In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Here's another fun moment this morning from Minnesota: The Coleman legal team was literally unprepared for a speedy trial.

Earlier this morning lead Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg called as a witness Robert Hiivala, the county auditor of deep-red Wright County, to review recount procedures and ballots from his area. Friedberg conducted his direct examination, Franken lawyer David Lillehaug did his cross-examination, and then Friedberg did a re-direct.

And then...that was it. Hiivala was excused, making this the first time that a local official was excused in the court of a single morning -- in fact, all the others have gone for more than one day.

Then the judges asked Friedberg to call his next witness. He didn't have anybody ready until after lunch. A very nonplussed Judge Elizabeth Hayden called a recess "with great reluctance," and admonished Friedberg to make sure he would have additional witnesses ready at that point, and to have more witnesses on tap for tomorrow.

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More stories this week about the delay in Treasury appointments, most notably someone to run the Troubled Assets Relief Program or TARP.

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, a prominent Wall Street executive was approached about the job--I'm now told a number of times--because he was that rare fit. He'd been at a big firm but he left to start his own boutique investment house before the s**t hit the fan financial troubles last fall and thus wasn't tainted by the most recent problems on Wall Street. He turned Geithner down and so Neel Kashkari, the Bush holdover, continues to hang on.

At this point, something will have to give. Either the administration and Congress and the public will have to accept people coming straight from the tainted financial firms or give the jobs to the Christina Romers of the world, academics who don't have the Wall Street taint and don't consider making less than $200K to be a dramatic lifestyle change.

Academics are fine but it would help to have some financial types in there who know the firms and where the bodies are buried. Lee Sachs, a Clinton veteran remains over there at Treasury, but more ex-Wall Streeters are going to have to come in at some point. Obama bent his lobbying rules to allow Mark Patterson, the former Goldman Sachs lobbyist, to become Geithner's chief of staff. More rule bending is on its way.

The stimulus bill is about to be signed into law, but debate continues to rage over the executive-pay limits that were inserted into the measure by Senate Democrats.

As we reported yesterday (and Politico follows on today), the Obama administration has several options to slow down or revise the new compensation caps. Issuing a signing statement to invalidate enforcement of the limits are the most unlikely outcome -- purely due to the political blowback that would result if Obama borrowed such a famous Bush-era tactic.

Which leaves the year-long window for the Treasury Department to release rules implementing the new pay caps. That certainly sounds like a long enough time to devise a way around the limits, but the financial industry is calling for Treasury to step in much more quickly ... in fact, before the week is out.

"The next step is to go to Treasury, so that's where we're going to focus on," Scott Talbott, senior vice president of government affairs at the Financial Services Roundtable, told me. "They have a year to write the regulations, [but] we need guidance now ... ideally by the end of the week."

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Norm Coleman's legal team is clearly getting an early start on a very important task: Laying the groundwork for an appeal.

Yesterday they asked the court to reconsider their ruling to not count certain categories of rejected ballots. And today they've continued to submit evidence from one of those categories into the record, ballots for which the voter failed to sign the application form.

The reason you would continue to submit evidence in a rejected category, to put it simply, is to make an appeal much easier. Coleman's team is building up the evidentiary record that can be used in an appeals court -- or perhaps the Senate itself -- and the evidence will be assembled in case a higher judge rules with them as a matter of law that they should be counted.

So there you go.

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It's hard to envision a president more sharply divergent from his predecessor than Barack Obama is from George W. Bush. But Obama seems to share at least one personality trait with Bush -- the propensity to bestow nicknames on his advisers.

In its profile today of White House economic counselor Larry Summers, the New York Times notes that Obama jokingly refers to the former Harvard University president as "Professor" and occasionally addresses his economic aides as "propeller-heads" (likely not a reference to the British pop-music act).

And Obama's team has embraced the nickname, according to the Times, with budget director Peter Orszag distributing "propeller-head hats" during a recent fiscal policy meeting. Aside from that piece of color, the profile is notable for the contentious questions it did not tackle: Summers was not asked about his reported shouting match with a senior House Democrat over infrastructure funding, nor about his efforts to remove stringent executive pay limits from the stimulus bill.

So how are the political fortunes right now for New York Governor David Paterson and the newly-appointed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand? The answer, according to a new Quinnipiac poll: Horrible, with both of them trailing potential challengers in the Democratic primary in 2010.

The poll says that Paterson would lose nomination against state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo by a whopping 55%-23%, while Gillibrand is behind Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, a champion of gun control, by 34%-24%.

In a general election, Paterson is tied 43%-43% with Rudy Giuliani, while Cuomo has a 51%-37% lead over Rudy. Gillibrand is still ahead in a general election against Republican Congressman Peter King, with a 42%-26% lead. Unfortunately, there is no match-up of McCarthy against King for comparison.

It gets worse for Paterson. Only 35% approve of how he handled the process of picking a new Senator, with 52% disapproving. Those numbers are distributed pretty evenly across all party lines. Gillibrand herself gets a better approval number on her own specific appointment, with 45% approving of her selection and 33% disapproving, again distributed evenly across party identification.

The primary is a certainly a while from now, and a lot of things can change. But this is not a good starting point.

Obama Signing Stimulus Bill Today, In Denver President Obama is scheduled to leave Washington at 10 a.m. ET, en route to Colorado. He will arrive in Colorado at 1:30 p.m. ET, where he will conduct a 2:15 p.m. ET tour of a solar panel installation in Denver -- and then at 2:40 p.m. ET, he will sign the stimulus bill into law at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Afterwards, he'll leave for Phoenix, Arizona, where he will talk about the housing crisis tomorrow.

Obama Giving Interview With Canadian TV, Ahead Of Visit This Thursday President Obama is also preparing for his first trip to another country, namely Canada, with an interview set for this morning at 9:25 a.m. ET with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. During Thursday's visit, Obama will meet Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal opposition leader Michael Ignatieff, with trade issues expected to be a major point of discussion.

Japanese P.M. Will Be First Foreign Leader To Visit Obama Hillary Clinton has announced that Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso will be the first foreign leader to visit President Obama at the White House. The meeting will happen next week.

WaPo: Geithner's Bailout Speech Spoiled By Last-Minute About-Face The Washington Post reports that Tim Geithner's speech last week on the revamped financial bailout -- which was heavily criticized for a lack of detail -- happened that way because of a last-minute decision to drop the whole plan he'd been working on: "They needed an alternative and found it in a previously considered initiative to pair private investments and public loans to try to buy the risky assets and take them off the books of banks."

NYT: Obama Fights With Congressional GOP -- And Gets Help From Republican Governors The New York Times says that the stimulus bill has shown a split between the Congressional Republicans and the party's governors -- that is, the GOPers who actually have real political power right now have almost entirely supported the stimulus bill. Florida Governor Charlie Crist told the Times: "As a governor, the pragmatism that you have to exercise because of the constitutional obligation to balance your budget is a very compelling pull."

Pope To Meet With Pelosi Nancy Pelosi will be meeting Wednesday with Pope Benedict XVI, as part of her official trip this week to Italy. The Pope is officially receiving Pelosi in her capacity as a head of state, but The Hill points out there could be some friction -- Benedict has endorsed religious sanctions, from denying communion to full-blown excommunication, against pro-choice Catholic politicians.

Steele Reaches Out To The Online "Rightroots" As part of his efforts to modernize the Republican Party's organization and reach out on the Internet, Michael Steele and former RNC rival Saul Anuzis held a meeting with 300 conservative techies this past Friday morning. "When we get to 2010, I want my campaigns here," Steele declared, holding up a BlackBerry. A tip for Steele: Don't seek out any advice from this man.

Here a footnote to Al Franken's speaking tour of Minnesota, in which the campaign is promoting him as "Senator-Elect Franken" as he speaks to crowds around Minnesota about the economy, and the need for him to get to Washington soon to help out.

Franken told CNN that he doesn't insist that people address him as Senator-elect -- but that it isn't inaccurate, either. "I won the recount," said the apparent-provisional-sort-of-Senator-elect. "You can call me Al."

"I don't think this is presumptuous at all," he added, when asked that particular question about his speaking tour. "I think that Minnesotans know that it's...very possible that I'll be in the Senate, and that I want to hit the ground running when I get there."

At today's post-court press conferences, Coleman lawyer/spin-man Ben Ginsberg was asked about Franken's speaking tour as Senator-elect. "I think it's a cute media stunt," Ginsberg replied with a smile.

A number of progressive scribes have recently restarted the debate over banning, or phasing out, the Senate's oft-abused filibuster power. (Ezra Klein's argument for burying the filibuster is found here.)

I'm not about to defend the nauseating eagerness of Republicans to filibuster at a record-breaking pace during the past two years. Nor am I prepared to defend the hypocrisy of now-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) insistence on 60 votes to pass even uncontroversial legislation -- with the support of his Democratic counterpart, Harry Reid (D-NV) -- when four years ago McConnell was ready to deploy the "nuclear option" to eliminate any filibuster threat to Bush judicial nominees with questionable qualifications.

The filibuster's checkered history as a weapon of pro-segregation southerners seeking to block civil rights bills is also utterly indefensible.

Despite the filibuster's frequent abused for undemocratic ends, I was initially eager to defend the need to keep it alive in some form. Reducing the number of votes needed to remove a block on legislation, from 60 to 55, is one good idea on the table. After researching the history of meritorious filibusters, however, I was amazed to see how few instances there are of a successful stalling of just-plain-bad legislation.

The Democratic campaign during 2003-05 to block grossly partisan Bush judicial nominees, such as mining industry lawyer William G. Myers, represents the most obvious argument in support of filibustering. Three more examples of worthy filibusters (or threats of such) follow after the jump. If I've omitted any compelling reasons to preserve the filibuster, let me know ...

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Fun fact: Every court in the state of Minnesota is closed today for the federal holiday -- except the Senate election court.

Today it was very much abbreviated, though. The attorneys spent the morning with the judges in closed negotiations over how to sort through the evidence, then the court held a short 18-minute session.

And even during that 18 minutes, it turns out, lead Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg was still looking for a loophole to allow forgery. Friedberg presented five ballot envelopes where he admitted a person other than the voter signed the ballot application form. But, he said, it had been done with the "knowledge and authority" of the voter, and was thus a legitimate, genuine signature.

Friedberg did not give any indication that the voters in these cases were disabled or otherwise physically unable to sign their forms, which is the specific statutory exception to allow someone else to sign in one's own name. Without that, the court's opinion from Friday forbade the counting of these votes -- indeed, they singled out one of Coleman's witnesses as an example of this kind of illegal voter.

But Friedberg still seems to be pushing ahead on forgery.

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