Ethics lawyer explains why the Jan. 6 committee's staff director is a major problem: 'What a mess'

Ethics lawyer explains why the Jan. 6 committee's staff director is a major problem: 'What a mess'
Nancy Pelosi/Shutterstock

Nancy Pelosi/Shutterstock

Seven months after January 6, a bipartisan select committee led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is probing the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol Building that occurred that day. Government ethics lawyer Walter Shaub, who joined the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight in February, welcomes the committee. But this week in his e-mail newsletter The Bridge, Shaub expresses strong reservations about committee staff director David Buckley — arguing that a newly released inspector general report shows that Buckley "has a history of whistleblower retaliation" and "could undermine the committee's credibility and discourage truth-tellers from coming forward."

Because there is "so much potential for retaliation" against witnesses, Shaub writes in the newsletter, "two Capitol police officers have retained lawyer Andrew Bakaj to represent them in connection with their public testimony before the January 6 committee."

Bakaj, Shaub notes, worked for the U.S. Defense Department in the past and was also a special agent for the Central Intelligence Agency.

"As a CIA special agent," Shaub explains in the e-mail newsletter, Bakaj "contacted the intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) to report that employees of the CIA's inspector general office were mishandling evidence. When news of this botched evidence handling reached the Justice Department, prosecutors had to ask a court to vacate a defendant's guilty plea. After that, Bakaj filed a complaint alleging that the CIA's inspector general retaliated against him for his report to the ICIG."

Shaub continues, "The inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), stepped in to investigate and, in 2019, issued a report finding that Bakaj was, indeed, the victim of retaliation by the CIA's inspector general: a man named David Buckley."

The ethics lawyer adds that as staff director for Pelosi's January 6 committee, Buckley is "responsible for handling evidence for the committee and protecting whistleblowers."

"What a mess," Shaub writes. "The revelation about Buckley's past came after Yahoo News obtained the DHS inspector general's report."

When Shaub asked Bakaj to comment on Buckley's presence on Pelosi's committee, he said, "Those who testify before the committee are whistleblowers, and right now, what is clear is that there is an open question about the committee having their back."

POGO, Shaub notes, has launched a campaign for Buckley to be replaced as the committee's staff director.

So far, four police officers who were present at the U.S. Capitol Building during the January 6 insurrection have publicly testified for Pelosi's committee.

"Witnesses who help the committee, especially Capitol police officers and others who work for Congress, may be taking a risk with their careers," Shaub warns. "Those who summon the courage to testify publicly are exposing themselves to broader scrutiny and even potential threats of physical danger. Most of the people who attacked the Capitol are still out there, and so are their supporters."

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