Departure of Top DOJ Official Underscores Dangers of Lack of Transparency on Potential Conflicts of Interest
- November 22, 2022
DOJ provides no information on bias and conflicts even as Nicholas McQuaid returns to firm representing Hunter Biden
Today, Protect the Public’s Trust warned of the risks to the public’s trust in government from the lack of transparency around ethics and conflicts of interest. The recent announcement of a high-ranking Department of Justice (DOJ) official’s return to a law firm engaged in high-profile cases involving the DOJ highlights the necessity of openness and timeliness.
In July, PPT filed a transparency lawsuit against DOJ for the agency’s refusal to comply with requests for records regarding waivers to federal ethics laws and potential conflicts of interest among high-level staff. Among those with potential conflicts of interest was Nicholas McQuaid, appointed by President Biden as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division. At the time the lawsuit was filed, PPT noted that a former colleague of McQuaid, with whom McQuaid jointly represented at least one client, was hired by Hunter Biden. According to media reports, McQuaid is returning to his former law firm. A related report also indicated that “DOJ hinted in February 2021 that McQuaid may have recused himself from the Hunter Biden case but did not say so directly.” PPT believes this recusal would be included in documents responsive to the Freedom of Information Act request at the center of the lawsuit.
McQuaid’s departure from DOJ underscores exactly why it is vital that these records be available to the public on a much more rapid basis. Despite the FOIA request submission more than a year ago, DOJ has yet to provide any records. As a result, the American public will have no knowledge about McQuaid’s recusals or potential waivers until after he has left the agency. Sitting on these documents until after officials have left denies the public the information to ascertain whether bias or conflicts of interest may be influencing decisions at the highest levels of the government.
“The Biden Administration’s constant refrain is that it is the most transparent in history and Attorney General Garland sings the praises of transparency and accessibility,” declared Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “But where the rubber meets the road, even when DOJ could douse claims about bias and conflicts in his own agency with some transparency, Justice falls far short of what the public deserves. Yet, at the same time, they wonder why the American public’s trust in its government is on a downward spiral.”