In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Oh, boy. Yesterday, Coleman spokesman/attorney Ben Ginsberg held a dramatic press conference to announce that 300 clearly invalid absentee ballot envelopes -- roughly 150 of them weren't even signed by the voters -- had been improperly opened and counted Election Night in the Democratic stronghold of St. Louis County (Duluth). It was a major part of the Coleman camp's push to undermine the legitimacy of the whole vote count, possibly in pursuit of a new election.

But now Noah Kunin at The Uptake looked into this with the county officials, showing them quite a few examples, and they've told him a different story: It appears these were not actually the envelopes used by those voters -- they were for in-house use by the local election workers, and these votes were legal.

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The Minnesota election court giveth to Coleman, and now they taketh away.

After granting Coleman mercy on a serious defeat he had suffered yesterday, the court has now shot him down on a separate matter, granting in full a Franken motion to forbid Coleman from obtaining questionable evidence from the counties, in Coleman's effort to get more ballots for himself counted.

Two days ago, the Coleman camp sent e-mails to county officials, asking them to certify that selected absentee voters whose ballots have been rejected did in fact meet all the legal requirements pertaining to voter-registration, and that they didn't also vote on Election Day. Coleman was pursuing one side of his case -- that votes for himself weren't counted that should be -- and wanted local officials to be able to phone it in rather than come to court. The Franken camp filed a motion in limine to forbid this maneuver, arguing it violated the rules of evidence by seeking out new documents without the ability to properly cross-examine the officials.

The court said that Coleman can submit pre-existing government documents such as voter registrars, Election Day precinct rosters, etc. But this new evidence simply isn't trustworthy -- they would be new judgments of government officials, specifically solicited by a single party in the middle of litigation.

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If you imagine Paul McCartney at Shea Stadium in 1965 you have some idea of the reception that the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, gave John Bolton this morning. The former United Nations Ambassador packed the largest ballroom at Washington's Omni Shoreham Hotel and delivered a rousing speech filled with attacks on the Obama administration but also plenty of broadsides aimed at George W. Bush and Condoleeza Rice. He ripped the administration for ruling out the use of force to stop the Iranian nuclear program and he denounced the multilateral, six-party talks that the Bush administration initiated to thwart North Korea's nuclear ambitions. According to Bolton, the talks succeeded only in giving the Pyonyang regime another five years to perfect its nuclear program and strengthen its missile capacity.

He saved his strongest attacks for the Obama administration, saying that it had appeased Russia during the campaign when then Senator Obama called on both sides of the Russian-Georgian conflict over South Ossetia to show restraint. He condemned Hillary Clinton for not making more of human rights issues on her recent trip to Asia and said that the administration's diplomatic approaches to Iran and North Korea were only allowing both nations to fuel their nuclear ambitions.

When it comes to Israel, Bolton was especially hard on the administration saying that "for those who thought an Obama administration would be friendly to Israel, it's time to wake up." Bolton did show moderation on some fronts. When asked by an audience member whether the policies of the Obama administration would lead to an armed revolution in the United States, Bolton said that he only wanted "a revolution at the ballot box." After his address, Bolton went to the exhibit hall where a long line of fans stood in line for him to sign copies of his latest book.

The Minnesota election court just decided to cut Norm Coleman a serious break, reversing their decision yesterday to strike the testimony of a key witness in Coleman's attempt to prove double-counting of votes, after the Coleman camp failed to share evidence with the Franken side.

The court's memorandum explains why they took this severe step to begin with -- Coleman's repeated failures in the past to fully share evidence in a timely manner:

The Court recognizes that striking testimony is a severe sanction but notes that this trial has been underway for five weeks and that the parties have been repeatedly instructed of the need to supplement discovery responses. The Court believes this sanction was within its discretion in light of Contestants' repeated failures to adhere to their discovery obligations under the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure.


In plain English: The court took an extraordinary step because they were very, very angry.

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The overview of the Obama Administration's first budget is now going live at the White House's site, where the public can take a look at it.

So here's an open thread for all of you to see it, scrutinize it, praise it or criticize it. We'll be looking through your comments for insights into items in the budget that may deserve more coverage and attention. So flag anything you find newsworthy. Have fun.

Obama's FY 2010 Budget Overview

The talk from the Coleman campaign about how the Minnesota election results are unreliable, and that a do-over election could be an option, has now gone beyond just Norm Coleman's lawyers -- it's now coming from the mouth of Norm himself.

Coleman did an interview with Sirius conservative talk-radio host Andrew Wilkow, and discussed the campaign's argument that the court's current strict standards for allowing in previously-rejected ballots must by extension render illegal a whole lot of ballots accepted and counted on Election Night, when local election officials used lax standards:

"What does the court do?" Norm asked rhetorically. "Yeah, you know some folks are now talking about simply saying run it again, just run it again."

"Have another statewide election?" Wilkow asked.

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Michael Steele's back-and-forth flirtation with possible primary challenges to the party's pro-stimulus Republicans is now causing him to catch some real flak. And it's not just from those same Republican, but also from conservatives concerned about winning elections -- perhaps indicative of internal strains in the GOP between a hard-line conservative agenda, versus the basic electoral goal of winning office.

Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), a pro-stimulus Republican who will be up for re-election in 2012, told Roll Call that she approached Steele about his comments and asked him bluntly: "You didn't really mean that, did you?" She said that Steele has agreed to set up a meeting with the three pro-stimulus GOPers to discuss this.

Snowe pointed out that the loss of GOP moderates, and the view that they don't belong in the party, has contributed to the party's overall decrease. "When we were in the majority, there were more of us. Now that we're in the minority, there are less of us," Snowe explained, also adding: "If that's what they want to be, well that's their choice."

And NRSC chairman John Cornyn, a right-winger whose job description right now is quite simply to elect more Republicans, said that while Steele has backed off a bit, Republicans should focus on attacking the Democrats and not each other: "We need to be finding candidates that can win in different parts of the country ... not forming circular firing squads, especially when our numbers are so small."

Obama's Day Ahead -- Introducing His Budget President Obama is giving a speech at 9:30 a.m. ET this morning from the White House, at which he will lay out his proposed federal budget. At 2 p.m. ET he will be meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus. Then he and Vice President Biden will meet with Tim Geithner at 3 p.m. ET, and then Hillary Clinton at 3:45 p.m. ET. Finally, the president will hold perhaps the most crucial event of the day at 4:45 p.m. ET: A meeting with members of the Chicago Bulls.

Biden Meeting Kosovar Leaders Later today, Joe Biden will be meeting with a delegation from Kosovo: President Fatmir Sejdiu, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, and Foreign Minister Skender Hyseni.

Report: Deficit To Hit $1.75 Trillion The first Obama budget will reportedly have a projected federal budget deficit of $1.75 trillion, thanks in part to the one-time mass spending/tax-cutting from the $787 billion stimulus bill.The deficit is expected to stay at about $1 trillion for the next two years, before falling to $533 billion in 2013, after the Bush tax cuts on top-earners would have been allowed to expire.

Obama Seeks Tax And Premium Hikes On Top-Earners To Fund Health Care President Obama will reportedly seek $634 billion over the next ten years to fund health care for the uninsured. This would be funded by allowing the Bush tax cuts on top-earners to expire, as well as taking other measures such as charging upper-income beneficiaries higher premiums under the Medicare drug plan, which was passed in 2003 without a thorough plan for how to pay for it.

Bill Clinton Gives Thumbs-Up To Obama Speech In an interview with Greg Sargent, Bill Clinton praised President Obama's Congressional address from Tuesday night, saying it struck the right balance between optimism and realism about the current economic crisis. "I think people appreciate the fact that he's not jerking them around and [is] just telling them the way it is," said Bill. "But they do wanna know that we are gonna get out of this."

Obama's Congressional Address Gets More Than 52 Million Viewers More than 52 million people watched President Obama's speech to Congress on Tuesday -- effectively his first State of the Union -- according to Nielsen Media Research. Note that this is only the measure of how many people watch on TV, and doesn't include people who watched it online. For comparison, then-President George W. Bush's first Congressional address in early 2001 attracted 39.8 million viewers.

Poll: Public Backs Surge For Afghanistan A new ABC/Washington Post poll says that about two-thirds of Americans support the recently-announced increase of 17,000 troops for Afghanistan, a sharp contrast to the opposition to then-President Bush's Iraq surge in polling at the time. On the other hand, the public is split evenly on whether the Afghanistan War has been worth its costs, and only say by a 50%-41% margin that winning in Afghanistan is essential for success in broader efforts against terrorism.

Black Caucus Wants White House Involved In Census CQ reports that the Congressional Black Caucus wants the White House to stay closely involved in the census, a direct counter-point to Republican charges that the Administration might politicize it, due to the importance the program has in allocating federal funds for various programs. Said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA): "I think the census is extremely important, and support for avoiding the undercount takes leadership, and the president has to provide that leadership."

Coleman spokesman/lawyer Ben Ginsberg is really stepping up the rhetoric about how the entire vote count in Minnesota is tainted and unreliable -- and he is quite conspicuously not ruling out the idea of asking for a do-over election.

Ginsberg just held a dramatic press conference in the hallway of the court building, with six easels containing photocopies of absentee ballot envelopes that were already accepted and counted on Election Night. Ginsberg said he had 300 examples of ballots from St. Louis County (Duluth), a Democratic stronghold, where the voters clearly didn't follow instructions and the ballots should not have been accepted.

Ginsberg said this didn't just impugn the reliability of the recount -- it showed the illegality of Election Night totals, too, with the number of illegal votes far greater than the "erstwhile margin" of the race: "It also means with this sort of overwhelming evidence that were the court to certify the Election Night results they would be including illegal votes. And the court's charge is to count legal votes, and that would be a clear contradiction."

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The Minnesota election court just laid down some serious punishment against Norm Coleman's legal team, granting Team Franken's motion to strike the testimony of a key witness involved in Coleman's claim that absentee ballots had been double-counted.

This came about because the witness, election worker Pamela Howell, had typed up some personal notes weeks ago and gave them to the Coleman campaign, who then failed to properly share them with Franken. Without Howell's testimony, the Coleman camp's efforts to show double-counting have been unambiguously damaged.

"The court will issue a written order with further explanation," said Judge Elizabeth Hayden. That further explanation should be interesting to read.

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