In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Earlier this month, Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson testified for nearly four hours to the St. Louis County grand jury that will decide whether he will be indicted for the Aug. 9 shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

It was a striking moment. The subject of a grand jury investigation rarely risks the legal consequences of testifying before they have even been charged. But it was, at least in theory, in keeping with the prosecutor's pledge to put every piece of evidence before the jurors. Anthony Gray, one of the attorneys for the Brown family, had a visceral reaction to the news of Wilson's testimony, though: "The only thing that happened for over four hours was Mike Brown's body laying on concrete."

"I can't imagine what he could talk about for four hours," Gray told TPM in a recent phone interview, "about an incident that took in total a matter of minutes."

It crystallizes the deep-seated distrust between the authorities and the Brown family specifically and the Ferguson community more broadly, a tension that has become centered on one of the most closely watched grand juries in years. As recently as last week, both sides were unable to see eye-to-eye about what role the Brown family could even play in the investigation. In interviews with TPM, lawyers for the family cast doubt on the prosecutor's motives, and the prosecutor's office expressed skepticism that the family would have any evidence relevant to the case that the police do not already have.

The grand jury began hearing evidence on Aug. 20. In most cases, the prosecutor directs the investigation with specific charges in mind, which then dictates what evidence is presented to the jurors. But not this time. Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, whose office is overseeing the case and who has come under scrutiny in the Ferguson community for his ties to law enforcement, has said that the jury will see everything.

“We will be presenting absolutely everything to this grand jury -- every statement that any witness made, every witness, every photograph, every piece of physical evidence,” McCulloch said last month “Absolutely nothing will be left out.”

McCulloch has been a controversial figure. Protesters have pointed to his past, which includes the 1964 shooting of his father, a police officer, in the line of duty. He has tried to counter that through pledges of transparency and assigning day-to-day oversight of the grand jury to two deputies, one whom is black.

Still, the unusual nature of the grand jury proceedings has raised eyebrows, and former prosecutors have told TPM that the approach would undoubtedly give McCulloch some public-relations cover if the jury decides not to indict Wilson. In fact, one suggested that there was a easy way to help one understand how truly transparent this grand jury would be.

"If they're doing this wide open grand jury investigation, is it simply the district attorney's office who's deciding what witnesses are going in there?" Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who is now a law professor at Loyola University in Los Angeles, told TPM. "Or have they reached out to the lawyers of the family or other people? Are they actually soliciting input from other parties?"

"That can give you an idea of whether this is just cover," she said, "or this is really a community investigation."

Read More →

Both Alaska Senate candidates want to be in the good graces of the state's other U.S. senator, Lisa Murkowski (R), with each of them going up on the air with ads that seek to align their campaign with the 12-year senator.

Incumbent Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, already ran afoul of Murkowski when he aired an ad that talked up their amiable working relationship. Murkowski sent Begich's campaign a cease-and-desist letter to take it down, but Begich refused and his campaign manager told TPM that the ad had been a hit with voters.

Now Begich is up with a new ad that features the same Associated Press photograph of Begich and Murkwoski side by side and smiling.

Read More →

Last week, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) made the startling claim that he (and, by implication, other Republicans) had been urging active duty military generals to resign if they disagreed with President Barack Obama's policies.

“Let me reassure you on this,” Lamborn told a gathering of tea party voters in Colorado Springs on Sept. 23, according to the Colorado Independent. “A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, ‘Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation.’

“You know, let’s have a public resignation, and state your protest, and go out in a blaze of glory," he said.

Now Lamborn's comments have been condemned by some of his fellow Republicans, and a retired military officer told TPM that an effort by a politician to get military officers to resign for political reasons is highly unorthodox.

Read More →

Rep. Jason Chaffetz wants the Secret Service to use "overwhelming force" against White House intruders.

The Utah Republican grilled Secret Service Director Julia Pierson at a House Oversight Committee hearing on Tuesday, one day after the Washington Post broke the news that fence-jumper Omar Gonzalez penetrated deeper than previously known into the White House building, overpowering a Secret Service agent while carrying a knife.

Read More →

On Monday, Republican operatives seemed to think they had a bonafide gamechanging gaffe on their hands. In a video debunked by Business Insider, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) appeared to endorse one of the widely discredited 9/11 conspiracy theories in 2007. “There’s some evidence that were charges planted in the buildings that brought them down," Udall could be quoted as saying -- if one were to take him completely out of context, which the Insider report showed he had been.

By the end of the day, even conservative news outlets were ripping the attempted opposition research dump, which was given to the news outlet by a "conservative tipster," as bogus.

Read More →

As he faces a strong independent challenger, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) is shuffling to his right. He has been deploying more heated rhetoric, invoking the specter of "national socialism" at a campaign event. He has been making calls to tea party leaders to galvanize support, after he nearly lost to one of their own, Milton Wolf, in his primary this year. Sarah Palin has appeared on the stump.

But will it be enough?

Read More →

TPMLivewire