It's just days before the mid-term elections, and you're sitting in the White House watching a close Congressional race when it bubbles up that the the Republican incumbent, long dogged by corruption rumors, is under federal investigation.
That's the situation the Bush White House found itself in when it was reported in late October 2006, first on blogs, that U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton was investigating Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ).
And that's when the damage control machine kicked into gear.
Scott Jennings, deputy to Karl Rove, and White House Counsel Harriet Miers intervened to try to get the Justice Department to throw cold water on the reports of an investigation, despite the DOJ's policy not to confirm or deny the existence of ongoing probes, according to e-mails released by the House Judiciary Committee today. (Read them here.)
In the two days following Miers and Jennings' emails, articles appeared in the press quoting DOJ officials saying the investigation was in "preliminary stage" -- which it was not.
Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who is running for Senate in 2010, released this statement on the rough town hall experience today for his long-time nemesis, Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter:
Allentown, PA - The negative reaction Senator Arlen Specter received today at a town hall meeting on health care in Lebanon, PA is a demonstration of the growing frustration and concern shared by taxpayers across Pennsylvania.
"The health care plan Senator Specter supports reflects the kind of political extremism that results from complete Democratic control of Washington," said U.S. Senate candidate Pat Toomey. "Arlen Specter is giving the Democrats in Congress a blank check that will take us down the wrong path."
"People across Pennsylvania have real concerns about the cost and intrusiveness of the government-run health care plan Arlen Specter supports. They deserve reforms that will lower the cost of health care and give them more choices, not government control, higher taxes, and a larger deficit. If elected to the U.S. Senate, I will work tirelessly to find real solutions to our health care problems through increased choice, personal ownership, and competition."
It's fair to say the U.S. attorney firings scandal turned out to be a pretty big deal. It contributed to Alberto Gonzales' resignation as Attorney General, and triggered an ongoing criminal investigation.
The campaign of Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) is seizing on a newly-unsealed statement by Karl Rove, contained in the transcripts from the House Judiciary Committee, to accuse Republican nominee Chris Christie of having misused his former office as a U.S. Attorney.
"I talked to him twice in the last couple of years, perhaps one time while I was at the White House and once or twice since I left the White House," Rove said in 2007, "but -- not regarding his duties as U.S. Attorney, but regarding his interest in running for Governor, and he asked me questions about who -- who were good people that knew about running for Governor that he could talk to."
In a statement given to TPM, Corzine communications director Sean Darcy says:
It's pretty clear now that Christie was running a gubernatorial campaign out of the United States Attorney's office with the Bush White House and Bush's political brain, Karl Rove. Christie now has to answer a number of questions, including:
When did the planning start for his gubernatorial campaign?
Who was involved with the planning, including members of the United States Attorney's office?
How did all of this impact his investigations, including prosecutorial decisions?
Earlier today, MSNBC's cameras spotted a protester carrying a gun outside Portsmouth High School, where President Obama was about to hold a health care town hall. And, as he just told Chris Matthews on Hardball, the gun was loaded.
"Who'd be silly enough to carry an unloaded firearm?" said the protester, William Kostric.
Matthews then asked him why he brought the gun to a presidential event.
"That's not even a relevant question. The question is, why don't people bear arms these days?" Kostric said.
He said no one from New Hampshire was alarmed by seeing the gun, which was strapped to his leg. Maybe the people "bused in from Massachusetts" were alarmed, he said.
"They already have their health care scheme and their socialism. They can keep it," he said.
Kostric was also carrying a sign that said, "It is time to water the tree of liberty," an apparent reference to this quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
Matthews asked Kostric to say the rest of the quote -- the part not on his sign. He only responded that was for people to "look up. It's not a sound bite."
"I'm not advocating violence," he said. "I'm advocating an informed society, an armed society, a polite society."
This is fun. In the trove of Bush White House documents released by the House Judiciary Committee is an email chain from November 2006 in which Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino first learns of the plan to purge U.S. Attorneys.
Perino's reaction after getting the heads-up email and the attached "USA replacement plan.doc"?
(Ed. note: This post has been updated from the original.)
Police reportedly arrested a man and escorted a 52-year-old woman out of Sen. Claire McCaskill's health care town hall today in Hillsboro, Mo.
The Associated Pressreports that the woman, Maxine Johnson of St. Louis, brought in a sign with a picture of Rosa Parks and the words, "First Lady of Civil Rights." Signs were not allowed at the event.
A man, who was not identified, allegedly ripped the sign. He was reportedly arrested on suspicion of assault. Johnson was then removed from the event by several police officers, but was not arrested.
Here's the video:
After the incident, McCaskill said despite the interruption -- and several incidents when reform opponents shouted her down -- the event had been "a pretty good discussion" and encouraged attendees to spread the word "that this was a good meeting." She said news reports would focus on the disruptions.
The Weekly Standard's John McCormack has an interesting take on the swastika that was painted on the main sign at Rep. David Scott's (D-GA) district office: That it's most likely a "fake hate crime," a hoax perpetrated a Scott supporter.
McCormack wrote a blog post called "Beware of Fake Hate Crimes," saying: "It's possible that a neo-Nazi actually vandalized Rep. Scott's offices. But given the fact that the Nazi imagery so neatly dovetails with the left's smearing of health-care protesters as fascists, isn't it more likely that this act of vandalism was committed by one of Scott's supporters?"
Of course, the Nazi imagery is now a part of a right-wing smear campaign, and was introduced into the debate by Rush Limbaugh and others. But, hey, this is still an open case that is being investigated by the authorities, so who knows?
When asked for comment by TPM, Scott's press assistant Jennifer Wright was a bit taken aback -- but mainly amused. "Personally I think it's funny that he thinks a David Scott supporter put the swastika on the sign," said Wright, "especially given what's been happening in the media with the Congressman."
Here's a fun nugget from the U.S. attorney documents (h/t reader B.M.):
It looks like Rich Lowry of National Review offered the White House his services in doing some positive P.R. on behalf of Rove protege Tim Griffin, who the administration had sought to muscle into the U.S. attorney job in Arkansas as a replacement for the fired Bud Cummins.