Bushies scrambling in advance of OPR report

BUSHIES SCRAMBLING IN ADVANCE OF OPR REPORT…. Way back in February, Hilzoy had an item on an important internal Justice Department report, which has gone largely overlooked. The department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) has been investigating whether Bush administration attorneys who wrote torture memos gave legal advice “consistent with the professional standards that apply to Department of Justice attorneys.” A draft reportedly had less than kind things to say about Jay Bybee, John Yoo, and Steven Bradbury.

Not surprisingly, this sent a ripple of panic out among loyal Bushies. With the OPR report poised to be published, old Bush hands are scrambling.

Former Bush administration officials are launching a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign to urge Justice Department leaders to soften an ethics report criticizing lawyers who blessed harsh detainee interrogation tactics, according to two sources familiar with the efforts.

In recent days, attorneys for the subjects of the ethics probe have encouraged senior Bush administration appointees to write and phone Justice Department officials, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is not complete.

A draft report of more than 200 pages, prepared in January before Bush’s departure, recommends disciplinary action by state bar associations against two former department attorneys in the Office of Legal Counsel who might have committed misconduct in preparing and signing the so-called torture memos. State bar associations have the power to suspend a lawyer’s license to practice or impose other penalties.

It appears, based on the reports, that Bybee and Yoo, both of whom faced deadlines yesterday to respond to OLC questions, do not end up looking good in the report. It remains to be seen whether a) the lobbying efforts to water down the report will have any effect; and b) whether Bybee and Yoo, among others, will face disbarment as a result of the investigation.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.