U.S. Attorney Retires With Unfinished Business
Almost everything that anyone connected with the still ongoing investigation of former Mayor Vincent Gray’s 2010 mayoral campaign does replays the scandal and its handling over again, like a spool of old Nixon tapes.
A week ago this Monday, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., announced that he would be stepping down and resigning his position as of April 1 and handing over the reigns to his highly-regarded top assistant Vincent H. Cohen Jr.
Machen will be leaving without resolving the fate, case and future of Gray remains in limbo. Gray remains, because he was all but publically indicted after a deal was reached with businessman Jeffrey Thompson last year back in March just days before the Democratic primary. At that time, Machen stated that Gray was aware of a shadow campaign, run by Thompson, which illegally funneled nearly $700,000 into Gray’s campaign.
At the time Machen promised that the Thompson indictment was only the tip of the iceberg in the Gray campaign scandal. Most savvy political observers were counting the days to when Gray would be indicted. Yet, the indictment never came and the investigation remains ongoing.
Machen’s investigation of the Gray campaign produced several indictments of lower campaign functionaries , a little at a time, until the explosion of the deal with Thompson.
Many observers, including Gray backers, have questioned the timing of the revelations that came with the Thompson deal, coming as it did just days before the primary election in March. The eventual winner, Muriel Bowser who is now mayor, had already gained some momentum prior to that but many Gray supporters felt that the Thompson revelations cost Gray the election.
Machen, who is the District’s longest serving U.S. Attorney, said he was resigning for personal reasons, not for anything having do with any cases, including the ongoing Gray investigation. His legacy remains solid. Regardless of what happens with Gray, he has exposed corruption on the city council , convicted dozens of government officials including three city council members—former council chairman Kwame Brown, Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr and at large councilman Michael Brown. Ethics in high and low office seem to be less of a talked-about problem in the city.
His office has handled numerous high profile national security cases, including those involvingd former Blackwater World employees, and a Mexican drug cartel leader.
Still, most observers agree that his ultimate reputation will hinge on what happens in the Gray investigation. The obvious delay in indicting—or clearing—Gray bothers many people, and it certainly had an impact on the electoral politics of the city.
According to a Washington Post article, Gray’s lawyer, Robert S. Bennett, said that the investigation should be ended without charges against Gray. According to the Post, he said that “I am hopeful that this investigation will finally be closed because the mayor is innocent of all allegations of wrongdoing.”
With the ongoing investigation, Gray’s future and standing remains in doubt. It seems to many observers that there ought to be a kind of time limit for an investigation to produce a result, one way or another.