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Eric Holder’s ‘secret staff’ on New Zealand jaunt revealed

New Line Cinema via AFP Photo: Pierre Vinet New Line Cinema via AFP
Photo: Pierre Vinet

The Justice Department has coughed up the names of the aides who accompanied Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. on his fine jaunt to New Zealand back in early May.

Loop fans may recall we wondered why, in the midst of the Great Sequester, a week-long trip (with a stop in Hawaii) — to attend a one-day meeting with other attorneys general from that country, Canada, Australia and Great Britain and to give a speech — was really essential.

Holder, as we have written, had a busy travel schedule in the summer of 2012, visiting, among other places, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries, Denmark, Germany, Guam, Malaysia and Singapore. We suspected a New Zealand visit would surely include a stop at the Hobbit Shire. So we asked how many aides he took with him.

But the acting head of public affairs at the time, Nanda Chitre, who was on the trip, rebuffed e-mails asking what other Justice staff were aboard the attorney general’s comfy jet.

“Going to decline on providing a list,” she e-mailed twice, and she didn’t respond to a request to give any reason for declining.

So, as promised, we filed a formal Freedom of Information Act request to the department, which is the government’s designated enforcement agency for FOIA matters, asking for the list and prompt review.

That expedited review was granted, and we’re happy to report that Holder took seven aides in all on the trip (not counting his security detail and FBI advance folks).

In addition to Chitre they were: Holder’s chief of staff, Margaret Richardson, and three legal counselors — Denise Cheung, Molly Moran and Jenny Mosier. So he had lots of legal advice. As would be expected, two lawyers from the criminal division’s office of international affairs, Bruce Swartz and Lystra Blake, also went along. Doesn’t appear there were empty seats.

Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth around here.











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

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