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From Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV):

"Alberto Gonzales was never the right man for this job. He lacked independence, he lacked judgment, and he lacked the spine to say no to Karl Rove. This resignation is not the end of the story. Congress must get to the bottom of this mess and follow the facts where they lead, into the White House."

From House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI):

"It is a sad day when the Attorney General of the United States resigns amid a cloud of suspicion that the system of justice has been manipulated for political purposes. More than accountability, we need answers. Unfortunately, the continued stonewalling of the White House in the U.S. Attorney scandal has deprived the American people of the truth. If the power of the prosecutor has been misused in the name of partisanship, we deserve a full airing of the facts. The responsibility to uncover these facts is still on the Congress, and the Judiciary Committee in particular."

From Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT):

“Under this Attorney General and this President, the Department of Justice suffered a severe crisis of leadership that allowed our justice system to be corrupted by political influence. It is a shame, and it is the Justice Department, the American people and the dedicated professionals of our law enforcement community who have suffered most from it.

“The obligations of the Justice Department and its leaders are to the Constitution, the rule of law and the American people, not to the political considerations of this or any White House. The Attorney General’s resignation reinforces what Congress and the American people already know -- that no Justice Department should be allowed to become a political arm of the White House, whether occupied by a Republican or a Democrat.

“The troubling evidence revealed about this massive breach is a lesson to those in the future who hold these high offices, so that law enforcement is never subverted in this way again. I hope the Attorney General’s decision will be a step toward getting to the truth about the level of political influence this White House wields over the Department of Justice and toward reconstituting its leadership so that the American people can renew their faith in its role as our leading law enforcement agency.”

Michael Chertoff, a rumor floated this weekend, remains the most frequently mentioned candidate to replace Gonzales.

Meanwhile, Fox News cites "sources" as saying that Solicitor General Paul Clement is the likely choice to be Gonzales' temporary replacement. Clement, as third in succession at the Justice Department, has been serving as acting attorney general for the U.S. attorney firings investigation.

We may never see his like again. Well, at least not until the confirmation hearings for his successor.

Alberto Gonzales, the Justice Department's master of disaster, has resigned as U.S. Attorney General. Whenever there's been a Bush administration scandal, the president's longtime confidante has been there -- from torture to warrantless surveillance to the U.S. attorney firings that ultimately proved to be his downfall. Two weeks ago, Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked the department's inspector general to open a perjury investigation into Gonzales.

Well, now Leahy won't have Gonzales to kick around anymore. From the New York Times story breaking the news of his departure:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, has resigned. A senior administration official said he would announce the decision later this morning in Washington.

Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation, submitted his to President Bush by telephone on Friday, the official said. His decision was not immediately announced, the official added, until after the president invited him and his wife to lunch at his ranch near here.

Mr. Bush has not yet chosen a replacement but will not leave the position open long, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Attorney General's resignation had not yet been made public.

Mr. Bush had repeatedly stood by Mr. Gonzales, an old friend and colleague from Texas, even as he faced increasing scrutiny for his leadership of the Justice Department, including his role in the dismissals of nine United States attorneys late last year and questions about whether he testified truthfully about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.

The administration is sticking with the line that Gonzales did nothing wrong. An anonymous official is quoted as saying, "The unfair treatment that he's been on the receiving end of has been a distraction for the department," the official said. For a roundup of what Gonzales did to receive such "unfair treatment," our own Paul Kiel compiled a list of the now-vanquished AG's greatest hits.

Gonzales is expected to have a press conference at 10:30 or so. Stay tuned.

Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Michael Joyce (R) has a problem of saying one thing and doing another.

Here’s what Joyce, who was indicted Monday on nine counts of money laundering and mail fraud, has said. Back in 2001, he was in a car accident. The injury was so bad that he had to forgo almost all physical activity. According to the narrative he filed with his insurance company, he couldn’t golf. He didn’t renew his scuba license because he couldn’t swim. And though he had received a primary nomination to the state Supreme Court, now the pain from his injuries meant that he couldn’t even imagine running an election campaign.

The only problem is, that’s not true. Okay, so some of it is true. Joyce was involved in a fender-bender with another car (at speeds around 5 miles per hour). The bump was minor, so no police or medics were called to the scene. And it is true that a year later Joyce filed insurance claims with both his insurer and that of the other driver; he received settlements totaling $440,000. And to be fair, even low-speed accidents can produce chronic injuries.

What doesn’t seem to be true is the idea that Joyce was suffering very much. He said he couldn’t play golf. But he turned in sixteen completed scorecards between the accident and the filing (who wants to lose his golf handicap?). He said he had forgone his scuba license. But a December 2001 check to the Professional Association of Driving Instructors says otherwise, as does a June 2002 scuba trip to Jamaica. Joyce says he had to abandon his hopes of a Supreme Court campaign, despite the support of his party. But the grand jury indictment says he received no such endorsement or nomination, and his local Republicans have so far agreed. You can see the full indictment here.

In fact, Joyce even found time in 2002 to pick up a few new hobbies. When he wasn’t driving around on the motorcycle he bought with the first round of his insurance money, Joyce was enjoying another new hobby: flying. Between April and October, he piloted a plane over fifty times. And in order to pilot, he had to sign off saying he that he was not experiencing physical limitations or problems. He even put some of his insurance windfall towards a down payment on a private plane.

Joyce is set to fight the indictment in court, promising to mount a “a vigorous legal defense.” Then again, he also said last week that he had no plans to abandon his reelection campaign. But this week, he announced that he will retire after this term. So it remains to be seen if this is the time Michael Joyce actually does what he says.

It's not just Barbour Griffith & Rogers, and it's not just Ayad Allawi. Ten different U.S. firms are registered through the Department of Justice's Foreign Agents Registration Act database as having active contracts with various Iraqi factions.

BGR isn't even making most of its Iraq-related money off Allawi: for the six-month period between January 1 and May 31, the Kurdistan Regional Government -- the political entity ruling the three Kurdish provinces of Iraq -- paid the firm $381,487.71 for its various services, which, from its mandatory reporting, includes a lot of phone calls to BRG President Bob Blackwill's old friend at the National Security Council, Meghan O'Sullivan.

A BGR lobbyist described as the point person on the Iraq contract, Loren Monroe, did not return TPMmuckraker's phone calls.

BGR is by a large margin the powerhouse firm representing Iraqi clients. Holding a contract that will be worth $100,000 come September 9 is the much smaller Focus on Advocacy and Advancement of International Relations, run by a certain Muthanna al-Hanooti out of Dearborn and Washington D.C. Since September 13, 2006, Hanooti has represented the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest constituent part of the larger Sunni parliamentary bloc, known as the Tawafuq. In its filing, the IIP lists its "suggestions for how to make Iraq a success story for democracy" -- which include not arbitrarily detaining Sunnis and negotiating with "the Iraqi Armed Resistance (not foreign fighters)" -- but the IIP is further away from power than ever. Last week, Nouri al-Maliki unveiled a new governing coalition that left the IIP, the rest of the Tawafuq and another Sunni faction in the cold. Attempts to contact Hanooti were unsuccessful.

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Alleged billion dollar thief Hazem Shaalan isn't Ayad Allawi's only infamous friend. Allawi is also a close ally of the head of Iraq's largest intelligence service -- a man who takes his billions from Washington, not Baghdad.

On the ground in Baghdad is a sprawling intelligence operation called the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, or INIS. Only INIS isn't really "National" at all. To the great chagrin of the Maliki government, it's financed and controlled by the CIA. And its boss is a longtime Allawi friend and CIA asset, Muhammed Shahwani.

Who's Muhammed Shahwani? He's a former Iraqi military officer who, along with Allawi, helped plot a botched coup against Saddam Hussein in 1996. Despite the failure, the CIA considered him a valuable asset, largely on the strength of his considerable knowledge of Saddam's military apparatus. In his memoir, ex-CIA Director George Tenet writes that when Shahwani returned to Iraq as part of "the Agency-sponsored Iraqi paramilitary group known as 'the Scorpions'" he became "key to developing a strong network inside Iraq for the Agency."

As a result, Shahwani, a member of Allawi's Iraqi National Accord party, was an obvious choice to lead the CIA-created INIS. Throughout the Coalition Provisional Authority era and the Allawi regime that followed it, Shahwani was a reliable fixture -- so much so that when the 2005 election saw Allawi's government replaced by a Shiite coalition known as the United Iraqi Alliance, the agency decided that INIS was too valuable to hand over to the less-reliable UIA. (Concerns about sovereignty have their exceptions.) INIS had control over extensive files on Iraqis tied to the insurgency -- and many others not suspected of crimes -- and the UIA bristled when unable to get access to what it considered the rightful spoils of its electoral victory. "I prefer to call it the American Intelligence of Iraq, not the Iraqi Intelligence Service," a Shiite parliamentarian and militia commander told reporters Hannah Allam and Warren Strobel.

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To be fair in our coverage of Rep. Don Young's (R-AK) controversial $10 million Coconut Road interchange earmark, we should point out that there are locals who want to keep the extra-Constitutional language change. One of the more vocal advocates also appears to have a financial stake in the decision.

Last week when county authorities voted to ask Congress to use the money to widen Interstate 75, rather than for the pet project, there was some opposition. Heather Mazurkiewicz, who belongs to the citizens advisory board, which advises the Metropolitan Planning Organization, supported keeping the changed wording. According to theNews Press she was appalled that the county ignored her advice:

"I should be able to discuss the merits of this without a bias from you," she said. "We make recommendations to you. You don't make them to us."
As it turns out, Mazurkiewicz is married to a consultant who pushed for the project and attended the fundraiser that netted Young $40,000 right before the earmark appeared. Joe Mazurkiewicz spoke with the New York Times and CNN about the fundraiser and the funding. In his initial interview with the Times, Mazurkiewicz was a bit more candid about the fundraiser, saying he and other developers were looking for "a lot of money" and Young delivered. According to Young's contribution records, the Mazurkiewiczs gave Young's campaign $1,000 a few weeks after the February 2005 fundraiser.

How does Allawi pay for his lucrative contract with GOP lobbying powerhouse Barbour Griffith & Rogers? The obvious guess is that his old buddies at the CIA pay for him. But he may not need the agency's cash. One member of his coterie is suspected of participating in what an Iraqi public-corruption judge calls "possibly the largest robbery in the world" -- the theft of approximately $1 billion from the Iraqi treasury.

In mid-2004, Hazem Shaalan had it all: he had risen from being a small businessman in London before the war to becoming Ayad Allawi's defense minister. (Shaalan had been a member of Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, but the relationship between Shaalan and Chalabi became acrimonious, with the INC accusing Shaalan of being a Baathist spy.) The defense ministry was Allawi's single biggest priority, as he owed his appointment -- made jointly by the U.S. and the United Nations -- to his promise of restoring stability to the insurgency-wracked country. Shaalan came through for him, fully backing the joint U.S.-Allawi decision to fight the Mahdi Army in the Shiite holy city of Najaf in August 2004.

But that wasn't all Shaalan did at the defense ministry.

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