They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

The State Department's top political appointees and other senior officials spend millions in unwarranted first-class air travel, the Government Accountability Office reports.

In its effort to spur "regime change" in Iran, the Bush administration is dumping millions of dollars into exile groups. But the pickings are slim for groups that could actually stage a coup. How slim? The administration may be casting a wayward glance at a terrorist group formerly allied with Saddam Hussein.

In a recent analysis in The New York Review of Books, Christopher de Bellaigue, who lives in Iran, writes that there are hardly any formidable opponents to the current regime. He selects two of the best possible recipients for our millions, and shows that they would be dubious investments, at best.

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There are a number of tactical differences between being Majority Leader and a criminal defendant, but the most important one of all must be that the "Hammer" approach isn't bound to fly too well with prosecutors. As I wrote before, it's not clear DeLay has any leverage with the Justice Department; so his only option may be to make sure he gets a good lawyer and play nice. In the end, all of the venom he spewed toward Texas District Attorney Ronnie Earle didn't seem to win him anything but an indictment.

So who's running the Hammer's federal defense?

Richard Cullen, the recipient of a glowing profile in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch. He's the one who offered the DoJ 1,000 emails from DeLay's office late last year as a "Christmas gift," and the one who carefully stage-managed DeLay's announcement of his retirement last week. And so far he's been able to keep DeLay from saying nasty things about the prosecutors.

DeLay seems to have landed himself a fine tactician. Cullen has a piece of three of the major criminal investigations of the day: he also has clients in the Plame investigation and the AIPAC investigation. Other clients include Boeing and Time Warner. You might say that he's right at the center of American life in these mucky times.

"I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said recently of the U.S. execution of the war in Iraq.

Wouldn't you know, MZM, Inc. -- the company run by admitted felon, briber and ripoff artist Mitchell Wade -- was involved in making tactical warfighting decisions and handling intelligence in the thick of the U.S. invasion and occupation?

"MZM has a team of intelligence professionals placed with the Joint Intelligence Center (JIC) in U.S. Central Command," states an internal MZM document dated late 2003 and obtained by TPMmuckraker.com. "This team. . . develops targets for the Commander of U.S. Central Command, which is combating enemy forces in Iraq."

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NY Governor George Pataki (R) shows he's got what it takes to be president:

Less than nine months before he steps down, Governor Pataki is busy installing his friends and political allies into top positions at the most powerful state authorities.

Hail to the Leaker-in-Chief

To cap off a long weekend of leak stories, the NY Times goes front page Monday with confirmation of President Bush's role, and news that he authorized the declassification of the National Intelligence Estimate in order to rebut critics, but "did not designate Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr., or anyone else, to release the information to reporters." So it was to be a secret declassification? Or is this the "get-it-done-but-don't-tell-me-how" defense? (NYT)

The AP has a similar, but more explicit, version: A "lawyer knowledgeable about the case said Bush instructed Cheney to 'get it out' and left the details about disseminating the intelligence to him." (AP)

Earlier this weekend, we also learned from the Times that Libby was lying to reporters when he said that it had been a "key judgment" in the NIE that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger. (NYT)

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Will the White House pardon Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the Leaking Lackey, in an attempt to cover up its own messes? Longtime GOP courtier Joe DiGenova tells the LA Times yes:

The special prosecutor [Patrick Fitzgerald] signaled in his court filing last week that he intended to call several former Bush aides as witnesses against Libby, including former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer -- raising the specter of court proceedings that could lay bare the inner workings of the White House.

"I can't imagine this case going to trial," DiGenova said. "You'll see a pardon first."

The White House has refused to say whether Bush might pardon Libby, citing its policy of not commenting on the case.

Why did Homeland Security investigators approve former spokesman Brian Doyle's Top Secret clearance, despite his prior trouble with pornography? Because they didn't interview the confessed pedophile's former employers, according to a new report:

. . . sources [at TIME magazine, Doyle's former employer] tell Newsweek two of Doyle's former supervisors weren't contacted by government investigators, who conducted a 'full field' background check on Doyle two years ago in connection with the 'top secret' security clearance he needed for Homeland headquarters.


Two points to Newsweek for getting Doyle's mug shot on their own.

In what is mostly a rehash of the role of wives and other family members in the Jack Abramoff investigation, Sunday's piece in the New York Times has a couple of new nuggets.

The central role of wives in the investigation has been clear for quite awhile (see our earlier post on the Abramoff wives theme.). Tom DeLay's former aide Tony Rudy has already pled gulty to accepting bribes through his wife for work he did in DeLay's office for Abramoff. Investigators are also reportedly looking at DeLay himself and Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), both of whose wives worked for Ed Buckham. Buckham, DeLay's former chief of staff, ran the lobbying firm Alexander Strategy Group and worked very closely with Abramoff.

Investigators apparently call this group the "The Wives Club." They subpoenaed Doolittle's wife's company back in 2004, and today we learn that "prosecutors have asked [Christine DeLay] about the circumstances of her hiring by Mr. Buckham and whether it was an effort to influence Mr. DeLay."

But now for the real bombshell.

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