TPM News

During a Sunday event at a senior center in Madras, Oregon, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) was confronted by the largest town hall crowd he's seen all year--approximately 200 people in a town of 6000.

Merkley has hosted over two dozen such events since February, and, according to his spokesman Marc Siegel, the tone of these events has become significantly more aggressive in the last few weeks, culminating in Sunday's raucous event.

"Many of the procedures laid out in the memo were implemented," Siegel told me, referring to this document, authored by a small group called Right Principles and disseminated to protest organizers across the country via an online list serv.

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The former mistress of John Edwards arrived at a federal courthouse in Raleigh, N.C., this morning, reports the Associated Press. Rielle Hunter is presumably testifying to a grand jury.

In video shown on CNN, Hunter had her daughter with her as she entered the courthouse.

Edwards has admitted a grand jury is investigating his use of campaign funds, but the U.S. Attorney's office in North Carolina won't confirm or deny an investigation. Edwards's political action committee paid Hunter's video production firm $100,000 in 2006, and another $14,086 in April 2007. Edwards said he ended the affair in 2006.

Late update: And here's the video.

Here's another way for Republicans to handle the disruptions at Democratic town hall events: Joke about lynching.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) held a town hall of his own two days ago, and here's what he said:

"This particular meeting, in a way is a little bit unique," said Akin. "Different people from Washington, DC, have come back to their districts and have town hall meetings, and they almost got lynched."

The audience then broke out into laughter and applause.

"I would assume you're not approving lynchings, because we don't want to do that," Akin said, putting his hand to his neck in imitation of choking, which got audience laughing some more. "But the point is, people are really upset at some of this legislation, and with very good reason they were upset."

(Via Fired Up Missouri)

In a move that's unlikely to curry much favor with House progressives, the White House has reaffirmed its commitment to a long-standing deal it made with the pharmaceutical industry, that will require them to cover, through industry reforms, no more than $80 billion worth of what's expected to be the approximately $1 trillion cost of health care reform.

President Obama struck a deal with PhRMA early--a move that the administration says was crucial to build momentum within the health care industry for reform. But House health care leaders and progressives insisted that they were party to no deal, and included in their overhaul legislation provisions that would have put drug makers--a key industry stakeholder--on the hook for more than they agreed to.

The White House's insistence on maintaining this bargain means the House legislation will have to be changed before a floor vote, or during conference committee with the Senate, leading some to wonder why Obama--who's been notably averse to drawing lines in the sand over key progressive goals--is putting himself out there for the insurance company.

"It is a pivotal issue not just about health care," Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told the New York Times. "Are industry groups going to be the ones at the table who get the first big piece of the pie and we just fight over the crust?"

Sotomayor Set To Be Confirmed Today The Senate is expected to vote today to confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Her confirmation is essentially guaranteed, as no Democrats have come out against her, and eight Republicans are now set to vote in favor of the nomination as well.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will meet with members of the Senate Finance Committee at 11:30 a.m. ET. He will meet with Sec. of the Treasury Tim Geithner at 3:15 p.m. ET. He will meet at 4 p.m. ET with John Brennan, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. He will speak at a 6:40 p.m. ET fundraiser in Virginia for state Sen. Creigh Deeds, the Democratic nominee for governor this year, and then speak at a 7:10 p.m. ET rally for Deeds.

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Former Rep. William Jefferson -- the Louisiana Democrat in whose freezer the FBI found $90,000 during a 2005 raid -- has been found guilty on 11 out of 16 federal charges.

The charges against the former lawmaker concerned a web of schemes in which he used political contacts to help American companies win contracts in West African countries. In return, payments or other financial benefits were given to Jefferson family members' companies.

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After being held captive in North Korea since March, journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee (in gray) arrive in Burbank, California, on Wednesday.


Euna Lee is greeted by her husband Michael Saldate and their 4-year-old daughter Hana.


At the right, Laura Ling hugs her husband Ian Clayton.


Ling and Lee were preparing a report for Current TV, an independent media company, when they were captured in North Korea. Former Vice President Al Gore, the founder of Current TV, was present in Burbank to welcome the two journalists home.


Speaking to reporters gathered around the airplane, Gore thanked former President Clinton, as well as the Obama administration, for bringing the two women back to the United States. "To everybody who has played a part in this," he said, "we are so grateful."


Ling spoke briefly to reporters. "Thirty hours ago, Euna Lee and I were prisoners in North Korea. We feared that at any moment we could be prisoners in a hard labor camp. Then suddenly we were told that we were going to a meeting. We were taken to a location and when we walked through the doors, we saw standing before us President Bill Clinton. We were shocked, but we knew instantly in our hearts that the nightmare of our lives was finally coming to an end. And now we stand here home and free."


Lisa Ling (left), the sister of freed journalist Laura Ling (right), smiles during Wednesday morning's reunion.


President Obama told the press that he was "extraordinarily relieved" by the journalists' return. He also thanked former President Clinton for his help in bringing back the two women.


Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) will not be hosting any town hall events this August -- instead, he's making himself available to constituents for one-on-one meetings about health care reform -- and at least part of the reason is this: His offices have received threatening phone calls, including at least one direct threat against his life.

"We had no town hall events scheduled for the August recess anyway, but in light of everything that's happened -- we have received a threatening phone call in the D.C. office, there have been calls to the Raleigh office," said Miller communications director LuAnn Canipe, in an interview with TPM. The threatening call in question happened earlier this week.

"The call to the D.C. office was, 'Miller could lose his life over this,'" said Canipe. "Our staffer took it so seriously, he confirmed what the guy was saying. He said, 'Sir is that a threat?' and at that time our staffer was getting the phone number off caller ID and turning it over to the Capitol Police."

They haven't heard anything back from the police yet, but they did get the caller's number. So this could develop into something soon enough.

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If a bunch of Republican-backed protesters were shouting down your town hall events, you might think the national Democratic party should bring the heat on the GOP. And that's exactly what they did, by encouraging members to call the Republican National Committee and tell them to knock it off.

In response, Michael Steele "thought it would be a good idea" to reroute those calls right back to the Democrats. "Don't sit there and think you're going to direct a bunch of angry liberals to call the RNC when I know full well what that's all about. I get the joke. My response was, talk to your own party, because they're the ones ginning this up."

Hilariously, Steele accused the White House of blaming the health care controversy on regular Americans "like my mother, like my sister." Which town halls have they been attending?

Former Rep. William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson (D-LA) has been found guilty on 11 out of 16 federal charges, WDSU reports.

Jefferson was found guilty of one count of racketeering, three counts of money laundering, two counts of soliciting bribes and two counts of conspiracy to solicit bribes, according to WDSU. Jefferson was found guilty of three of the six counts of depriving citizens of honest service by wire fraud.

He was found not guilty of one count of violating the foreign corrupt practices act and one count of obstruction of justice.