At a Thursday morning press conference on the Mueller report’s impending release, Attorney General William Barr offered an effusive absolution of President Donald Trump. The entire exercise felt more like public relations than fair-minded legal analysis, and Barr’s conclusions will likely contribute to existing perceptions that the Department of Justice is essentially working for Trump. But Barr didn’t work alone, and as public scrutiny inevitably fixes on him in the aftermath of today’s events, he may share the hot seat with the two individuals who joined him for Thursday’s briefing. One, Rod Rosenstein, is somewhat familiar to the public as the department’s deputy attorney general. His bearded neighbor is not as well known. He’s Edward O’Callaghan, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who joined the Department of Justice earlier this month as a principal associate deputy attorney general.
O’Callaghan’s career reveals a firm commitment to the Republican Party. As Newsweek reported, O’Callaghan previously worked for the 2008 presidential campaign of the late Senator John McCain. In that capacity, he traveled to Alaska to intervene in a state investigation into Sarah Palin, then the state’s governor and McCain’s running mate. Palin faced an ethics probe into her suspicious termination of the state’s Department of Public Safety Commissioner, Walt Monegan; Monegan had reportedly refused to fire a state trooper who happened to be the ex-husband of Palin’s sister. According to Newsweek, O’Callaghan worked with Palin aide Meghan Stapleton to try to defuse the investigation.
“Stapleton and this guy did almost daily press conferences to discredit the investigation,” Hollis French, an Alaska legislator, told Newsweek. “She was the face Alaskans would recognize. Others would have no idea who this attorney was standing next to her.” Les Gara, a serving Democratic state legislator, told the magazine that O’Callaghan and Stapleton made the investigation “look like a Democratic attack against Palin.” Sounds familiar!