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

I'm still rubbing my eyes over this.

Former senior CIA official Tyler Drumheller appeared on CBS News' "60 Minutes" last night to talk about what he knew of the Niger uranium fiasco. As Drumheller tells it, nobody at the CIA believed Iraq was buying uranium from Niger to begin with. The forged documents were considered inconsequential to the facts of the matter -- until the White House wanted to use them as evidence.

Drumheller says he told the same story to the White House-appointed WMD Commission. This morning I glanced back at its report, and compared bits of its Niger discussion with Drumheller's revelations last night.

Here's a sampling of what I found. In its best light, the panel appears to have engaged in some subatomic-level hair splitting that -- coincidentally -- points the blame at the intelligence community for the president's use of the Niger claims:

From last night's "60 Minutes":

[I]n early January 2003, the National Intelligence Council, which oversees all U.S. intelligence agencies, did a final assessment of the uranium rumor and submitted a report to the White House. Their conclusion: The story was baseless. . .

Just weeks later, the president laid out his reasons for going to war in the State of the Union Address -- and there it was again.


From the White House WMD Commission report:
The Intelligence Community failed to authenticate in a timely fashion transparently forged documents purporting to show that Iraq had attempted to procure uranium from Niger.


From last night's "60 Minutes":
Drumheller says many CIA analysts were skeptical [of the Niger uranium story]. "Most people came to the opinion that there was something questionable about it," he says.

Asked if that was his reaction, Drumheller says, "That was our reaction from the very beginning. The report didn't hold together."

Drumheller says that was the "general feeling" in the agency at that time.


From the White House WMD Commission report:
At the time of the State of the Union speech, CIA analysts continued to believe that Iraq probably was seeking uranium from Africa, although there was growing concern among some CIA analysts that there were problems with the reporting.


And, of course, this, from "60 Minutes":
"It just sticks in my craw every time I hear them say it's an intelligence failure. It's an intelligence failure. This was a policy failure," Drumheller tells Bradley.


Vs. the White House WMD Commission report:
The [Intelligence] Community's failure to undertake a real review of the documents -- even though their validity was the subject of of serious doubts -- was a major failure of the intelligence community."

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Bloomberg joined the fray today with a piece on the New Hampshire Phone Jamming, bringing word that Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA) have written USAG Alberto Gonzales, seeking answers:

Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts wrote U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on April 20 seeking information on any links Abramoff or the White House may have had to the phone-jamming scheme.


Bloomberg also brings us the new Republican talking point in response to the scandal:

"Democrats are trying to stir up crap," said Joe Gaylord, a Republican consultant.


...or in other words, there has been a good bit of muckraking going on.

More bad news for Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH).

Since last fall he's known he is a target of a federal investigation, having been accused of accepting bribes by Jack Abramoff and two of Abramoff's minions. That's weighed heavily on his re-election campaign.

And it appears to be hurting his fundraising efforts, too: Of 50 incumbents in key races, he's raised the second-least amount of money this year, the Hotline on Call reports.

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The more you learn about this, the more brazen it seems.

Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) pays his wife 15 cents of every dollar he raises for his campaign. It's a direct line from contributors to Doolittle's pocket.

Doolittle's defense had been that the arrangement was "consistent within the industry" and "consistent with the history of Congressman Doolittle's own campaigns."

As for the industry, that's been proven false - the fundraising industry in general rejects working on commission altogether and only one other member of Congress pays a family member via commission.

And as for Doolittle's prior campaigns, Doolittle had paid a flat fee to fundraisers prior to hiring his wife for the jobt, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Doolittle is running out of excuses. He swears that the House ethics committee OK'd the arrangement, but won't produce a copy of the opinion. We called the ethics committee on Friday to check that story, but didn't get a call back. We'll continue to try.

The pressure's continued to mount on Doolittle - he can't afford to simply repeat the same debunked justifications much longer.

When it comes to stretching a one- or two-day story into a weeks-long fiasco, Katherine Harris takes the cake. Or in this case, the wine.

We learned some weeks ago she shared a pricey dinner with admitted felon Mitchell Wade, after which she tried (and failed) to win a $10 million earmark that would have benefited Wade and his company, MZM Inc.

First Harris insisted she paid for her meal. But we later discovered she didn't -- which is a violation of Congressional ethics rules.

Then we learned that the meal was for a whopping $2,800. Harris: I only ate $100 worth, and in lieu of payment I contributed $100 to charity. Her explanation for the size of the bill? Wade bought two $1000+ bottles of wine, and took the unfinished portions with him.

Now, the St. Petersburg Times gives that explanation a hearty hell-no. Via its blog:

One problem with that story? Patrons can't take bottles from the restaurant. Citronelle maitre d' Jean-Jacques Retourne told us that would have violated the restaurant's liquor license. "You cannot take a bottle out."

Another Bush Administration Leaker?

Secretary of State Condolleezza Rice leaked classified information to two pro-Israel lobbyists, defense lawyers alleged in new court filings. Rice has been subpoenaed to testify in the case of Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, two AIPAC lobbyists charged with receiving and mishandling state secrets. Through a spokesman, Rice called the assertion "utterly false." But the defense lawyer for one of the men says, "This is not a stunt." (LA Times, AP)

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It's long been an open secret among special interests that giving to the DeLay Foundation for Kids was a quick way to Tom DeLay's heart. And now, courtesy of Texas Lawyer, we know who decided to buy in.

The DeLays themselves were candid about the charity's appeal to those who wanted the Majority Leader's ear. A number of months ago, for instance, after Tom DeLay was forced to step down as Majority Leader because of his indictment in Texas, Christine DeLay said to George Will: "I hated to lose the leadership position because it helps me to raise money for those kids." Will commented approvingly:

Note her agreeably guileless acknowledgement that some friends of Rio Bend [a DeLay Foundation project] may not have been seized by simple altruism. She shares here husband's credo -- power is useful and should be used -- and knows the moral ambiguities it can involve.


I think that's just Will's fancy way of saying that Tom DeLay was for sale, and sometimes his wife did the selling. This is the same Christine DeLay, mind you, who was paid by Ed Buckham's Alexander Strategy Group to create a master list of other lawmakers' favorite charities. Why would a corrupt lobbying firm want such a list? Selling access via charitable donations worked for DeLay, and it no doubt worked for others too.

But the DeLays provided a gold standard for corruption for which other lawmakers could only strive.

So in the DeLays' case, who was buying? According to Texas Lawyer, a diverse array of special interests (particularly pharmaceuticals, oil, and tobacco), and one very special interest in particular: Brent Wilkes, the defense contractor who appeared in Duke Cunningham's guilty plea as Co-Conspirator #1.

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NBC names the CIA official fired for leaking classified information on its "black sites" network of secret prisons: Mary McCarthy.

(Ed. Note: An earlier version of this story credited AP with breaking McCarthy's identity.)

A senior intelligence analyst, McCarthy had been assigned to the CIA's Office of the Inspector General to look into allegations of torture by the CIA in Iraq.

I hope that if McCarthy was the leaker, we will hear more from her in the coming days. Here's why: CIA folks leak like sieves concerning internal agency politics, but it's nearly impossible to get them to talk about field operations -- for good reason. People who work on IG investigations are just as tight-lipped -- especially concerning wrongdoing. After all, they aren't helpless bystanders -- they're in a position to do something about it.

So what would motivate a person in her position to leak?

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Ladies and Gentlemen, Grand Ole Docket enthusiasts, we give you the Kentucky Subdocket.

Yes, like its neighbor Ohio, Kentucky is proving such a rat's nest of corruption that it necessitates its own special and separate page. In fact, Kentucky swamps Ohio in sheer numbers: it's landed an impressive 17 faces on the docket. Ohio has only 6.

For almost a year now, Kentucky has been rocked by the state Attorney General's investigation into Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration for infractions of the state's Merit System. Simply put, it's against state law to promote party loyals within the bureaucracy because of their affiliation. But Fletcher and his boys couldn't resist pushing their fellow Republicans up the food chain, and now they're in trouble.

It's quite a cast of characters, but our in-house favorite is Bill Nighbert, Fletcher's Secretary of the Transportation Cabinet, who called a female whistleblower a "she-devil," and later told her that if it were 20 years ago "I probably would have come back there and socked you in the mouth." Because it was OK to hit women in 1986.

But you can pick your own favorite. Enjoy!

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