In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The Franken legal team has written a letter to the judges in the election case, sharply rebutting the Coleman camp's new idea to nullify the whole election.

The letter mainly rebuts the Coleman camp's call to retroactively un-count a number of absentee ballots on a geographically-targeted basis. Team Franken argue that the binding case law says this is not a viable option, and that the court is not allowed to calculate that any illegal ballots favored one candidate over another -- that would be relieving Coleman of his responsibilities under the burden of proof.

Then they get to the proposition about throwing the election out:

Contestants' alternative and even more untimely suggest--that the election be set aside--fails as well. Not only has this remedy been applied primarily when there is evidence of fraud or systemic irregularities...but this Court lacks the authority to set aside the election. Its jurisdiction is limited to deciding which party received the highest number of legally cast votes, and therefore is entitled to receive the certificate of election... Any other remedy lies within the jurisdiction of the United States Senate.


And let's make no mistake, by the way. After this thing crisscrosses its way through the legal system, the United States Senate is probably where the fight will end up next, in light of the increasing noise from the Coleman campaign that the election is invalid.

At today's press briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked by the NBC correspondent, Tom Costello, to respond to the complaints of CNBC's Jim Cramer, made on NBC's "Today" show that the president is scaring investors. Anyone who has listened to Jim Cramer already has plenty of reason to be scared because his advice has been so consistently wrong. Anyone listenting to Tom Costello might think that NBC is in the business of self promotion. Anyone listening to Gibbs respond might thing that the White House loves to use goofballs as strawmen.

This comes on the heels of the administration responding to Rush Limbaugh--and elevating his status to leader of the Republican party--and the White House using CNBC's Rick Santelli as a foil. Before we have the president responding to Glen Beck or Erin Burnett, can we have a ban on reporters asking the White House to respond to a blowhard and can the White House stop using blowhards as a foil?

Norm Coleman is continuing to speak up and question whether it's possible to tell who won this election, and whether such a conclusion is even legally possible, after his lawyers pitched the judges on the possibility of throwing out the whole result.

Coleman took questions from reporters very briefly this afternoon, and declared: "Clearly, there is a question whether this court can certify who got the most legally-cast ballots."

Norm did add, however, that the court still has an opportunity to deal with the problem of illegal votes -- an apparent reference to his legal team's new push to declare illegal an unknown number of absentee ballots from Election Day, and then attempt to un-count them through proportionate reductions.

Last week, Norm began floating the idea of holding a new election.

Earlier today -- before Norm's presser -- DFL spokesman Eric Fought sent us this comment:

Former Senator Coleman has taken five weeks in court to make his case. He hasn't proven anything to say he won in November and he knows he lost. So now he's asking the court to do something so radical that it has no basis in Minnesota law. Al Franken--who has already won the recount, will soon win this election contest and begin representing Minnesota in the Senate--after a scrupulously fair and transparent process that has done Minnesota proud.


(Coleman presser c/o The Uptake.)

The identities of the counterparties who stand to benefit from the government's huge new bailout of AIG are remaining frustratingly secret, as Josh pointed out this morning, even as taxpayers ensure that AIG's partners in deal-making get paid. But at least one member of Congress isn't satisfied with the explanation coming out of the Federal Reserve and Treasury.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) pressed Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke hard in the Budget Committee this morning on the need to identify AIG's bailed-out counterparties. After Bernanke replied that "under normal conditions, [the counterparties] would have presumption to privacy about their commercial decisions," Wyden sounded extremely displeased:

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So is House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) going to criticize Rush Limbaugh, or not?

Earlier today, Rush told Greg Sargent that Cantor's comments on ABC's This Week, saying that neither he nor other Republicans want President Obama to fail, was in fact in agreement with Rush on the policy issues, and had been distorted by ABC.

So we asked Cantor's office for clarification -- and they're not giving a real answer to it.

Instead, Cantor press secretary Brad Dayspring is daring the Democrats to go talk to Rush themselves:

If Robert Gibbs is worried about the policies Rush Limbaugh talks about on his show, he should call into the show- I'm sure Rush would welcome it. In the meantime, if Mr. Gibbs and the Administration want to focus on creating jobs and helping the Middle Class deal with an economy in recession, they should call Eric Cantor and work with us on the these very real problems.


After seeing what happened to Michael Steele, who can blame Cantor for not wanting to be caught criticizing the great leader?

Today is a big day in the Minnesota trial: The Franken campaign is finally beginning to present their side of the case, after Coleman rested yesterday.

The Franken camp has spent today bringing in a queue of aggrieved voters whose absentee ballots were rejected, 17 of them in total this morning, trying to get the court to rule that these ballots -- presumably all for Franken -- were wrongly tossed and ought to be put in the count.

The previous attempts by Team Coleman to play this game didn't go very well -- the judges even cited one Coleman witness by name by name as an illegal voter in an important opinion they handed down. So far, it seems to be going well for Franken, though it hasn't been perfect.

Lead Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg doesn't seem to be making too much of an effort to declare that these votes were rejected properly, as the Franken campaign worked to accomplish against his own witnesses. This seems to be for two reasons: Team Coleman has been trying to get the court to reverse itself on their strict standards for letting in rejected votes, and therefore he needs to show good faith. And furthermore, the Coleman camp seem to have changed their approach, to demonstrate the fallibility and unreliability of the system, in order to possibly get the whole election thrown out.

Here's one exchange between Friedberg and a Franken witness:

Friedberg: Ms. Meyer, can you think of any reason your ballot shouldn't be opened and counted?

Pamela Meyer: No.

Friedberg: Neither can I. We stipulate this ballot should be opened and counted, Your Honor.


Other cross-examinations were more drawn out than this one was, but you get the idea.

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President Obama's budget, released last week and downloadable here, is almost ten times shorter than the economic recovery law passed last month, but it packs just as big an ideological punch as the stimulus.

Both the presidential and congressional budgets set frameworks for future spending without instituting binding new policies, but the dense documents are considered important "statements of priorities" for the party in power. In the case of Obama and his Democrats, one priority emerges most clearly from the budget: spreading wealth around for the common good (apologies for the Joe the Plumber reference).

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DNC chairman Tim Kaine just appeared on Fox News, and took the opportunity to dig in against Rush Limbaugh's "leadership role" in the Republican Party, and how this is endangering the country in a time of crisis.

See more at FoxNews.com.

Fox host Jon Scott brought up the recent Limbaugh-Steele flap, and asked Kaine: "Democrats are sort of enjoying this, aren't they?"

"Well you know, yeah -- in a way, yes," said Kaine. "But it's a lot at stake when somebody who is in a leadership role -- as Rush Limbaugh clearly is -- states that he wants for the president to fail, and he is followed in that by members of Congress voting against the Recovery Act. That's pretty dire, given our situation right now."

Kaine then went after Michael Steele's apology for having offended Rush, and Steele's having backed down from what Kaine said was a "courageous" comment. "You know, it left a lot of us wondering, who's really in charge? Kaine said. "It seems like Rush Limbaugh is kind of the He Who Must Be Obeyed these days in the Republican Party."

Finally, Kaine played up the national interest: "Again, we're in a time of national crisis. And the shouters aren't gonna get us through it. It's gonna be problem-solvers who will, and that's what we need from both parties right now."

The new Marist poll has some truly horrible news for David Paterson, saying that he could lose both primary and general elections in landslides.

In a primary against Andrew Cuomo, Paterson is behind by an amazing 62%-26% margin. In a general election match-up with Rudy Giuliani, Paterson gets crushed by 53%-38%, while Cuomo beats Rudy by 56%-39%.

The poll is a whole lot better for newly-appointed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, though it's not great. Gillibrand edges former GOP Governor George Pataki 45%-41%, and is ahead of GOP Congressman Peter King 49%-28%. In a Democratic primary, Gillibrand is in a near-tie with pro-gun-control Congressman Carolyn McCarthy, with 36% for Gillibrand and 33% for McCarthy.

Here's a sign of just how awful Paterson's ratings are: His approval numbers are worse than Eliot Spitzer's were, when he was in the middle of the prostitution scandal that forced his resignation. Just before he resigned, Spitzer had a 30% excellent/good rating and 64% fair/poor in the Marist poll. By comparison, Paterson is at only 26%-71%.

Another person to feel sorry for here is former Congressman Rick Lazio (R), who ran against Hillary Clinton for the Senate in 2000 -- he actually manages to trail Paterson in a possible gubernatorial match-up by a 47%-35% margin.

When the new Democratic Congress passed a sweeping ethics bill in 2007, controversy erupted over the proposed new "revolving-door" ban on ex-lawmakers and aides lobbying their former colleagues. Senators wanted to double the ban to two years, while House Democrats pushed for keeping a one-year ban that would allow them to nail down lucrative lobbying gigs after leaving the Hill.

But no matter the length of the revolving-door ban, both Republicans and Democrats have long taken advantage of its enormous loophole. Let's call it the "senior adviser" route -- instead of lobbying current lawmakers directly, defeated members of Congress are flocking in droves to become behind-the-scenes consiglieres to the lobbyists that are allowed to contact sitting members.

The "senior adviser" club got another member just this morning ...

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