Faced with a widening federal investigation into his ties to a high-powered lobbying firm, House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis has retained a criminal defense attorney, said sources close to the California Republican.
Lewis recently hired Robert Bonner of the Los Angeles-based firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the sources said.
Barbara Comstock, an attorney with the firm Blank Rome Government Relations and a former Justice Department official, will handle press inquiries for Lewis’ legal team, the sources added.
Lewis is facing federal scrutiny over his dealings with the lobbying firm Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton & White. FBI officials recently pulled Lewis’ personal financial records, and several current and former Lewis aides also are being investigated. Lewis has denied any wrongdoing.
Bonner was a U.S. attorney in California during the mid-1980s and also spent two years on the federal bench in the Golden State. He ran the Drug Enforcement Administration from 1990 to 1993 and served in the Bush administration over the past several years, including a stint from 2003 to December 2005 as the first commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Bonner was retained “several weeks ago,” said a source close to Lewis. It is unclear at this time how Lewis is paying for his legal help. Members are allowed to use campaign funds to cover legal costs, or they can create a legal defense fund. There is no indication that Lewis has sought to create such a fund yet.
Other partners in Gibson, Dunn include Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States from 2001 to 2004; Joseph Warin, a specialist in white-collar criminal cases; former Rep. Mel Levine (D-Calif.); and Eugene Scalia, son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Comstock also has been working with the defense team representing Scooter Libby. Libby, the former top aide to Vice President Cheney, has been charged by federal prosecutors with five counts of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI in connection to an investigation of the leak that outed ex-CIA operative Valerie Plame.