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It’s not often you see one of former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s aides publicly criticize the current Justice Department. But that’s exactly what former Ashcroft spokesman Mark Corallo did last week when he submitted an affidavit bashing the DOJ for issuing subpoenas to two San Francisco Chronicle reporters who wrote articles about the BALCO steroid investigation based on leaked grand jury testimony. In supporting the reporters’ motion to quash, Corallo accused Justice’s leadership of violating long-standing departmental policies that discourage subpoenaing reporters except in certain circumstances “where immediate action is required to avoid the loss of life or the compromise of a security interest.” “I just saw an egregious abuse of power,” says Corallo. “There seems to be this attitude at [the DOJ] that just because the law says we can, we will.” Corallo, who now runs his own public relations company, has some clients who likely didn’t mind him taking a swat at his old employer. He’s been retained by Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman, the securities class action firm indicted by the Justice Department last month. He’s also served as spokesman for Karl Rove, the presidential aide under scrutiny by DOJ Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the investigation into the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity. That case, of course, may hinge on the degree to which reporters are compelled to cooperate with prosecutors and defense lawyers. Corallo, however, says his client list didn’t affect his decision to jump into the BALCO matter. “None of my clients had any idea that I was doing this,” he says. Regardless, his move will likely burn bridges with some fellow Republicans at the DOJ. His affidavit offers implicit criticism of not only Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, but to others with authority over the decision, including Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, Criminal Division chief Alice Fisher, and Public Affairs Director Tasia Scolinos. Firing back, DOJ spokesman Brian Roehrkasse says Corallo “may not have been aware of all of the facts” of the BALCO case.

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