TPM News

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) will be holding a press conference at 10:45 today to discuss the latest revelations.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), meanwhile, is none too happy:

“The White House and the Attorney General have dodged Congress’s questions and ducked accountability as if they still were dealing with a rubberstamp Congress. They are discovering that those days are gone.

“I am outraged that the Attorney General was less than forthcoming with the Senate while under oath before the Judiciary Committee. It is deeply disturbing that this plan appears to have originated from high-ranking officials at the White House and executed in secret with a complicit Department of Justice.

“This is not how justice is served, nor is it how our system of checks and balances is designed to work. It is an abuse of power committed in secret to steer certain outcomes in our justice system, and then to dust over the tracks. The President of the United States and the Attorney General are responsible for setting the moral standard for this Administration. Apparently this matter does not bother them but it does bother me, and we will summon whoever we need in our hearings to get to the bottom of this.”

This deserves its own post:

The e-mails show that Rove was interested in the appointment of a former aide, Tim Griffin, as an Arkansas prosecutor. [Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff Kyle] Sampson wrote in one that "getting him appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc."

OK, there's a lot to sift through in the two stories out from The Washington Post and New York Times today, but let's just focus on the tick-tock of events outlined in the two stories.

So here's the storyline (and please save your expressions of disbelief until the end):

The idea to replace U.S. attorneys was first floated by White House counsel Harriet Miers in February 2005. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "rejected that idea as impractical and disruptive." And Karl Rove "vaguely recalls telling Miers that he also thought firing all 93 was ill-advised."

So in March 2005, a counselor to Gonzales, Kyle Sampson (who went on to become Gonzales' chief of staff in September 2005) sent an e-mail to Miers that ranked all 93 U.S. attorneys. Here's how the Post describes the breakdown:

Strong performers "exhibited loyalty" to the administration; low performers were "weak U.S. attorneys who have been ineffectual managers and prosecutors, chafed against Administration initiatives, etc." A third group merited no opinion.


The Post doesn't mention it, but in December 2005, the administration, via Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter's (R-PA) chief counsel, slipped a provision into the Patriot Act reauthorization bill that made it possible to replace U.S. Attorneys permanently without Senate confirmation.

In January 2006, "Sampson sent to the White House the first list of seven candidates for dismissal, including four who were fired at year's end: [Michigan's Margaret] Chiara, [Arkansas' Bud] Cummins, [San Diego's Carol] Lam and [San Francisco's Kevin] Ryan. The list also recommended Griffin and other replacements, most of whom were edited from documents viewed by The Post."

In March, the Patriot reauthorization bill finally passed Congress and was signed into law.

In June, U.S. Attorney for Arkansas' Eastern District Bud Cummins gets a call asking him to resign.

Read More →

How strained are resources in Iraq? So strained that the State Department can't afford for three auditors to make a three month visit.

The State Department recently turned down a request for three congressional auditors to make a three-month stay in Baghdad, saying that having them around for that long would be "a serious challenge to mission resources."

In response, 22 Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), have called on Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to make room. "American taxpayers are currently being asked to spend approximately $3,420 every second and $280 million per day in Iraq," reads a letter to Rice sent today. "It is imperative that GAO be given the access it needs to serve as the eyes and ears of the United States Congress...."

But the burden of having those three auditors around would seem almost insurmountable... or at least that's the impression a State Department official gave in a letter to Harkin last week:

"each of [the auditors] would require lodging, extensive support services, security, computers, and other administrative support, as well as the attention of our staff in Baghdad in responding to their requests and inquiries."


You can read the entire letter here. The State Department turned down the GAO's request for a three-month stay, agreeing only to a two-week visit -- although the official pointed out that even that "will place considerable burden on Embassy staff and resources."

In the letter sent to Sec. Rice today, the Democrats didn't buy that argument, asking instead that the State Department make room for a six-month stay for the auditors.

In light of recent revelations, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) thinks the Senate Judiciary Committee ought to hear from Karl Rove. And today, he asked the committee to call on Rove to testify.

He explained in a statement:

“The more we learn, the more it seems that people at high levels in the White House have been involved in the U.S. Attorney purge... Recent disclosures reveal that Rove talked to the NM State Party Chair Allen Weh before any public announcement of the firing was made and that Rove talked about Mr. Igleisas to the Attorney General and the White House Counsel. While the White House states not incorrectly that someone in Karl Rove’s position might get complaints about U.S. Attorneys, it is almost unheard of for a U.S. Attorney to be fired shortly after such discussions occur, when that US Attorney had received highly favorable reviews and ratings.”


The House Judiciary Committee has also declared a desire to hear from Rove.

Last Thursday, the administration abruptly dropped its opposition to a bill that would require Senate confirmation for U.S. attorney replacements. But Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) "still intends to object," Roll Call reports (sub. req.).

Just how disruptive that objection will be is up to Kyl. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) intends to bring the legislation up for a vote "as quickly as possible," his spokesman tells Roll Call. By the rules of the Senate, which give individual senators considerable power to stymie legislation, Kyl could gum up the works with his objection, or he could simply sound his disapproval and let the bill come up for a vote.

Kyl has already blocked the bill, authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), once. Republicans blocked it a second time when Feinstein tried to attach it as an amendment to another bill.

Read More →

Halliburton Adds Headquarters, CEO to Dubai "Halliburton, the big energy services company, said on Sunday that it would open a corporate headquarters in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai and move its chairman and chief executive, David J. Lesar, there. The company will maintain its existing corporate office here as well as its legal incorporation in the United States, meaning that it will still be subject to domestic laws and regulations." (The New York Times)

Read More →

Salon's headline, "The Army is ordering injured troops to go to Iraq," pretty much sums it up.

On February 15th at Fort Benning, GA, Salon reports,

Master Sgt. Jenkins and 74 other soldiers with medical conditions from the 3rd Division's 3rd Brigade were summoned to a meeting with the division surgeon and brigade surgeon. These are the men responsible for handling each soldier's "physical profile," an Army document that lists for commanders an injured soldier's physical limitations because of medical problems -- from being unable to fire a weapon to the inability to move and dive in three-to-five-second increments to avoid enemy fire. Jenkins and other soldiers claim that the division and brigade surgeons summarily downgraded soldiers' profiles, without even a medical exam, in order to deploy them to Iraq. It is a claim division officials deny.


Salon interviewed a number of the soldiers who were declared fit enough for deployment, including a soldier whose spine is "separating," one who "corkscrewed" his spine, one who "suffers from degenerative disk disease," and another with chronic sleep apnea.

As a captain at Ft. Benning tells him (the one with the corkscrewed spine): "It is a numbers issue with this whole troop surge... They are just trying to get those numbers."

Of course, this is just one Army base and just one unit. Maybe the perfunctory examination was the inspiration of one commander there. Or maybe not:

Other soldiers slated to leave for Iraq with injuries said they wonder whether the same thing is happening in other units in the Army. "You have to ask where else this might be happening and who is dictating it," one female soldier told me. "How high does it go?"

From The Washington Post:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales met privately with top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday to offer an olive branch, but he did not seem too happy about it.

Gonzales had agreed to let Congress limit his powers and interview Justice Department officials as part of an escalating battle over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. He knew that another scandal on FBI abuses was about to break and that some GOP lawmakers were hinting that he was in over his head.

"What else do you want us to do?" the normally taciturn Gonzales asked in exasperation, according to several officials with knowledge of the meeting.

It's easy to get lost among the scandals and subscandals that make up the administration's firing of eight U.S. attorneys, but one chief allegation is that the Justice Department did its best to discourage the prosecutors from talking to the media and Congress about the firings.

Bud Cummins, the former U.S.A. for Little Rock, Arkansas, testified before Congress about a call he received from Justice Department official Michael Elston in late February with the following message: if the prosecutors didn't stop talking, the Justice Department would hit back.

Now another prosecutor, Seattle's John McKay, says he got a similar call much earlier, before the firings had even been reported. From Newsweek:

After McKay was fired in December, he says he also got a phone call from a "clearly nervous" Elston asking if he intended to go public: "He was offering me a deal: you stay silent and the attorney general won't say anything bad about you."


As with his chat with Cummins, Elston doesn't deny that he made the call. But he tells Newsweek, that he "can't imagine" how McKay interpreted the call that way.

Similarly, Elston wrote in a letter earlier this week that he was "shocked and baffled" by Cummins' interpretation of that call. And he tells Newsweek that all he said to Cummins was that "it's really a shame that all this has to come out in the newspaper." Somehow, Cummins interpreted that as a threat.

LiveWire