- A report rebuked former Trump US Attorney Scott Brady over remarks at a 2020 press conference.
- Brady exhibited “poor judgment” impugning the character of a career prosecutor, a watchdog found.
- The inspector general’s office found Brady’s lack of contrition for his comments to be “disturbing.”
In November 2020, a group of 16 career prosecutors penned a letter to then-Attorney General William Barr protesting a memo that — in a break from justice department policy — opened the door to voting fraud investigations before the election results were certified.
The letter expressed concern that Barr’s memo thrust “career prosecutors into partisan politics,” and its signatories spoke from authority as specially assigned monitors of election malfeasance. Their message grabbed headlines and, on November 16, 2020, the Justice Department advised politically-appointed US attorneys not to take any action that could be considered retaliatory.
But in Pittsburgh the next morning, then-US Attorney Scott Brady had a “quick question”: Could he ask a career prosecutor in his office whether he’d be able to fulfill his duties as a so-called “district election officer” in light of his objection to Barr’s memo?
“These [district election officer] Designations are completely discretionary titles [that] have no status, rank or compensation attached to them. As such, removing someone’s [district election officer] designation should not be viewed as retributive in the whistleblower context nor implicate any other protections, correct?” Brady asked in an email.
Brady did not have that conversation or strip the prosecutor of that designation.
But at a press conference the next day, Brady the prosecutor’s wife in a personal attack that the Justice Department’s internal watchdog recently mentioned condemned as “unbecoming of a US Attorney or any DOJ leader.”
Brady’s conduct was detailed in a 10-page inspector general report Insider obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The Justice Department’s inspector general released a shorter report Thursday that faulted a US attorney for exercising “poor judgment” and inappropriately impugning the career prosecutor’s character, but it did not name Brady.
Insider identified Brady as the former US attorney at issue on Thursday. The more detailed, 10-page report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act confirmed Brady as the US attorney and, more broadly, shed light on the atmosphere within the Justice Department as then-President Donald Trump made unfounded claims of widespread election fraud.
Brady, now a partner at the law firm Jones Day, did not respond to a request for comment. He resigned from the Justice Department in February 2021.
The inspector general investigation stemmed from a November 18, 2020, press conference where a reporter asked Brady about voting fraud investigations and the letter career prosecutors had sent criticizing the Barr memo.
“I can’t comment on any existing investigations,” Brady said. To the second [question]one of our two district election officers, who was married to the former chief of staff of [Attorneys General] Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, did sign onto that unbeknownst to anyone in leadership before he signed onto that and did not talk about that with his fellow district election officer, who’s also our ethics advisor.”
According to the 10-page report, the inspector general received a complaint asserting that Brady’s remarks not only “sought to shame the [assistant US attorney’s] professional reputation” but also raised potential security issues for him and his family “given the charged political environment.”
The Justice Department’s Executive Office of US Attorneys also responded to the press conference with concern and contacted Brady.
In the report, the Justice Department described Brady as unrepentant and dismissive of concerns about his remarks at the press conference.
“We found it disturbing that, during our interview 11 weeks after the press conference, Brady told the [inspector general’s office] that, in retrospect, he did not find his response to the reporter to be at all troubling,” the report stated. “However, after being given an opportunity to review the draft report, Brady acknowledged that his remarks were ‘ill-advised and that he should have taken a different approach to the reporter’s question.'”
According to the report, an official in the Executive Office of the US Attorneys recounted to investigators that Brady “made light” of the situation and claimed the press conference remarks were being blown “out of proportion.” The official also recalled telling Brady that he shouldn’t treat the assistant US attorney at issue “any differently than anybody else” and cautioned him against taking any step that could be viewed as retaliatory.
That official recalled Brady responding, “Damn it, I’m not going to say anything to him.” (A lawyer for Brady asserted that he “never said ‘damn it,’ noting that the former US attorney does not use that expression,” according to a footnote in the inspector general report.)
The inspector general’s investigation concluded that Brady’s “intentionally derogatory public notes” ran contrary to Justice Department guidance and “reflected poorly on DOJ.”
But the Justice Department lacks standards of conduct that were applicable to the situation, the inspector general added, meaning the remarks did not constitute a violation of any rule, policy, or guideline.