President Bush is reportedly expected to nominate longtime prosecutor Noel Hillman to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals less than a week after a congressional report criticized the then-justice Department official for “incomplete and misleading” assurances to the court during Sandy Berger’s 2005 plea bargain for taking classified documents.
Hillman, a newly appointed federal judge in New Jersey, most recently served as lead Justice Department prosecutor against Jack Abramoff in the Capitol Hill lobbying scandal. During his tenure with Justice, Hillman oversaw the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s 2000 campaign finances, indicting and prosecuting her finance director, David Rosen, for filing false reports. Rosen was acquitted in 2005.
WND has reported on the civil action against Clinton related to those charges.
Hillman also served as former chief of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section during the prosecution of Berger, President Clinton’s former national security advisor, for removing classified documents from the National Archive.
WND has reported that Clinton signed the letter authorizing Berger’s access to the classified documents that later came up missing.
Berger pleaded guilty in April 2005 to one misdemeanor count of removing a classified document and was given two years probation, 100 hours of community service, a $50,000 fine and revocation of his security clearance for three years.
In accepting the plea, Hillman assured the court that Berger did not have an intent to hide any of the documents or conceal facts from the 9/11 Commission and that “nothing was lost to the public or the process.”
But a report on the investigation into Berger’s removal of documents, issued this week by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, identifies multiple occasions when Berger had access to original copies of classified documents for which there were no other copies or which had never been inventoried.
The report singled out Hillman for his “incomplete and misleading” assurances that the Justice Department had accounted for all documents Berger had handled and that all materials had been forwarded to the 9/11 Commission investigating the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The report states:
- There is no basis for concluding Berger did not remove original documents responsive to 9/11 Commission requests during the May 30, 2002 and July 18, 2003 visits to the National Archives. Nevertheless, the Justice Department’s representations to the 9/11 Commission left the impression that Berger’s document theft was limited to what he admitted taking.
- The public statements of the former chief of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, Noel Hillman, were incomplete and misleading. Because Berger had access to original documents on May 30, 2002 and July 18, 2003, there is no basis for his statement that “nothing was lost to the public or the process.”
- The 9/11 Commission relied on assurances from the Department of Justice that a full and complete production was made, and that no original or any other responsive documents were withheld. No one told the 9/11 Commission that Berger had access to original documents. The 9/11 Commission was specifically interested in the office files of White House terrorism advisor Richard Clarke, and never was told that Berger had access to Clarke’s original office files on May 30, 2002 and July 18, 2003.
Berger’s actions “compromised national security much more than originally disclosed,” Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, ranking Republican member of the committee that produced the report, said.
“It is now also clear that Mr. Berger was willing to go to extraordinary lengths to compromise national security, apparently for his own convenience,” Davis said.
Sources have told the Newark Star-Ledger that Bush is committed to the nomination of Hillman to fill the slot vacated last year by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
“It’s pretty close. It’s what the White House wants to do.” one knowledgeable source who asked not to be identified told the paper.
Hillman enjoyed the backing of New Jersey Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg for his recent appointment to the federal bench and would need it again for the appointment to the appeals court.
The White House reportedly declined to select an ideologically conservative nominee. Senate rules allow Lautenberg and Menendez to block consideration of a New Jersey judicial nominee they oppose.
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