In it, but not of it. TPM DC

I just got off the phone with Bay Buchanan who confirms that Marcus Epstein is still executive director of The American Cause, and will be until June 20th. She says his departure has nothing to do with the karate chopping incident, but with his departure for law school.

"The whole incident was inexcusable," Buchanan said. "The language in particular was offensive to anyone by any standard." But, "Marcus Epstein has shown tremendous courage in addressing some serious personal problems and he has turned his life around."

She said she's known about this case for nearly two years, but agreed to let him stay on staff contingent upon full rehabilitation.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has released this statement on today's arguments at the Minnesota Supreme Court:

Today's hearing in the Minnesota Supreme Court was an important marker in Norm Coleman's protracted legal effort to overturn the results of last November's senate election. While Norm Coleman's desperate arguments still call for tossing-out legally-cast ballots, and counting illegally-cast ones, Al Franken was well-served by his legal team, headed by Marc Elias who impressively argued today's case.

But the bottom line is Al Franken got more votes and that is why Al Franken won the election, why Al Franken won the recount, why Al Franken won the election contest, and why he should soon prevail in the Minnesota Supreme Court. We have always said Norm Coleman deserves his day in court, but the Minnesota court system should be the end of the road for former Senator Coleman. This is a decision that should be made in Minnesota. It's been 209 days since the election, and with this Court's ruling we believe Al Franken will be entitled to an election certificate, so that he can get to work for the people of Minnesota.

The reference to the state court being the proper end of the road is meant to convey the Democratic position that once the state Supreme Court presumably rules for Franken, he should be seated immediately -- as opposed to a potential Republican effort to tie this up further in federal court.

In addition to crusading for Tom Tancredo and karate chopping innocent black women on summer evenings in Georgetown, it turns out that Marcus Epstein also works for everyone's favorite MSNBC talking head Pat Buchanan.

According to its website, Epstein is the executive director of The American Cause--Buchanan's anti-immigration organization. I've placed a call to The American Cause and to MSNBC for comment, and to verify that Epstein remains on staff, and will let you know what they tell me.

For part three of today's legal proceedings in Minnesota, where the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Norm Coleman's appeal of his defeat at the election trial, let's take a look at when lead Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg came back for a 10-minute response period after Franken's lead attorney Marc Elias had a turn at bat.

Friedberg again complained that the trial court did not allow him to put in evidence of unequal treatment of absentee ballots across the state. "I repeatedly tried to get that evidence in, and repeatedly could not," said Friedberg. He added in even stronger terms: "I couldn't get it in, and I tried to the point where I strained the court's patience. I didn't want to go any further than that. These judges were very well-tempered."

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As part two of our review of today's proceedings at the Minnesota Supreme Court, where oral arguments were heard in Norm Coleman's appeal of his defeat at the election trial, let's take a look at lead Franken attorney Marc Elias' rebuttal.

Elias did get a fair number of tough questions from the five-member panel, but for the most part they had a different flavor than what Friedberg got. Elias received a lot of questions that amounted to putting him on the spot regarding the nature and ramifications of his arguments and his objections to Friedberg's. By contrast, I pointed out that Friedberg got questions that were so pointed as to amount to a ridicule of his case -- specifically the lack of full evidence.

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When Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) makes his primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) official, he won't have the Washington establishment on his side and he'll probably find himself significantly outspent by his famous opponent. But he has some tricks of his own up his sleeve.

"If you have the right message, and you're consistent in putting it out there," Sestak told me, then you still have a shot. "Sen. Clinton, running against Sen. Obama, was outspent four-to-one in Pennsylvania and yet somehow her message seemed to resonate." *

He describes "the message" as a key issue. But what will his message be? In an interview with TPMDC, Sestak provided some clues.

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The oral arguments just finished at the Minnesota Supreme Court, in Norm Coleman's appeal of his defeat at the election trial, with Coleman's lead attorney Joe Friedberg arguing that serious constitutional issues mean the trial court's legal conclusions should be overturned and more previously-rejected absentee ballots from Coleman's selected list put into the count. Franken's side obviously argued differently. For this post, let's focus on the Coleman side.

It's always a tricky business to read clues into the questions that judges ask the lawyers during these proceedings -- despite some basic assumptions about how this works, judges can surprise you. But if we just go by the basic assumptions, it didn't look good for Coleman, with the judges asking pointed questions of Friedberg that at certain points amounted to ridicule of him for putting on a shoddy case.

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Remember how Tom Tancredo went on CNN last week and called Sonia Sotomayor a racist, accusing her falsely of being a member of a "Latino KKK"? Well, if racism so offends him, how does he explain this?

On July 7, 2007, at approximately 7:15 p.m. at Jefferson and M Street, Northwest, in Washington, D.C., defendant was walking down the street making offensive remarks when he encountered the complainant, Ms. [REDACTED], who is African-American. The defendant uttered, "Nigger," as he delivered a karate chop to Ms. [REDACTED]'s head.

That defendant is named Marcus Epstein--a former Tancredo speechwriter who now works as executive director of Tancredo's political action committee.

Epstein pled guilty to the charge, but, according to Dave Weigel of The Washington Independent, he'll remain on the job "until he leaves for law school in the fall."

The Republican National Committee has this new Web video on the General Motors bankruptcy deal, condemning it as an example of the Obama Administration taking over the private sector:

RNC Chairman Michael Steele included this statement:

"No matter how much the President spins GM's bankruptcy as good for the economy, it is nothing more than another government grab of a private company and another handout to the union cronies who helped bankroll his presidential campaign. President Obama will now own 60 percent of GM, and his union buddies will own almost 20 percent. And what do the taxpayers get? They'll get stuck with up to a $50 billion tab for the taxpayer dollars Obama is using to pay for his takeover of GM. Americans shouldn't be fooled. This is the real 'change' President Obama has in mind for America - government ownership of our economy financed with irresponsible and reckless government spending and debt and no jobs to show for it. This is a very sad day for the autoworkers and their families whose financial well-being will be directly affected by this clear act of an overreaching UAW and overbearing government."

The Minnesota Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments at 10 a.m. ET today in the Minnesota Senate election contest, hearing Norm Coleman's appeal of his defeat at the trial a month and a half ago. Check out our good friends at The Uptake for a video feed. So what can we expect? And when will Minnesota actually get a second Senator?

The first thing to remember is that we won't get a decision from the judges today, and probably not for several weeks. Instead, both sides will make their oral arguments, after having already filed written briefs over the last few weeks. The big thing to look out for will be how the five Justices of the court -- the court has seven members, but two have recused themselves because they sat on the state canvassing board that oversaw the recount -- react to the attorneys' arguments and what sort of questions they pitch.

The Coleman side has charged that variation among local elected officials in accepting or rejecting certain absentee ballots -- namely ballots from their own list, and largely from counties that Coleman carried overall -- amount to a fundamental violation of the Constitution under the 14th amendment. They have argued for the court to adopt a more lax standard for admitting ballots in, as opposed to strict adherence to the letter of the law on a ballot's requirements and qualifications. A consequence of this is that it seemingly implies they'll try to take this to federal court if they lose at the state level.

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