The Chris Donovan presser -- the first time the 5th District nominee of the Democratic Party for the US Congress had appeared to answer media questions concerning the arrest of his former finance chairman – was preceded by a prelude in which Donovan spokesman Gabe Rosenberg, laid down the ground rules for the presser.
Mr. Rosenberg read from the following statement:
“I have to take a minute to set some ground rules. This is a very serious matter, and we have treated it that way. Chris has retained attorney Shelly Sadin of Bridgeport to represent him, his campaign, and his legislative office, and she’s here in front.”
Ms. Sadin is a white-collar criminal defense lawyer associated with the Bridgeport firm of Zeldes Needle & Cooper.
“Chris’ lawyer,” Mr. Rosenberg continued, “has made it clear that while she recognizes the importance of Chris speaking directly to the public, he needs to take great care not to do anything that might interfere with an ongoing federal inquiry.”
A CTMirror report put it this way: “Donovan is under no legal prohibition to refrain from discussing the case, but his lawyer, Shelley R. Sadin, is intent on keeping on good terms with the U.S. attorney's office as Donovan tries to remain a witness, not a target.”
Mr. Rosenberg continued, “This includes speaking publically about matters that are not public,” a prohibition that seems over-broad. The kind of orange juice Mr. Donovan drinks in the morning might qualify as a matter that is not public. But Mr. Rosenberg qualified the qualifier: “That means no questions about what he told the FBI in a brief and voluntary interview last week, and what he will share with them as the investigation proceeds.” These restrictions beg for alternate investigations. Would it have been permitted had a reporter asked Mr. Donovan in what sense his interview with the FBI was “voluntary?”
The prohibitions having been presented, Mr. Rosenberg went on to tell the media what the Speaker would, on the advice of his lawyer, be inclined to share with the media gathered to question him: “Chris can and will tell you directly what he has already communicated through his staff: that he did nothing wrong; that he is shocked and disappointed by the allegations against his former campaign staff; and that he intends to promptly and freely cooperate with the government, so that it can complete its work,” mostly matters already covered by other flack catchers, among whom may be numbered Tom Swan, the director of the Connecticut Citizen’s Action Group (CCAG), an organization once committed to consumer protection that now rents out Mr. Swan to left of center Democratic politicians seeking office.
Mr. Rosenberg asked for Mr. Donovan the same respect he media had afforded Republican Party leader Larry Cafero, who was also questioned by the FBI, and offered a cautionary note: “I will remind you now, Chris Donovan has not been accused of any wrongdoing.”
Righto! The FBI investigation, details of which Mr. Donovan has pledged not to reveal, is yet in its early stages. Investigations of this kind, particularly when they are accompanied by parallel inquiries, tend to bottom out as people – though not, of course, the lawyer-up Speaker, who does not wish to compromise the FBI investigation – chatter away. It is perhaps too early to suppose that one who “has not been accused of wrongdoing” is therefore innocent of wrongdoing. In the early stages of former Governor John Rowland’s impeachment, Mr. Rowland was thought by those connected with his campaign to be innocent of wrongdoing.
“None of us committed to this campaign,” Mr. Rosenberg concluded, “would be here if we were not convinced of his honesty, his integrity, and his desire to serve the families of the 5th Congressional District. With that, here’s Chris Donovan.”
Considering the prohibitions imposed upon Mr. Donovan by Ms. Sadin, only about ten percent of the candidate for the U.S. Congress stepped forward to handle the questions posed by a narrowly restricted media.
Even so, some questions bordered on dangerous ground. And when one or anoher reporter was presumptuous enough to put unwanted questions to Mr. Donovan, now thoroughly lawyered-up and armor plated, the imprudent queries were batted away by the vigilant Mr. Rosenberg, who popped up from time to time to warn a straying reporter that he was violating the ground rules.
The associated Press noted in a report: “Gabe Rosenberg, Donovan's spokesman, interrupted the news conference several times to say the speaker will not discuss details of what he may know about the investigation, including his interview with the FBI.”
A YouTube of the presser may be found here.
Governor Dannel Malloy has softened his view on full disclosure since Mr. Dovovan’s presser, according to a recent piece in CTMirror:
“Last week Malloy took a harsher stance, demanding that Donovan give "a full explanation of what he knows." But Malloy said Monday he found credible Donovan's assertion Sunday that federal authorities have asked him not to discuss the case in detail.
"’That's not unusual in an investigation at this stage,’ said Malloy, a former prosecutor in New York. ‘It may make his life a little more difficult at this stage to honor that request.’"