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From reader emails it

From reader emails, it seems there were more than a few who took my comments yesterday about Miers to mean that I think that Dems should support her. I'm not sure how that meaning got across. But if it did, mark it down as my not being clear enough when I was thinking out loud.

My point was to note the real possibility that Miers could be knocked out only to be replaced by a genuine extremist who would likely be voted through without much difficulty by Senate Republicans.

Extremist versus hacklicious toady, sort of sums up the choices that may be on offer.

Along those lines, Sen. Lott now puts himself down as leaning against.

Rep. Sherrod Brown D-OH

Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is telling leading Dems he's in the race against Sen. DeWine in Ohio, will announce this week.

From Roll Call sub.req.

From Roll Call (sub.req.): "Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) questioned Tuesday whether Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers has a 'firm commitment' to what he called the framers’ 'original intent' of the Constitution, saying that President Bush’s knowledge of her “heart” didn’t end the need for tough questioning."

I was thinking yesterday about the Miers nomination. And it occurred to me that while President Bush may not be world's most brilliant man, as Miers has claimed, he may have an unintended knack for irony.

In the case of John Roberts the president served up a nominee who was pretty clearly a down-the-line conservative but also, in the sense of value-neutral credentials and qualifications, certainly qualified for the job. With Miers, you have someone with what might be real moderate tendencies, but also someone who on pretty much every count seems unqualified for the position.

So what to do?

Certainly one thing to do is sit back and relish the brewing fight between the principled wingnuts and the confirmed Bush toadies. At the same time, it must be occurring to at least some Dems that, at least in ideological terms, they could likely do far worse than Miers. In any case, set that all aside and focus on the fact that Miers has been involved -- often deeply involved -- in pretty much everything that the White House has been trying to keep secret for going on five years. That should make for interesting questioning.

With all the speculation

With all the speculation and contention about the three indictments Travis County Prosecutor Ronnie Earle has secured against Tom DeLay, it's easy to forget one point: the Earle investigation was supposed to be the one DeLay squeaked by on, the lesser of the two ethical-legal sandtraps on his politico-personal horizon.

Whatever the disposition of the Texas indictments, most Republicans will now tell you, privately, that they don't expect DeLay ever to recover the Majority Leader's office. But even if he manages that highly improbable early knock-out blow in Texas, he's still got the Abramoff case waiting.

The news out of the UK this week -- that DOJ officials asked their counterparts in England and Scotland to do follow up interviews about DeLay's activities on his Abramoff trips -- is another sign that he's at the center of the Abramoff investigation. That's where his real problems have always been.

Lawyers ethics watchdogs hill

Lawyers, ethics watchdogs, hill staffers and you at home can help with some open-source investigative reporting. As you know, Jack Abramoff rented skyboxes at several DC area sports and entertainment complexes, which he used to dole out favors, goodies and fundraising assistance to Republican members of Congress and their staffs. Recently I've been working my way through records from Preston Gates (Abramoff's firm before he decamped to Greenberg Traurig) which detail which staffers and members got tickets to what events, who they brought with them and so forth.

Now, for instance, below is a roster from Abramoff's assistant Susan Ralston which goes in to who got to go to the "WWF Raw is War" event on October 2nd, 2000. (Click here to see the full size copy just added to the TPM Document Collection.)



This one includes staffers from Reps. Forbes, Lazio, Pombo, Green of Wisconsin, McKeon, Blunt, Sens, Smith and <$Ad$> Chafee, and one staffer from the House Rules Committee, Celeste West.

So a few questions.

For you Hill folks, how commonplace is this up there -- a lobbyist who routinely gives free tickets to ball games and concerts and even professional wrestling events to staffers from the offices of helpful members of Congress?

Several of the staffers on the roster for the "WWF Raw is War" shindig show up getting skybox tickets again and again just during 2000. A lawyer familiar with the Preston Gates records and the Abramoff skybox operation says there's no sign any of them ever reimbursed or paid for the tickets. So how does that square with Congressional ethics rules? A problem?

DeLay beats the rap

DeLay beats the rap on a technicality?

A new piece just out from the Austin American-Statesman provides more details. According to the new article, the original indictment was flawed (a claim pushed by the defense, but contradicted by other published reports: see below). The conspiracy statute in question didn't come into effect until 2003. So the prosecutors, it seems, reindicted DeLay under a different statute, but on the same facts.

See the piece for more details.

On the contrary, the Houston Chronicle interviews a law prof at UT who says that DeLay's lawyers' contention that the original indictment is flawed is itself bogus ...

George Dix, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law who is an expert in criminal law and procedure, said he doesn't believe changes made to the Texas election code by the 2003 legislature have any effect on the conspiracy charge.

The penal code's conspiracy charge allows for the charge if the defendants allegedly conspired to commit any felony, including an election code felony.

Just because the election code was "silent" on the penal code provision until 2003, it doesn't mean it wasn't a valid charge before 2003, Dix said.

"To me it just says, 'We really mean what we said implicitly before,' " Dix said.


More soon.

A second DeLay indictment

A second DeLay indictment: Money Laundering.

Details soon.

Late Update: More from the AP.

Later Update: Also note this clip from a piece in the Austin American-Statesman that ran only a bit earlier this afternoon ...

A criminal conspiracy charge against U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay should be dismissed because conspiracy laws did not apply to the state election code during the 2002 election, DeLay's lawyers argued in a brief filed today. The filing represents an attempt at a quick knockout of the case against DeLay, who was indicted last week by a Travis County grand jury. The term of the grand jury ended last week and a deadline to indict DeLay might have expired since then.

DeLay's lawyer Dick DeGuerin said "rumors are flying" that prosecutors were trying to find a sitting grand jury, who hadn't heard any of the DeLay case, to return a new money-laundering indictment. In a letter to Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, DeGuerin said DeLay is withdrawing his waiver of the statute of limitations to investigate him. Last month DeLay signed that waiver in an attempt to head off an indictment.


A lot obviously happened today. I'm sure we'll <$NoAd$> hear more soon.

The Post is debuting

The Post is debuting a new blog today. And the author, Chris Cillizza, says that Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) may be reconsidering his decision not to challenge Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine (R) next year.

Republicans have taken two tough blows of late on the Senate recruiting front. Gov. John Hoeven won't run against Sen. Conrad in North Dakota. And just today we hear that Rep. Capito won't run against Sen. Byrd.

I was more than a bit stunned a few weeks back when I heard that Rep. Brown wasn't getting into the race against DeWine because, as I was telling a friend yesterday, the only explanation I could see was that Brown, a shrewd pol, simply wasn't confident he could win. And that told me that DeWine was a lot more formidable than his anemic poll numbers would indicate.

If Brown's reconsidering, it could be yet another (albeit more indirect) sign that smart Republicans see the writing on the wall for next year.

Writing on the wall

Writing on the wall and corks poppin' at Byrd HQ. Roll Call reports (sub.req.) that Rep. Capito (R-WV) won't challenge Sen. Byrd next year.

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