ESTRADA BLOCKBUSTER EXPOSE
Wrote Briefs For Florida 2000 Coup; Possible "Elf"
"American Success Story" Proven A Partisan Ideologue, Hack
No Paper Trail? Wrong, MW's! You're Just Lazy; Corrupt
Miguel Estrada, White House nominee for the prestigious and influential D.C. Federal Court of Appeals, helped mastermind the Republican legal strategy in the 2000 election crisis that led to the notorious Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore, an MWO investigation has revealed.
Estrada may also have been one of the so-called "elves," including among others his close friend Ann Coulter, who conspired with Kenneth Starr's Office of Independent Counsel and the Paula Jones legal team to lay the perjury trap that led to the partisan impeachment of Bill Clinton.
Following the stonewalling lead of the White House, the national media have been content to report that Estrada has left no paper trail about his political affiliations and judicial views. Instead, reporters have pumped up the phony G.O.P. story that Estrada is some kind of up-by-the-bootstraps American success story.
Even those in the media who have condemned the Estrada nomination, including the editorial board of the New York Times, have done so because Estrada's record appears so sketchy. In fact, there is much more to that record than the Times or anyone else has reported.
The evidence shows a pattern of partisan zealotry and right-wing connections on Estrada's part. It also conveys the strong impression that Estrada has received his nomination chiefly because of his legal work on behalf of the Bush campaign in 2000-- and, quite possibly, because of his involvement in the right-wing lawyers' conspiracy to bring down Clinton by any means necessary.
After practicing corporate law for three years with the New York firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, Estrada, the son of a prosperous family from Honduras, was appointed by the George H.W. Bush administration, first to the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York and then, in Washington, to the post of Assistant to the Solicitor General. After leaving government service in 1997, he was recruited to join Ted "Arkansas Project" Olson's D.C. law firm, Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher. There, Estrada worked alongside Olson and such high-profile active G.O.P. attorneys as Sean Royal and Gene Scalia (son of Supreme Court Justice Nino Scalia). The firm -- and particularly its appellate division, which Estrada helps head -- is notorious as, in the words of American Lawyer magazine, the "rescue squad" for huge corporations hit with adverse consumer liability and public tort judgments.
But its biggest rescue operation was conducted in Florida in 2000 on behalf of George W. Bush.
Olson was, of course, be the chief lawyer for the Bush campaign during the 2000 election dispute, arguing its case before the Supreme Court. In 2001, after revelations about his own efforts to conceal his involvement in the so-called Arkansas Project, the rabid anti-Clinton effort funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, Olson was nearly rejected as a nominee for Solicitor General -- but he squeaked through amid the political chaos surrounding Senator Jim Jeffords's decision to switch from the Republican to the Democratic party.
What has gone unnoticed until now in the latest nomination struggle is that Miguel Estrada was a chief member of the Olson team that devised strategy for Bush v. Gore. Estrada's key role as a partisan legal strong-puller and sharpshooter was explained more than a year ago by Susan Beck in The American Lawyer. But amid the talk about Estrada's meager paper trail, that report has been buried -- until now.
It is one thing for an utterly devoted right-wing Republican partisan like Ted Olson to serve as Solicitor General, arguing the Administration's cases before the federal courts. Bad as it is, that basically involves Olson doing what he has done for many years -- advocating, from a particular extreme point of view.
It is another thing entirely to place Olson's partisan comrade-in-arms on the second most important federal court. Federal judges are expected to be objective and dispassionate, not partisan. They are not supposed to be advocates; they are supposed to be JUDGES.
Yet with the Estrada nomination, the Bush White House is trying to slip by a documented advocate and pretend he is qualified to be a judge.
At one level, the nomination appears to be a political payback to Estrada for services rendered in 2000. Olson has gotten his; so have several others at Gibson, Dunn; now it's Estrada's turn. At another level, it is the latest move by the White House to turn the judiciary over to the most reactionary forces in the legal world, who seek the repeal of virtually every piece of social and economic legislation enacted since the advent of the New Deal.
And there may be even more to it. When he is not litigating on behalf of Republican candidates and large corporations, Estrada is involved in the same right-wing circles frequented by Olson and his friends, above all in connection of the Federalist Society in which he is an active member. And there is strong reason to believe that Estrada's connections are deeper, and more nefarious, than this.
During the partisan drive to oust President Clinton, a group of right-wing lawyers -- dubbed by one of their number, Ann Coulter, as the "elves" -- worked day and night to bypass the law and bring down the president. Aside from Coulter, one of the chief elves was George Conway, a former associate of Estrada's at Wachtell, Lipton. Last Friday, Coulter not only acknowledged that she and Estrada were good friends: she went on to note that, in the past, they have had contacts, with Estrada giving her ideas, correcting her errors, and sending her, as she put it, "stuff."
In 1998, Estrada was no longer working for the government. He was a high-profile litigator at one of the nation's right-wing law firms of choice, headed by Ted Olson, late of the Arkansas Project. He knew at least two of the "elves," Ann Coulter and his ex-colleague George Conway.
Was Estrada involved with the "elves" as well, either directly or as a deep-background supplier of ideas and "stuff"? Ann Coulter knows the answer to that question, as does George Conway. But they have, highly suspiciously, clammed up about Estrada, Coulter most visibly on national television.
It would certainly be interesting if the news media, which has fallen down on the job completely on this important matter, did some digging -- and asked Coulter and Conway as well as Estrada to come clean about his possible "elf" services in 1998.
But interesting -- and necessary -- as that investigation is, its results cannot override the plain evidence about Estrada's partisan involvement in Bush v. Gore. That evidence alone ought to be sufficient to disqualify him from the federal bench.
If only the news media had done its job, perhaps even this White House would have thought twice about making this cynical nomination. But they haven't -- so now it's up to you.
Email Senators Patrick Leahy, John Edwards, and Charles Schumer, bringing to their attention Miguel Estrada's disqualifying partisan involvement in Bush v. Gore and his possible involvement with the "elves." Tell them that one of the architects of the G.O.P.'s legal strategy during the 2000 election dispute has no business being named to a high federal court. Ask them, urgently, to do everything in their power -- up to and including a filibuster of the Senate -- to keep this partisan advocate from being named to the federal bench.