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Now that its clear

Now that it's clear that Karl Rove's defense amounts to some sort of cover-blowing 'I didn't inhale' defense, I thought I'd check in a bit on what his lawyer's deal is. Reason being, as near as I can tell, Rove attorney Robert D. Luskin has made a series of, shall we say, contradictory statements over the last week or so, each necessitated by further revelations about his client's conduct.

So I was curious: Is Robert D. Luskin the sort of lawyer who never gets caught in a fib or a misstatement on his client's behalf? Or is he a bit more fast and loose?

Well, it turns out that Luskin is a rather colorful figure with not a bad sense of humor. In 1999, when the Legal Times asked him why he was shutting down his boutique litigation firm, he quipped: "To paraphrase Hobbes: The life of a boutique is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

One case that jumps out at you is his representation of Stephen A. Saccoccia.

Saccoccia and his wife Donna were eventually convicted of laundering more than a hundred million dollars for various Colombian drug kingpins. Stephen is currently serving a 660 year sentence. Their racket was laundering drug money through companies which traded in precious metals.

Saccoccia was convicted in 1993. And Luskin took up his case on appeal.

Eventually the Feds got the idea that the money Saccoccia had paid Luskin and his other attorneys for their services was itself part of the $137 million in drug money he was ordered to forfeit. Now, on the face of it this seems a bit unfair since under our system everyone is entitled to good representation and how was Luskin to know it was tainted money.

Well, the prosecutors thought he should have gotten some inkling when Saccoccia started paying Luskin's attorney's fees in gold bars.

Yep, you heard that right. Luskin got paid more than $500,000 of his attorney's fees in gold bars from his client who was trying to appeal his conviction on charges that he laundered drug money through precious metals dealers. Who woulda thought that was drug money?

Luskin insisted that he "never have, and never would, knowingly accept a fee that was the proceeds of illegal activities."

But when federal prosecutors finally got a chance to depose Luskin and Saccoccia's other lawyers, they found that their lawyers' fees had come in forms "such as gold bars, cash that was dropped off at hotels and trunks of cars, and money transfers from Swiss bank accounts."

Eventually, in 1998, Luskin came to a settlement with the government in which he agreed to cough up $245,000 of the money he'd gotten from Saccoccia.

(ed.note: At first I couldn't believe that Saccoccia's Robert Luskin was the same guy Rove had defending him. The Saccoccia articles refer to Luskin as a partner in a firm called Comey Boyd & Luskin. But Luskin's bio page at Patton Boggs, where reporters working the Rove story confirm that Rove's lawyer works, makes no mention of such a firm. But a snippet in the December 20-27, 1999 Legal Times seems to settle the matter: "The D.C. litigation boutique of Comey, Boyd & Luskin is history. Name partner Robert Luskin is leaving the firm to join Patton Boggs Jan. 1.")

Late Update: Also on Luskin, look at this piece today in the Times by Adam Liptak, and see if Luskin didn't screw up and get his client in a lot of trouble by shooting off his mouth to the Journal.

Later Update: If you'd like to share your views on this, we're discussing Rove and Luskin over here at the TPMCafe politics discussion table.

Till the missions accomplished

Till the mission's accomplished or the 2006 mid-terms, whichever comes first. Yet another leaked British memo says the administration is making plans for a major troop withdrawal starting early next year.

So weve got Karl

So we've got Karl Rove's latest story, as recounted by his lawyer, Robert Luskin.

Rove did spill the beans about Plame in an effort to discredit Joe Wilson. Only he didn't mention the name 'Valerie Plame'. He only spilled the beans about 'Joe Wilson's wife'.

I'm no lawyer. But I'd hate to go into court with my case resting on that distinction.

And remember, the president has certainly known all of this from the beginning.

I know that many

I know that many of you have had a <$NoAd$> more and more difficult time keeping track of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's various shenanigans, sweetheart deals, pay-offs and boat transactions. So TPM Media has put together a new Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R) Shenanigan Program & Worksheet (RRDCSPW). We're entitled v. 1.0 because more bad acts will almost certainly surface which will necessitate further revisions.

On top of that, in classic TPM fashion, we're holding a contest to see who can fill out the worksheet best in terms of explicating all the dimensions of Duke's skullduggery.



Above you'll see the first edition of our RRDCSPW. If you click on the image you can download the printable pdf file. As you can see, the worksheet has Duke along with each fat-cat and/or crony graphically represented along with the respective house and/or boat.



Now, in the second image, you'll see that the proprietor of this little operation has somewhat clumsily tried to fill out the worksheet noting who paid for which boat and which house and how the different shenanigans interlock with each other. But clearly if the sheet is going to be filled out in a way that other TPM Readers and journalists can readily understand it, it's going to have to be done a lot better.

And that's where our contest comes in. If you'd like to enter the contest and have the chance of winning not only the soon-to-be-released TPMCafe t-shirt but also the new TPMCafe mug, download the worksheet. Then fill it out in a way that gets as much information on the page while also making it as clear and as easy to understand as possible.

Entries will be judged on the basis of content, aesthetic excellence and general mockery and schadenfreude. Entries should be returned in a scanned image or pdf format and will be accepted through the 15th. Winners will be announced at TPMCafe.

Now that we know

Now that we know that Karl Rove was involved in leaking Valerie Plame's identity and her role at CIA before the information had appeared in Robert Novak's column, attention will now inevitably turn to whether Rove (and whoever else was leaking) knew Plame was covert.

If they can plausibly claim that they thought she was simply a paper-pusher, then the statute would not apply to them.

But I think any enterprising reporter will be able to see why this is almost certainly not true. A close look at the wording Novak used in his column and a careful review of previous Novak columns over the years shows he only ever uses the word 'operative' to refer to covert agents. And that's the word he used to refer to Plame.

So Novak knew she was covert. And that pretty clearly means his sources knew too. How else would he have found out?

Perhaps someone can help

Perhaps someone can help me.

Can someone send me the link to the first story in CNN, MSNBC, NYT, WaPo or any other major news outlet which picks up Mike Isikoff's Newsweek story placing Karl Rove at the center of the Plame leak?

Thanks. 'ppreciate it.

David Corn Tonight I

David Corn: "[T]onight I received this as-solid-as-it-gets tip: on Sunday Newsweek is posting a story that nails Rove. The newsmagazine has obtained documentary evidence that Rove was indeed a key source for Time magazine's Matt Cooper and that Rove--prior to the publication of the Bob Novak column that first publicly disclosed Valerie Wilson/Plame as a CIA official--told Cooper that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife apparently worked at the CIA and was involved in Joseph Wilson's now-controversial trip to Niger."

See more here.

When last we updated

When last we updated the Duke Cunningham 'Livin' Large Free of Charge' chronicles (DCLLFCC) you'll remember that Duke was trying to offer advice on getting a presidential pardon to one Thomas Kontogiannis, a Long Island real estate developer who'd recently been convicted in a bribery, kickback and contract-rigging scandal and who'd apparently, as part of that scam, arranged pay-offs totaling roughly a million dollars to Queens school superintendent Celestine Miller, including some $80,000 into the coffers of her failed congressional bid in 1998.

Around the time Duke was offering the advice he managed to sell his boat, the Kelly C, to Kontogiannis for what was apparently a vastly inflated price, bagging Duke a quick $400,000 profit. And somehow as part of this deal (we still haven't figured out quite the ins and outs of it) the Kontogiannis family mortgage lending company agreed to fund a series of discount loans that Duke used to buy his new house in Rancho Sante Fe.

But it seems that wasn't the only mortgage Duke got from Coastal Capital, the Kontogiannis family's mortgage company. According to this Friday evening AP report, they also set Duke up with another mortgage -- this one for $150,000 -- for a two-bedroom condo he bought in Arlington, Virginia. (And all this time you thought Duke lived on a boat!) The total purchase price was $350,000 and he resold it in 2004 for $500,000.

But even this isn't all.

Following up on a tip, I did a little poking around myself. And I take it that the condominium sale in question must be that referenced in the April 18th, 2002 real estate section of the Washington Post: "EADS ST. S., 1211, No. 2002-Ratta Joseph M. Della to Nancy D. and Randall H. Cunningham, $ 350,000."

Now, it seems that Joseph M. Della Ratta may be another real estate developer trying to settle some misunderstandings with government prosecutors.

According to this August 2003 Department of Labor bulletin, Della Ratta and a colleague got nailed for raiding an ERISA asset management plan of which they served as trustees. In July 2003, says the bulletin, a federal court "appointed an independent fiduciary to distribute all remaining plan assets of the profit sharing plans of Della Ratta, Inc. and Commercial Management Company in Silver Spring, Maryland. The court further ordered restoration of more than $166,000 to the plans from assets held in a Della Ratta, Inc. corporate account and restitution to be paid by the plans’ trustees."

Said Labor Secretary Elaine Chao of the case: "Corporations and executives who are designated retirement plan fiduciaries have a responsibility to protect the pension assets of its participants. These defendants used the plan assets for their personal gain. The department's action recovers pension assets taken illegally from the workers and their families.”

Della Ratta and his colleague Joseph E. Brimmer were ordered to pay back the money, removed as trustees of the plan in question and barred from ever again overseeing any other plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

The original government suit against Della Ratta was filed in December 2000 -- about a year and a half before Duke bought the condo. And the final resolution of the case came a little more than a year after that. This was of course while the home and boat switcheroos were also afoot.

In response to the

In response to the question immediately below, a lot of commenters are suggesting the quite logical explanation that Novak's not in trouble because he cooperated and spilled the beans. But if that's true, why didn't that allow Fitzgerald to wrap the whole thing up right then and there? Would he really have allowed Novak off the hook for anything else beside telling him who his sources were, what they said, etc?

Perhaps Novak tried to pass off on <$Ad$>him the convenient lie that the persons in question didn't know or didn't tell him that Plame was covert. But some careful research we did almost two years ago on this point should pretty clearly I think that Novak has been fibbing through his teeth when he says this.

So, like I said, if Novak did cooperate and if that didn't provide enough for Fitzgerald to make some indictments or wrap the whole thing up, that in itself points to some more complex situation than most are considering.

Like I said, we're discussing the question here.

For months people have

For months people have asked me this question: Why is everyone else in trouble over the Plame story but Robert Novak?

Earlier in the progress of the case, I thought I had two good answers. One, prosecutors usually work from the outside of a case in. Thus, it make sense that they'd get to secondary players like Cooper and Miller first. Second, precisely because of his immediate involvement in what happened, I suspected that Novak might be able to invoke the 5th amendment and not testify. Ironically, under this theory, that would put Cooper et al. in more jeopardy precisely because they're not accused of playing a role in the commission of a crime. And thus they've got no plausible 5th amendment claim to hide behind.

Now, clearly, if it ever was, we're way too far into this for my first answer to be correct. And I'm no longer sure my second one is either.

So why is it exactly that Novak is sitting pretty?

We're discussing it over at the TPMCafe politics discussion table.

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