In it, but not of it. TPM DC

We have seen the best thing that Norm Coleman's legal team has done so far in this election trial -- and it ain't pretty.

This afternoon the Coleman team was bringing in rejected absentee voters to show that their ballots were improperly tossed. So far the court has heard from six people, most of of whom said they were contacted by the Republican Party in the last few weeks. They mostly seemed sympathetic enough, putting a human face on the disenfranchised Coleman voter -- but at least two of them appeared to have been rejected properly under the conditions of Minnesota law.

One of the voters was Douglas Thompson, who admitted under oath that his girlfriend filled out his absentee ballot application for him, signing his name with her own hand and purporting to be himself. His ballot was rejected because the signature on his ballot envelope (his own) did not match the signature on the application (his girlfriend's). The Coleman team's argument appears to be that he is still a legal voter in Minnesota, as the signature on the ballot was his own, even if admitted dishonesty was involved in getting the ballot.

Keep in mind: Thompson's story came up during the direct examination by Coleman lawyer James Langdon. So the Coleman camp fully knew this information and decided to make him into a witness.

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The House Judiciary Committee's subpoena of Karl Rove raises interesting questions as my colleague Zach Roth notes. I spoke with a Washington lawyer who has dealt with many presidential privilege issues and he (or is it she?) raised some interesting questions and offered a prediction.

The first interesting point the person raised is that Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, may have made a tactical mistake in writing to White House Counsel Greg Craig for an opinion. "Be careful what you ask for," the source said. After all, Craig could come up with a rationale for Rove testifying. And why rush to Craig at all when you might prevail in the courts? True, the courts have been loathe to offer hard and fast rules in these cases but it would seem worth pursuing such a legal avenue before going to the Democratic White House for solace. My source predicted that in the end there probably will be some kind of accomodation with Rove answering questions on some topics and not on others rather than a showdown that drags on endlessly. Interestingly, the source thought Obama's executive order on presidential records differed enough from the question of testimony that it probably would not be determinative in the end.

I note myself the hypocrisy of Republicans who demanded practically every Clinton official to march up to the hill and testify on everything under the sun who can be sure to defend executive privilege in Rove's case and that of Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers.

It's probably worth noting here, just for the record that I have some history with Karl Rove. If you haven't been in an Ecuadorean jungle for the last six years you know what it is. If you have been, you can get caught up here and here.

We've been watching Republican leaders play a little game today with the economic recovery plan that's headed for its first vote in the House tomorrow. The object of said game: making the stimulus bill "bipartisan" enough to win Republican votes.

First President Obama made a concession; the GOP turned up its nose. Then Republicans had a neck-snapping change of heart.

But what do Democrats make of this silliness? You remember them -- the party that actually controls the government and wrote the stimulus bill. It turns out that Democrats are perfectly happy to let Republicans chase after their enigmatic (and, dare we say, largely non-existent) notion of a "bipartisan" stimulus.

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The Employee Free Choice Act has galvanized business lobbies like nothing else in recent years. After all, most issues--say, trade--pits one business lobby against another but few issues unite them. So it's interesting and notable to say the least that one of the most talked-about parts of business is staying out of the EFCA debate: the trade group representing private equity firms like the Carlyle Group and BlackRock. On one hand you would think that private equity firms would have a particularly big stake in fighting EFCA. After all, they often buy businesses under the assumption that they keep the unions out. The Service Employees International Union, for instance, fought the Carlyle Group's takeover of Manor Health Care, a chair of assisted living facilities. . It ultimately failed but it's still trying to organize the chain's workers. Dunkin Donuts is owned by a partnership of Bain Capital, Mitt Romney's old firm, the Carlyle Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners. But the main voice of private equity firms in Washington, the Private Equity Council, has stayed out of the fight and the answer would seem to be owing to the fact that unions provide so much capital to private equity. In fact, the Private Equity Council's own research shows in 2007 alone," the top 20 public pension funds, representing nearly 10 million retirees in states including California, New York, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, had a collective private equity investment of nearly $140 billion." This is a long way, of course, from getting Steve Schwarzman or Henry Kravis or David Rubenstein to support EFCA. But at least, as unions press forward with EFCA, they don't have private equity's trade group joining the rest of the business lobby.

On the second floor of the Senate, a herd of reporters and camera-people have been eagerly awaiting the president's appearance ... for more than 30 minutes.

What was supposed to be a 1pm briefing on Obama's visit to the House Republican conference, before the president's 1:25 meeting with Senate GOPers, looks to have been thrown off course. Reporters attempting to talk to other senators have been shooed out of the way to clear the path for an arrival.

Hmmm, it can't be an attempt by House Republicans to drown Obama in questions about a bill they're likely to oppose en masse in the end. Can it?

Chip Saltsman, the candidate for RNC chairman who has gotten in trouble for sending out a gift CD to committee members that contained a parody song called "Barack The Magic Negro," had an incredible interview this morning on MSNBC, blaming the whole flap on the media.

Contessa Brewer asked Saltsman about the offense that people have taken. "You know I think it highlighted a couple things, one that we're definitely not playing on a level playing field with the media," Saltsman said, complaining that the media didn't go after the Los Angeles Times for running a column that served as the basis of right-wing satirist Paul Shanklin's song.

(By the way, the piece was not from the LAT itself, but was an op-ed written by David Ehrenstein, who is black.)

Brewer insisted that there are many people out there who are offended by the parody song, which features the white conservative Shanklin doing an Amos & Andy-style impression of Al Sharpton. "Well, I think there's some people that--" Saltsman began in a confrontational tone, before stopping short and simply replying, "I understand that."

Late Update: Here's the video:

Oh, those coquettish Republicans.

First they "are being listened to" by the president on a stimulus bill that includes more than $250 billion in tax cuts. Then they realize that they just can't support a stimulus without more tax cuts -- and the elimination of family planning aid.

They get their way on the latter, though perhaps not the former ... but then they realize that the problem isn't President Obama. It's the Democrats!

From Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) interview with the Today show (emphasis mine):

Frankly, what's developing here is, [Obama's] biggest problem is with his own party, the Democratic Party, which seems to be drifting away from what he said he wanted, which was for the package to include at least 40 percent tax relief and to be earmark-free.

So he could, ironically, end up with better supporters in trying to achieve the kind of stimulus package -- which would be timely, targeted and temporary -- from us than he's getting from the Democratic majority, at least so far here in the Congress.

Listening to what he said he wanted, we think we may be closer to that, oddly enough, than the Democratic majority, which seems to be pulling in the direction of fewer tax -- less tax relief and things like fixing up the [National] Mall. You know, most people don't think that's the way we ought to spend stimulus money.


Late Update: Here's the video:



Later Wish-List Update: The Republicans have successfully stripped family-planning aid from the stimulus, but that's not the end of their wheeling and dealing. McClatchy reports on several other provisions GOPers aim to jettison from the bill ... before most of them vote against it anyway. Here's the list.

$5 billion for colleges and universities, many of them already with billion-dollar endowments.

$600 million for new cars for the federal government.

$200 million to improve the National Mall, including $21 million for new grass.

$50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.

The AP reports this morning that House Democrats are on the verge of removing a Medicaid provision added to their stimulus bill which would have eliminated the need for states to seek a waiver before providing more family-planning services to lower-income women.

The Medicaid provision had become controversial over the past few days not because of its monetary value -- in fact, it would save states an estimated $400 million over 10 years -- but because Republicans had loudly moaned that it amounted to "taxpayer funding" for "the abortion industry."

Never mind that a GOP president helped create the waiver program. Never mind that eight GOP governors participate in it. Family planning must be stopped in order to get "bipartisan support" for the stimulus bill.

And buried in the middle of the AP story is one notable tidbit:

Several Democrats said Monday night that Obama had spoken personally with Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., about removing the provision. Waxman is chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over Medicaid and a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Obama Visiting The Hill Today President Obama is headed to Capitol Hill today to work with lawmakers on crafting his economic stimulus plan. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that Obama wants to hear lawmakers' ideas, and will take good ones into consideration.

Minnesota Trial Continues Today The Minnesota election trial is continuing all day today, beginning at 10 a.m. ET in St. Paul. Yesterday was very interesting to say the least, with the Coleman campaign having been revealed to be using altered evidence -- they say the changes were accidental -- and we'll see how today turns out. The pooled video feed is easily available at The Uptake.

Coleman Going On Hannity Tonight Norm Coleman will be appearing on Fox News tonight, for an interview with Sean Hannity. This should be interesting.

Blago Impeachment Trial Keeps Moving To the southeast of Minnesota, the Illinois state Senate's impeachment trial of Gov. Rod Blagojevich is also going into its second day. The state Senate will be hearing from FBI Special Agent Daniel Cain, who will review wiretaps allegedly showing Blago shaking down horse-racing industry officials for campaign money, as Blagojevich himself continues to boycott the trial.

Mitchell In Egypt Today President Obama's new Middle East envoy George Mitchell has arrived in Cairo for his tour of the Middle East today, a mission to help solidify the Gaza ceasefire and to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Mitchell will be traveling through Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, France and Britain.

Gillibrand To Be Sworn In Today Senator-designate Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will be sworn in today as the newly-appointed occupant of Hillary Clinton's former Senate seat. Gillibrand will be sworn in by Vice President Biden in the afternoon.

NYT: Geography Divides Dems On Energy The New York Times reports that the energy debate is revealing divides among Democrats between those from the coasts, who are more favorable to environmentalists, and the industry-friendly Midwesterners. "It's up to those of us in the Midwest to show how important manufacturing is," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). "If we pass a climate bill the wrong way, it will hurt American jobs and the American economy, as more and more production jobs go to places like China, where it's cheaper."

Terry McAuliffe: Virginia Political Outsider Check out this new TV ad from Terry McAuliffe, in which the former Democratic National Committee chairman presents himself as a political outsider who hasn't been connected to the legislative fights in Virginia, but is instead a successful businessman:



"It goes to show, the best ideas don't always come out of Richmond," says McAuliffe.

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