Jared-Ivanka “Ethics” Lawyer Helped Pharma Weaken Opioid Enforcement
A blockbuster Washington Post / 60 Minutes report Sunday detailed how the pharmaceutical lobby managed to strip the Drug Enforcement Administration of its best tool against drug companies that fuel the deadly opioid crisis by supplying prescription narcotics to crooked doctors and pharmacists. A 2016 law, pushed by revolving door Washington lobbyists and industry-friendly members of Congress, undercuts the ability of the DEA to block suspicious drug transfers.
The piece is receiving particular attention because the law’s key sponsor was Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), who became President Trump’s nominee to head the White House drug control office. Marino withdrew his candidacy this morning, after Trump, questioned by reporters Monday, said that if Marino’s record proved troubling “I will make a change.”
But there’s another disturbing Trump connection: one of the lawyers hired by the pharmaceutical industry to influence the Obama Justice Department on the issue was Jamie Gorelick, who was Deputy Attorney General, the Department’s number two official, in the Clinton Administration.
Gorelick has served, since January, as the main ethics lawyer for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
According to the Post story, Gorelick represented Florida-based Cardinal Health, one of the country’s big three prescription drug distributors, which in 2011 was under investigation by the DEA for suspicious opioid sales. Gorelick acknowledged to the Post that she wrote to Obama’s Deputy Attorney General James Cole on behalf of Cardinal — “to ask that my client be afforded due process.” Meanwhile, Craig Morford, who was acting Deputy Attorney General under George W. Bush, had become Cardinal’s chief in-house lawyer, and he, too, was pressuring the Obama administration, going over the head of DEA investigators and writing to then-DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart. After those contacts, the top DEA investigator on the case was summoned to Justice to brief Cole on the case; according to the investigator, Joseph Rannazzisi, the meeting was “adversarial to say the least” and he felt he was being told to back off. (Cole denied trying to pressure Rannazzisi.)
In December 2016 Cardinal agreed to pay a $34 million fine to settle the DEA investigation. By then, Congress had passed the law weakening DEA’s ability to pursue investigations like the one against Cardinal.
While the efforts of Gorelick and her allies managed to weaken accountability for opioid abuses, her work for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump has helped set a new low for ethics compliance — disgraceful even by the dismal standards of the Trump administration.
The director of the National Background Investigations Bureau testified last week at a congressional hearing about Kushner’s disclosure documents and said he has never seen so many errors on a security clearance form. The apparent errors were far from benign. Beyond the repeated failures to report contacts with Russians, it emerged last week that Kushner failed to disclose his ownership interest in Cadre, a real estate tech business that raised millions from investors after Jared joined the Trump White House. As Newsweek concluded, “The timeline suggests more than just an inadvertent oversight, but an effort by Kushner to hold onto Cadre rather than be forced to divest his interests in the emerging company, according to ethics experts.” Material omissions on security clearance forms are crimes if made knowingly.
McClatchy reported in July that special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators “are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.”
Jared and Ivanka also secretly established their own private email domain after the election, and then used it to conduct some Trump Administration business — a brazen abuse given the Trump campaign’s endless assault on Hillary Clinton’s similar practice. Gorelick might have been familiar with that controversy, given that she was a long-time Hillary supporter and a lawyer for the Clinton Foundation.