June 4, 1998, article:

“Cacheris, who started his career as a federal prosecutor but has three decades of experience as a defense lawyer, has worked out plea bargains in recent years for many of his high-profile clients. ‘He is known for keeping people out of trouble, and one way to do that is by keeping them from going to trial,’ said Mark Hulkower, who prosecuted one of Cacheris’s best-known clients, Soviet spy Aldrich H. Ames.”

The mega-lawyer has been the go-to defense attorney for D.C. scandals since he represented Attorney General John Mitchell during the Watergate crisis. Now Cacheris, who declined to comment to the Times on his involvement in the Snowden case, has the formidable task of getting the former National Security Agency contractor a deal that would allow him to return to the United States.


Michael McFaul says he was under constant surveillance as the U.S. ambassador in Russia. The guy behind him in sunglasses could not be reached for comment. (Misha Japaridze/AP)

Better call Plato.

Vlad, speaking his mind

If Vladimir Putin doesn’t like you, he’ll say it to your face.

Michael McFaul, who quit as U.S. ambassador to Russia in February after a turbulent two years, went on a little media tour (and he’s not even promoting a book — yet), appearing on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” on Monday night and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday.

Acknowledging that Putin considered him a “personal enemy,” McFaul told Colbert: “He didn’t like me, that’s right. In fact, he told me once or twice.”

Putin thought McFaul was sent to Russia to organize opposition against him, a charge Putin had also made about former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

McFaul said that he was under surveillance “all the time” while in Moscow. Colbert asked the diplomat how the United States could be sure he hadn’t been turned by the Russians.

“If they were trying to recruit me,” he said, “I would have preferred a little better treatment.” (Note to Sheila Gwaltney, acting ambassador in Moscow: Beware if Putin invites you over for a little beluga caviar and Russo-Baltique vodka.)

McFaul’s publication of “My Life With Vlad” is inevitable, right?

Benghazi talking points

New White House e-mails made public Tuesday by the conservative group Judicial Watch further support the contention that President Obama’s team wanted then-
U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to stress that a video disparaging the prophet Muhammad was the catalyst for a series of anti-American protests across the Islamic world, including the deadly attacks on the mission in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012.

In an e-mail with the subject line “PREP CALL with Susan,” Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, wrote that one of the goals before Rice went on the Sunday news shows after the killing of four Americans was to “underscore these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”

While the video appeared to be the cause of dozens of protests, it remains in question what impact it had on the attackers in Libya, where four Americans were killed, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. The video was produced in the United States by a California real estate developer.

These e-mails were left out of the collection released in May 2013 that showed the back-and-forth within the Obama administration over talking points. The new Rhodes e-mail, which was sent to Rice and others on the Friday night before her Sunday-morning appearances, mentions Libya only briefly and focuses on responses to possible questions she could be asked about the widespread protests.

It clearly showed that a White House top priority was to shield Obama from criticism less than two months before voters decided whether to give him a second term.

Separately, the White House was involved at the same time on Friday night, several days after the attack, in assembling a series of talking points about the Benghazi attacks that the House Intelligence Committee requested. Those talking points were given to Rice on Saturday afternoon.

The previously released Benghazi-specific documents revealed that State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland sent an e-mail Friday night to Rhodes and others expressing her concern that her agency appeared to be taking the blame for failing to heed general CIA warnings of a possible attack on the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.

Ultimately, the new e-mails do little more than buttress what has been known for a year about the immediate communication among the Obama team as it rushed to cobble together talking points from the information it had to feed to Rice, who was asked only late in the day Friday to speak for the White House.

A GOP maverick on p-o-t

A conservative Republican is leading an effort to legalize medical marijuana.

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) told the Loop on Tuesday that he surprised some colleagues when he told them he was the author of a new marijuana bill but that he hopes having a Republican stating the case will “make people take another look at it.”

It’s not a new perspective for Griffith, who staked this position as majority leader in the Virginia House of Delegates and even drafted a bill in 2010, though it swiftly died.

As a member of Congress, Griffith has taken this libertarian view to a larger stage, introducing LUMMA, the Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marijuana Act. Griffith’s bill would ensure that states could make their own decisions about medical marijuana without the federal government stepping in. His bill would also reclassify marijuana under the Justice Department’s controlled-substance lists so it wouldn’t be linked with harder drugs, such as heroin.

“I am saying if we can use [opioids], why the fear of using [marijuana] for legit medicinal purpose?” Griffith said.

Public support for the medical use of marijuana is overwhelming. A CNN-ORC International poll in January found 88 percent of adults in the United States support legalizing the drug for medical reasons.

But Griffith said he still thinks that legalizing marijuana fully, so just anyone can go down to “Billy Bob’s marijuana shop,” is “irresponsible.”

— With Colby Itkowitz

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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