OpinionMeister

Friday, April 01, 2005

Berger to Plead Guilty

The New York Sun reports that Sandy Berger will plead guilty in the document case. Link.
A White House national security adviser under President Clinton, Samuel Berger, will plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information, the Justice Department announced yesterday.

Mr. Berger, 59, is scheduled to offer the plea at Washington this afternoon before a federal magistrate.

The charge stems from a period in 2003 when Mr. Berger was helping Mr. Clinton prepare for testimony before a national commission investigating the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (...)

The offense to which Mr. Berger is expected to plead guilty is punishable by a fine and a prison term of up to a year. Attorneys said it is highly unlikely that Mr. Berger, a first-time offender, will get any prison time. (...)

(Bruce Fein, a former Justice Department official under President Reagan) said he suspected that politics were behind Mr. Berger's decision to plead to a misdemeanor rather than fight a possible felony charge over the allegedly mishandled documents.

"It's not the greatest thing in the world when you're in the high altitude of Washington consulting to have a misdemeanor conviction. You don't put it on your marquee. That's why I'm suspicious," Mr. Fein said. "If it went to trial, it may have some embarrassment to Clinton. He just didn't want to get President Clinton involved."

Mr. Berger's actions denied the 9/11 Commission access to important documents and made certain of their conclusions suspect, because they were based on unnecessarily incomplete data. There are always gaps in the data available to investigators, but these were carefully chosen gaps, intended to mislead in a certain direction. Considering the importance of the investigation he intentionally obstructed, this should have been a felony, not a misdemeanor.

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