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From The AP:

Rep. William Jefferson accused the Justice Department of bringing corruption charges against him in Virginia to reduce the chance of drawing black jurors.

Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat who has been charged in an international bribery case, made the argument Friday in federal court documents seeking to move the case to Washington.

"The court has an obligation to ensure that the forum selection in this case was not tainted by racially discriminatory motive," Jefferson's attorney, Robert P. Trout wrote.

Transportation Weekly editor Jeff Davis takes a thorough look at the historical precedent for Rep. Don Young's (R-AK) Coconut Road earmark language edit, discovering that the Supreme Court has looked at this issue before .

In the freewheeling 1890s, the court concluded in Field v. Clark that a bill signed into law is the law, despite any apparent discrepancies in the Congressional record:

Better, far better, that a provision should occasionally find its way into the statute through mistake, or even fraud, than that every act, state and national, should, at any and all times, be liable to be put in issue and impeached by the journals, loose papers of the legislature, and parol evidence. Such a state of uncertainty in the statute of laws of the land would lead to mischiefs absolutely intolerable...

Davis notes that since the Field decision, the court has grown more wary of official corruption, as reflected in McConnell v. FEC. This could mean the court would consider overturning Field in a case currently being considered for review, Public Citizen v. Clerk. It that decision did overturn Field, the entire 2005 highway bill could be found unconstitutional. That outcome seems unlikely and would certainly take a long time to reach.

In the meantime, Republicans on the House Transportation Committee have signaled that they may allow the Florida county involved to keep the money for the purpose originally described, though they do not have a concrete plan of how that would happen.

If it seems like the FBI has been mighty busy investigating public officials lately (and it certainly seems that way to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) and others), it's no accident. As Peter Stone reports in August's National Journal (not available online), the FBI has put a major emphasis on bagging crooked pols:

According to FBI officials, cases involving corrupt government officials are now the bureau’s top criminal priority. The number of FBI agents focusing on public corruption has jumped by more than 40 percent—from 451 agents in fiscal 2001 to 641 in fiscal 2007. In 2005 and 2006, FBI probes were instrumental in the convictions of 1,060 government officials on corruption charges -- 177 federal officials, 158 state officials, and 725 local officials and police -- an increase of 40 percent from the previous two-year period.

In an interview with National Journal, Kenneth Kaiser, the assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, emphasized that public corruption probes typically are lengthy and require “a lot of evidence” to end in conviction. “Corruption cases are the most difficult to investigate and the most difficult to prosecute,” Kaiser said. “A lot of the time, we use very sophisticated techniques to make these cases.”

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With thanks to reader RJ, here's Iraq Body Count's chart of civilian casualties during the surge, broken down by Baghdad vs. non-Baghdad; and by shooting/execution vs. car bomb deaths. IBC, which relies on verified press reports in English and in Arabic, here lists civilian deaths per day, apparently on average, for each month in 2007.

From The Chicago Tribune:

[Rep. Jerry Weller (R-IL)], a southwest suburban congressman with a fondness for Latin America, has sunk a large share of his investment capital into a land development in Nicaragua. But he didn't declare the extent of his holdings on his required congressional disclosures, and he indicated dramatically different purchase prices for the land in American and Nicaraguan records.... House ethics rules require representatives to disclose all property they own except for their personal residences.

So we may not get to see the basis for General Petraeus' computations that the surge has reduced violence in Iraq. An anonymous senior military officer tells The Washington Times' Bill Gertz not to expect a paper trail when Petraeus testifies to Congress on Monday.

A senior military officer said there will be no written presentation to the president on security and stability in Iraq. "There is no report. It is an assessment provided by them by testimony," the officer said.

The only hard copy will be Gen. Petraeus' opening statement to Congress, scheduled for Monday, along with any charts he will use in explaining the results of the troop surge in Baghdad over the past several months.

Will the charts explain the methodology used to derive the information they contain?

(Via ThinkProgress)

As Josh wrote on TPM, getting an apples-to-apples comparison of Iraqi civilian casualties statistics -- an all-important metric to determine the success of General Petraeus' "population protection" strategy -- over the course of the past year is something of a murky endeavor. One of the most credible Iraq-casualties tabulations, crunched by the United Nations, was lost this year after the Iraqi government, embarrassed by the high reported death toll, refused the U.N. access to Health Ministry statistics.

And it's not hard to see why: here are the 2006 numbers from the U.N., month by month, versus an AP-reported month-to-month breakdown of figures compiled from the Iraqi ministries of defense, health and interior.

Jan 06: 1700 UN -- 549 Iraqi ministries

Feb 06: 2100 UN -- 545 Iraqi ministries

Mar 06: 2250 UN -- 769 Iraqi ministries

Apr 06: 2200 UN -- 686 Iraqi ministries

May 06: 2669 UN -- 932 Iraqi ministries

Jun 06: 3149 UN -- 885 Iraqi ministries

Jul 06: 3590 UN -- 1062 Iraqi ministries

Aug 06: 3009 UN -- 769 Iraqi ministries

Sep 06: 3250 UN -- 1099 Iraqi ministries

Oct 06: 3600 UN* -- 1288 Iraqi ministries

Nov 06: 3400 UN -- 1846 Iraqi ministries

Dec 06: 2800 UN -- 1927 Iraqi ministries

If I've made any mistakes in compiling this, I'll adjust as necessary. But here you can see the discrepancy in determining how many Iraqis died each month in 2006 alone. In February, for instance, the violence in the wake of the Samarra mosque bombing killed at least 130 Iraqis in one day, making the Iraqi government's count of 535 casualties that entire month rather dubious.

*An Associated Press story from November 2006 pegged the October 2006 UN figure at 3709. There is no explanation for the discrepancy between the UN reported number and the AP account.

The Republican lawyer who implicated Karl Rove in the decision to prosecute former Gov. Don Siegelman (D-AL) will speak privately -- and under oath -- with House Judiciary Committee staff next week about what she knows.

The lawyer, Dana Jill Simpson, gave support to Siegelman's argument that his prosecution and subsequent conviction stemmed from a political vendetta against him.

The latest edition of The New Republic takes a look at Sen. Ted Stevens' (R-AK) "twisted genius for getting what he wants" and the political atmosphere that has let him get away with it for so long.

The key to the most senior Republican senator's success seems to be his tactical use of his extreme temper. In conversations with Alaska locals, I've heard that the legend of Stevens' temper dates back to the death of his wife in 1978 when the couple's plane crashed landing at the Anchorage airport. TNR fleshes out how Stevens' first response to the tragic incident was to lash out at Sen. Mike Gravel (D-AK), grumbling that if it weren't for Gravel, he and his wife wouldn't have needed to rush to a meeting over a piece of legislation Gravel was trying to block.

His accusation became more specific in what a former Senate aide who was present calls "one of the most horrifying moments in the modern Senate." According to the aide (the story was also chronicled by The Washington Post at the time), Stevens hobbled into a Senate committee hearing a couple of months later on crutches and in bandages. With Gravel present, Stevens raised the topic of his reason for flying that fateful day. "I don't want to get personal about it," he told the stunned audience, "but I think if that bill had passed, I might have a wife sitting at home when I get home tonight, too."

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The U.S. attorney office in Los Angeles just can't seem to muster the manpower needed to investigate senior Republican appropriator Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA). In fact, it seems that the Justice Department is handicapping itself.

The veteran prosecutor who'd been heading up the Lewis case has been forced into retirement, The Los Angeles Daily Journal reported yesterday (not available online). It knocks the investigation, already stalled, further off course.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that budget shortages and the departure of top prosecutors from the office had caused the investigation to slow down since last fall. But the Journal noted that the interim U.S. attorney George Cardona (the prior U.S.A. Debra Yang left last year under questionable circumstances) had tapped veteran prosecutor Michael Emmick in June to "jump-start" the investigation.

So much for that.

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