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The news that Karl Rove has finally testified before lawyers for the House Judiciary committee about his role in the US Attorney firings and the prosecution of Don Siegelman represents, in one sense, the culmination of years-long battle. That fight has pitted Congress, determined to get to the bottom of the firings, against the Bush White House, which has dragged its feet at virtually every stage. And yet, the path from here to a full public accounting of what happened remains unclear at best.

Rove's deposition put a cap on a protracted legal standoff between the committee, chaired by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and the Bush White House. Conyers, investigating the late 2006 firing of nine US Attorneys, had first subpoenaed Rove in 2007. Citing executive privilege, the White House refused to let Rove testify. That eventually prompted Congress to hold Rove in contempt, and ultimately to file a lawsuit seeking to compel Rove to testify. A district court ruled in Congress's favor last year, but the White House appealed that ruling, and Rove continued to be a no-show at several committee hearings to which he had been called to testify. Eventually, in March, lawyers for President Bush reached an agreement with the committee, securing Rove's and Harriet Miers' testimony. Even since then, though, it's taken over four months to arrange for Rove's sit-down. (Miers had hers last month.)

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In the newest political development for the 2010 Illinois Senate race, state Attorney General Lisa Madigan will reportedly announce that she is not running for Senate -- nor is she running for Governor -- but will simply run for re-election.

The seat, of course, is currently held by the very controversial Democrat Roland Burris, who was appointed by the later-impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and was formerly held by Barack Obama. State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is currently running for the Democratic nomination, and has raised a decent amount of money, while Burris has not made his plans clear.

There had been much speculation about whether Madigan would run for Senate, or perhaps challenge the new Gov. Pat Quinn in the Democratic primary. Instead, she's sticking with her current job.

Polls had consistently shown that Madigan would have won Democratic primaries for either of those two offices. Now that she seems to be out, Giannoulias appears to be the frontrunner for Senate, and Quinn can probably breathe a sigh of relief.

Here's another clue that's come out of the now-infamous fundraising event from two Fridays ago for Democratic House candidate Francine Busby (CA-50), which ended in a raid by the San Diego Sheriff's Department when things got out of hand with a deputy who was responding to a noise complaint.

A preliminary police report that has been leaked to the media (the Sheriff's Department is not releasing documents, due to an ongoing internal probe) shows that the noise complaint originated from a house nearby, with the caller incensed over "a loud Democratic rally with loudspeakers."

This corroborates what Busby had previously told me, that the deputies who came to the event said they were responding to a complaint about a "Democratic demonstration." For her part, Busby has said that the event was not loud, but was a standard fundraising house party, at which she briefly spoke through a microphone and had finished up her remarks at some time around 8:30 p.m.

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Last week, we noted that conservatives were mining hundreds of pages of documents, released by LatinoJustice PRLDEF (formerly the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund), related to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's tenure on the organization's board of directors.

Sotomayor's opponents have sought to tie the group's legal defense of minorities to her decision as a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Ricci v. Destefano--a decision conservatives contend was unfair to white people. Of the many problems with that strategy, the biggest is probably that PRLDEF board members don't do litigation. Its leaders made that clear in a letter to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)--ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee--who's been the most prominent Republican to object to Sotomayor's affiliation with the organization.

"Neither the Board as a whole nor any individual member selects litigation to be undertaken or controls ongoing litigation," the letter reads.

In fact, ABA Model Code 6.03 provides that Board members have no attorney-client relationship with the clients of a legal services organization and therefore do not control the activities of staff lawyers in individual cases. The Board's role is thus limited to overall policy questions such as whether to emphasize employment, housing, or education. Operational decisions were and are appropriately delegated to the organization's President and General Counsel; the President reported generally on the organization's docket at Board meetings. Judge Sotomayor, and the full Board, understood their advisory role and did not step outside of that role. Understanding this factual context, we hope you will see that your description that "Judge Sotomayor served in senior leadership roles" at PRLDEF is a mischaracterization.

You can read the letter in full here. Democrats will cite it on the Senate floor today, in advance of Sotomayor's confirmation hearings, which begin next week.

Al Franken is sworn in as the junior senator from Minnesota by Vice President Joe Biden on July 7. Franken's wife, Franni, holds the Bible. Watch the ceremony.

Sen. Franken shakes Biden's hand after the ceremony. Watch Josh's 2007 interview with Franken.

Newscom/Kris Connor/ABACAUSA

Franken hugs Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN). Watch Franken's speech at a reception after the swearing in.

Biden, Franken and former Vice President Walter Mondale share a laugh after the ceremony. Reminds us of the funny Al Franken.

Newscom/Roll Call

Mondale and Franken embrace.

Newscom/Roll Call

Senator Al Franken's office. Finally.

The 2010 Republican primary for Senate in Florida has been emerging as a key contest between the Republican establishment, with its focus on rebuilding the party and trying to win the center, and the purist activist base -- and so far, the establishment is winning.

Gov. Charlie Crist, the moderate candidate backed by the establishment, has raised $3 million in the second quarter, an impressive sum. Insurgent candidate Marco Rubio, a former state House Speaker who is aiming to mobilize opposition to Crist's endorsement of the stimulus bill, took in only $340,000. Crist is running way ahead in the polls, thanks to superior name recognition, and a 9-1 fundraising advantage should go a long way in helping him maintain his position.

In addition, Crist is making a clear move to build up support in the Cuban-American community -- cutting in on Rubio's natural turf -- and has won the endorsements of Miami Congressmen Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart.

The right-wing Club For Growth has been publicly mulling whether to get in this race on Rubio's behalf. Rubio ought to be hoping the Club will ultimately offer him its help -- he'll need it.

As we've been reporting, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid is demanding an end to efforts to woo fence-sitting Republicans in to supporting a watered-down health care reform legislation. But that will likely alienate just about the entire GOP, and require Democrats to stand united against a filibuster if a bill is to pass through regular order.

So, I suppose it should come as no surprise that, Senate leaders are now asking members of the Democratic caucus to vote party-line on procedural issues, reversing the stance they took on caucus unity just last week.

Predictably, conservative Democrats are publicly balking at the suggestion. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) told Roll Call "I'm not a closed mind on cloture, but if it's an abuse of procedure, if it's somebody trying to put a poison pill into a bill, or if it's something that would be pre-emptive of Nebraska law, or something that rises to extraordinary circumstances, then I've always reserved the right to vote against cloture."

And Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)--a stickler when it comes to the public option and, an outright opponent of climate change legislation--said "I'm going to keep an open mind, but I am not committing to any procedural straitjackets one way or another," she said.

But for his part, Reid is actually putting himself on the line. "On procedural votes," he predicted, "we'll keep Democrats together." That's a fairly dramatic about face from the position he held just last week, after it became clear that Al Franken would be coming to Washington. "We have 60 votes on paper," Reid said. "But we cannot bulldoze anybody; it doesn't work that way. My caucus doesn't allow it. And we have a very diverse group of senators philosophically. I am not this morning suddenly flexing my muscles."

Here's a video from yesterday, courtesy of our friends at The Uptake, of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) speaking to a reception held in his honor at the Hart Senate Office Building after he'd been sworn in.

When speaking of his family, his friends, supporters, and the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, Franken was frequently choking back tears -- as he noted, he has a tendency to stop just short of actually crying. And he also got in some nice jokes:

"If I thanked everyone here individually, who helped in this campaign, I would be thanking virtually everybody in this room," Franken said. "There's a couple of you who are kind of -- just here for the ride. (The crowd laughs.) But, 95% of you in this room had a tremendous amount to do with this victory."

After sparking progressive outrage, and sending the White House into damage control mode, a chastened Rahm Emanuel appeared before House Democrats yesterday to reassure them that the administration stands foursquare behind a public option.

At the meeting, House liberals warned Emanuel that he couldn't count on them to vote for a bill that contains a triggered public option. "We have compromised enough, and we are not going to compromise on any kind of trigger game," Woolsey apparently told Emanuel. "People clapped all over the place. We mean it, and not just progressives."

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman said Emanuel assured him that "he doesn't stand by [the] trigger."

But all may not be forgiven and forgotten. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, said the Chief of Staff ""made a hell of a mistake. He made a hell of a mistake and he knows it."

Meanwhile, across the Capitol, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid laid down the law, urging Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) to walk away from his efforts to reach bipartisan consensus on health care reform--specifically, to advance a bill with a public option, and financed without taxing workers' health benefits. It's unclear as of now how closely the two major developments are connected.

Poll: Most Americans Wouldn't Vote For Palin A new Gallup poll finds that 54% of Americans say it is not too likely or not at all likely that they would vote for Sarah Palin if she ran for President in 2012, compared to 43% who say it is somewhat likely or very likely that they would support her. In addition, 70% say her resignation as Governor of Alaska has had no effect on their view of her, with 17% saying they now view her less favorably, and 9% more favorably.

Obama's Day In Italy President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived in Rome, Italy, at about 4:20 a.m. ET (10:20 a.m. local time). At 5:10 a.m. ET, Obama met with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, and the two delivered brief statements to the press. At 6:45 a.m. ET, Obama arrived at the Guardia di Finanz School, greeted by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. There was a G-8 working lunch at 7 a.m. ET, and Obama will attend a G-8 session on global issues at 9:30 a.m. ET. At 11:45 a.m. ET, Obama and Berlusconi will tour L'Aquila historic center, and Obama will attend a G-8 working dinner at 2 p.m. ET.

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