Stevens was charged in Washington federal district court with false statements for failing to disclose certain information on financial disclosure forms. The case fell apart amid allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. Stevens's attorneys at Williams & Connolly accused Public Integrity trial lawyers of hiding favorable evidence. (A special prosecutor's report, published last March, concluded the government didn't play fair.)
Breuer oversaw what he called a rebuilding of Public Integrity: new leadership under career prosecutor Jack Smith and a new focus on trial work. The section, Breuer maintains, has reboundedsecuring 23 guilty verdicts in 28 trials between 2010 and 2012.
There was, of course, the government's trial loss in the campaign finance prosecution in North Carolina of former Democratic presidential contender John Edwards. The jury in the Edwards case last May found him not guilty on one count; the panel deadlocked on other counts. After the mistrial, and amid much debate over whether charges should have been brought in the first place, DOJ abandoned the case.
"I think, as I've always said to you, I really feel I call them the way I see them," Breuer said. "Edwards was a challenge, and a jury ultimately decided to hang. There was not anyone who felt that our prosecutors didn't do an excellent job. They represented the United States admirably. Juries are going to do what they're going to do."
Breuer has never been a federal prosecutor, but he says the lack of that experience didn't impair his ability to run the officeoverseeing some 600 lawyers. Breuer's legal career began in 1985 when he took a job as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan. He joined Covington in 1989, spending eight years there before jumping to the White House to serve as special counsel to President Bill Clinton.
In the interview, Breuer said he managed to "recruit real giants" to his front office and to the sections.
"I had people with varied skill setsdefense lawyers, prosecutors, federal prosecutors, people in violent crime, white collar crime, IP," Breuer said. "I think we were able to join together in a very collaborative way."
Breuer said he's staying in Washington after leaving DOJ. A couple of former colleagues at Covington have expressed their interest in seeing him return to the firm.
"That's better than the reverse," Breuer said, laughing. "They have told me of their love. I really haven't yet talked to anyone in any serious way," Breuer said. (Covington has declined to comment about Breuer.)
Wherever he ends up, Breuer will be locked out, for a time, from working on some matters. But he said he hasn't yet figured out the scope of those conflicts. "I think I will be recused, obviously, from matters whatever I do next," Breuer said. "I don't know what that is. I really, genuinely have no idea what that is at this point."
In the meantime, Breuer said he might travel a bit and work on his golf game and "mediocre" tennis game.
Mike Scarcella writes for The National Law Journal, a Daily Report affiliate.