In it, but not of it. TPM DC

In yet another setback for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL), U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel has just ruled that Blago is not allowed to travel to Costa Rica to appear on a Survivor-style reality show for celebrities.

Blago would have needed to this special permission to leave the country during a time when he is under indictment. The Chicago Sun-Times quotes the judge as saying: "I don't think this defendant in all honesty ... fully understands the position he finds himself in."

Besides, this whole thing seemed pretty superfluous: Blago already starred on a really fun reality show.

The latest legal filing from Norm Coleman's legal team, officially registering their appeal of his defeat in the Minnesota election trial, seems to contain an interesting pair of contingency plans when it quickly lays out exactly what his case is: That either votes should be counted showing that he is the winner -- or that no winner can be determined at all.

The filing is not a complicated brief, but a quick summary of what Coleman's points will be at a later date. It mainly focused on Coleman's claim that thousands of rejected absentee ballots that he identified ought to be counted, if he can get a standard of admission less than the strict compliance with the law demanded by the court.

But then it adds this:

II. Whether the trial court violated the constitutional protections of equal protection and due process when it declared that Respondent received the highest number of "legally cast votes" where the record demonstrated that, by the trial court's rulings, the number of "illegally cast" ballots counted on election day and during the recount greatly exceeded the margin between the candidates and it cannot be determined for which candidate those illegal votes were counted?

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In case you weren't already convinced of the awe-inspiring power of TPMDC, yesterday we corrected the many errors House Minority Leader John Boehner made during his Sunday appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. We even provided the good congressman with a primer on cow flatulence and how it contributes to climate change. Last night, Ed Schultz provided a similar service. Watch:

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If you live in a state with a Republican senator--or, more specifically one of the many Republican senators who used to decry filibustering executive nominations--you may be getting a phone call from a sultry-sounding supporter of Barack Obama's appointees.

Kathleen Turner, who you may remember from such films as Body Heat and The Jewel of the Nile, has agreed to record a robocall urging recipients to call their senators and tell them to confirm Dawn Johnsen, President Obama's designated chief of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.

The call--which will go out in Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Utah--is part of a campaign by People for the American Way aimed at preventing Johnsen's nomination from being filibustered. Turner has been a member of the organization's board for years. The transcript of the robocall appears below the fold.

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Geithner To Face Questions On TARP Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner will be testifying at 10 a.m. ET today before the Congressional Oversight Panel for the TARP program, where he is expected to face tough questions on the progress of the program -- and regarding a recent report by Inspector General Neil Barofsky criticizing the program for benefitting business and being potentially unfair to the taxpayer.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will meet with King Abdullah of Jordan one-on-one at 10 a.m. ET, and the two will hold an expanded meeting at 10:30 a.m. ET. At 2 p.m. ET, Obama will present the Commander in Chief's trophy to the Naval Academy football team. At 2:45 p.m. ET, he will meet with Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton to discuss national service, and at 4 p.m. ET he will sign the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act into law, at the SEED School in Washington.

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DSCC chairman Bob Menendez released this statement tonight, regarding Norm Coleman's appeal of his defeat in the Minnesota election trial:

"It is sad, but not surprising, that Norm Coleman would continue to drag this process out any longer. While it is certainly within his right to appeal, given all of the challenges facing this country right now, we'd hope that he would put the interest of Minnesotans above his own and allow all of us to move on. It is 167 days since the election - it is time for Republicans to stop holding this seat hostage as a way to obstruct President Obama's agenda. We should all let Senator-elect Franken get to work for the people who elected him. The Minnesota Supreme Court needs to be the end of the road."


The Dems have been steadily drawing a line in the sand, that Al Franken should be seated after he presumably wins at the state Supreme Court, without this getting further bottled up in the federal courts. We'll find out in due time how successful they are.

Earlier today, Josh flagged Andrea Mitchell bringing the supposed controversy over Barack Obama's brief handshake with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez into the mainstream. As ridiculous as this all is--and Josh lays out the reasons nicely--she's had a lot of help in the last few days from many of her colleagues.

But there was a small problem with her segment. She said "the analogy [conservatives and Republicans] are making is when John F. Kennedy went to Vienna, Kruschev sized him up and realized or thought that he was weak, and what we had then was the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Berlin Wall, and a series of East-West conflicts."

That's not really the point Newt Gingrich made on the Today Show during the segment Mitchell was referring to. Here's Gingrich:

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On a conference call with reporters, lead Franken lawyer Marc Elias reacted to the Coleman campaign's filing of its notice of appeal -- and lambasted it up and down, before calling for a super-speedy expedited schedule for the state Supreme Court to handle this.

"So what we have now is the death throes of the Coleman legal effort," Elias said. "This is a process that has obviously been going on for some time now. I understand how difficult it is, emotionally and otherwise, for a candidate and a legal team to come to the place where they must accept that they simply didn't get as many votes as the other candidate. And I've said to some of you before, both on calls and one on one, I've represented enough campaigns to know how difficult that is."

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Big congratulations to all of the Pulitzer winners this year. As always, they seem worthy.

You can argue about whether this series or that cartoonist should have won instead but it's hard to look at the winners and not think them worthy of the distinction bestowed on them.

I would think TPM readers would particularly love, as they should, David Barstow's piece on the military message machine.

Taken as a whole, though, the prizes seem a little odd. First, it's kind of weird that more of the prizes didn't focus on the 2008 campaign and the financial crisis which were kind of, oh, big last year.

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On a conference call with reporters just now, the Coleman legal team announced that they are formally filing their notice of appeal today with the state Supreme Court, and will now await an order from that court to have briefs submitted and to schedule oral arguments.

"We do believe that the district court got it wrong on the law," said legal spokesman Ben Ginsberg, "and wrong because the Minnesota tradition and law are to enfranchise people, and their decision disenfranchises many Minnesotans, whose votes have been wrongly rejected."

Coleman attorney Jim Langdon laid out the campaign's hopes at the state Supreme Court -- that the state Supreme Court is not bound by the same rules as the trial court, but can instead make and clarify those rules.

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