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Pity the unlucky Matthew Friedrich. The top aide to Justice Department Criminal Division chief Alice Fisher, Friedrich, during his career at Justice, was a key member of the trial team that won the 2002 conviction of Arthur Andersen LLP before a Texas jury — only to see that conviction overturned unanimously last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. A onetime member of the Enron Task Force, he wasn’t among the four prosecutors (now showered with megabucks offers from private law firms) who handled the successful prosecution of former Enron heads Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. And last week his superiors sent him before the Senate Judiciary Committee to absorb the bile of senators angered by the Justice Department’s investigations of journalists. Of particular concern to the senators were DOJ’s probe into the leak of the National Security Agency’s warrantless domestic-eavesdropping program to The New York Times and the FBI’s attempts to rifle through the files of the late columnist Jack Anderson. During his stint before the committee, Friedrich declined to answer questions or told senators he didn’t know the response to their queries no fewer than a dozen times. “I would think that the department would send somebody here to testify that could answer our questions if they’ve got any respect for this committee whatsoever,” Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) told Friedrich. Added Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.): “Is there any question that you guys are allowed to answer other than your title, time of day?” Tensions may have been high in part because DOJ declined the committee’s request to send Attorney General Alberto Gonzales or Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty. “I did not want you to be here as a punching bag,” said Leahy. “I just felt some of the people in your department maybe sent you up that way.” That statement led to one of the Justice official’s few direct responses. “I will have a much happier walk back down Pennsylvania Avenue knowing that, Senator,” Friedrich responded. He did not return calls seeking comment.
Jason McLure can be contacted at [email protected]. Gabe Nelson can be contacted at [email protected].

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