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After a rocky 2005, the new year got off to a better start for two prot�g�s of U.S. Department of Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff. In early January, Julie Myers became head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, courtesy of a presidential recess appointment. And Alice Fisher, head of the criminal division at the U.S. Department of Justice, appeared on national television to tout the agency’s plea deal with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The achievements of Myers and Fisher suggest that an association with Chertoff may once again be an asset. By Washington standards Chertoff has enjoyed a stainless reputation, which in turn has benefited many of his former deputies and colleagues. The top rungs of Justice and Homeland Security are crowded with lawyers who have worked with Chertoff in his previous jobs as a federal prosecutor in New Jersey, as a partner at Latham & Watkins, as counsel to the Senate Whitewater investigation, and as the head of Justice’s criminal division. But Chertoff’s image took a hit last fall from the government’s fumbling response to Hurricane Katrina, which Homeland Security was in charge of coordinating. Chertoff has also been criticized for antiterrorism policies he helped develop during his time at the Justice Department. As a result, his former associates have learned that coattails can both pull them up and hold them back. Myers has probably suffered the most for her ties to Chertoff. In the nineties the two worked on the Whitewater investigation of President Bill Clinton � Chertoff as special counsel to the Senate, and Myers as a junior lawyer in independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s office. In 2002 Myers became chief of staff for Chertoff, who at the time was in charge of Justice’s criminal division. When Chertoff became Homeland Security secretary last year, he suggested Myers for the post at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is part of Homeland Security. But Myers’s confirmation hearings last September couldn’t have come at a worse time. Three days earlier Michael Brown resigned in disgrace as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Homeland Security component which took the heaviest criticism for Katrina failures. After Brown’s departure, Congress and the media were on the hunt for other seemingly underqualified Bush administration cronies. Myers seemed to fit the bill. She had virtually no experience in immigration policy, and a thin record of management of any sort. At her hearings Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio) told Myers, “I think we ought to have a meeting with Mike Chertoff, either privately or publicly, to ask him why he particularly … thinks you’re qualified for the job. Because based on [your] resume, I don’t think you are.” But Voinovich had hit on Myers’s ace in the hole. Chertoff would not only speak privately with Voinovich, but � according to one of the senator’s aides � would play a key role in persuading the senator to back her nomination. When President George Bush bypassed the Senate to give Myers a recess appointment, there was nary a protest from Voinovich. “He believes she has the potential to be a good manager,” says Marcie Ridgway, Voinovich’s press secretary. Myers declined to comment for this article. A spokesman for her office issued a statement saying that Myers “has great respect for Michael Chertoff and is extremely proud of her work with him.” Fisher has also found that her Chertoff connection has been a mixed blessing. She worked with Chertoff on the Whitewater investigation, later joined Latham and Watkins, and then became a deputy assistant in Justice’s criminal division under Chertoff. When Chertoff left D.C. to become a federal appellate judge in 2003, Fisher returned to private practice at Latham. But when Chertoff rejoined the Bush administration last year, Fisher was nominated to take his old post as head of the criminal division at Justice. That nomination was both helped and hindered by Fisher’s ties to Chertoff, whose tenure at the criminal division was far from flawless. After 9/11, Justice was criticized for ordering the roundup and incarceration of hundreds of Muslims in the United States. Fisher and Chertoff’s role in crafting some of the more controversial legal aspects of the Bush administration’s war on terror also proved thorny. Ultimately, Fisher’s confirmation was blocked by Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) over questions about her role in formulating legal policies used to justify the harsh treatment of foreign detainees. In response, Bush granted Fisher a recess appointment last summer. Fisher declined to comment for this article. Those close to Chertoff say that his prot�g�s have succeeded as much on their own individual skills as on their relationship to their mentor. “I think relatively talented people have gravitated to him over the years [because they] want to learn at the knee of the master,” says Eric Jaso, a federal prosecutor in New Jersey who worked under Chertoff both at Justice and at Latham & Watkins. Jaso adds, “He takes his mentoring role very seriously and likes to see people learn and ultimately succeed.” � Jason McLure

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