TPM News

At a press conference this morning, Attorney General Eric Holder said he hoped Washington would "leave the politics out of it" when considering his decision to transfer five suspected 9/11 conspirators from the detention center in Guantanamo Bay to New York City for trial in federal court.

His request fell on deaf ears. Before he had even stepped from behind the mics at the Justice Department, politicians on both sides had begun a partisan battle over his decision to charge and try some of the men allegedly responsible for the worst terror attack in U.S. history.

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Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) says that House liberals backed themselves into a wall during health care negotiations, and got stuck with a harsher abortion amendment than they would have had if they'd just played nice. And now, he says, there's no going back.

In an interview with The Atlantic, Stupak says "Speaker Pelosi went to present [House liberals] what she agreed to with us, that it would be part of a manager's amendment.... [T]hey're the ones who insisted, 'No, Stupak doesn't get to go in the manager's amendment, we want it on the floor.' They're the ones who insisted on bringing it to a vote. They're the ones who wanted to vote against me, they were the ones who said they would win this vote."

If they hadn't rejected the Speaker on Friday night, to use their words, there would have been a less restrictive amendment that would have been part of the manager's amendment. They rejected that. They could not live with it. Even the less restrictive language. And therefore the Speaker came back and said, 'Bart, I'm sorry, but our deal's off. So I have no choice, because we made an agreement, I'm gonna have to give you an amendment,' and I said, 'Well, with all due respect, Madame Speaker, I'm not gonna send the amendment we agreed to, because if the deal's off, then I don't have to hold to that agreement, Hyde-lite, and I'm putting up the original Hyde language that I offered in committee, that Joe Pitts and I offered.' That's why it's called the Stupak-Pitts amendment.

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In what may be another small dose of that precious change we can believe in, the Obama administration is taking steps to crack down on one of the Bushies' favored tactics for politicizing government: burrowing.

In the waning days of the Bush administration, we told you about some political appointees who had landed career jobs, with civil-service protections, at their departments -- allowing them to continue to exert influence under the new government, and making them difficult to remove. In fact, the Bushies were far from the first group to try this. The Washington Monthly's Charles Peters, who has chronicled the workings of the federal government since the 1960s, used to call it the "headless nail" phenomenon.

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Rand Paul, a candidate in the Republican primary for Senate from Kentucky, had a meeting yesterday with the state's top Republican, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- following a gaffe in which Paul failed to commit to supporting McConnell for GOP leader.

The meeting came after Paul, an ophthalmologist and son of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), made a gaffe in an interview this past weekend, when the ABC affiliate in Louisville asked whether he would support McConnell for Republican Leader, if given the choice of the very conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). "I like both of them and I don't know that I could make a judgement," Paul said at the time, adding: "I have to win the primary first. So I don't think I'd make a judgement on how I'd vote for leader, but I think obviously Kentucky having a leader is good for Kentucky."

Paul's opponent in the primary, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, has pounced on him for this. Paul apparently worked to undo the damage. "I have nothing but high compliments about his job as minority leader," he told reporters. "I have no reason not to support him."

"We had a very cordial conversation," Paul explained "I think it's probably better not to go into any detail about what we talked about."

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), chair of the homeland security committee, released a statement today urging Attorney General Eric Holder and the administration to "reconsider" plans to bring five alleged conspirators in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to New York City to stand trial. Here is the full statement:

Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) today strongly differed with Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to prosecute the individuals charged with committing the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in civilian courts in the United States.

Senator Lieberman said, "The terrorists who planned, participated in, and aided the September 11, 2001 attacks are war criminals, not common criminals. Not only are these individuals not common criminals but war criminals, they are also not American citizens entitled to all the constitutional rights American citizens have in our federal courts. The individuals accused of committing these heinous, cowardly acts of intentionally targeting unsuspecting, defenseless civilians should therefore be tried by military commission rather than in civilian courts in the United States."

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Reporters asked Attorney General Eric Holder about the departure of White House counsel Greg Craig, and Holder said he was "a little surprised" by the news.

Holder also said Craig was getting "unfair proportion of the blame" for the delay of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

"Greg Craig is a great lawyer, he has been a great friend to the Justice Department," Holder said.

Holder also thanked Craig for his role in the "success" of the Obama administration, including the "effort" to close Gitmo.

In a press conference this morning, Attorney General Eric Holder said he will seek the death penalty against five suspects in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including self-proclaimed mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, when they are tried in civilian court in New York City.

Holder said another five terrorist suspects, including those allegedly involved in the bombing of the USS Cole, will be referred to the Department of Defense. All 10 are currently being held in Guantanamo Bay.

He said he is confident the trials will result in conviction.

"I would not have authorized prosecution if I was not confident our outcome would be a successful one," he told reporters.

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Sigh. Washington waited through a slow holiday week with bated breath for a CBO analysis of Senate health care legislation, which had been expected today. But now sources say the report won't likely be ready until early next week.

The development calls into doubt the likelihood that the bill itself will be introduced on the Senate floor next week. Democratic leaders have vowed to post the bill online for 72 hours before moving the bill toward the floor, and in those 72 hours, they will have to corral all Democratic caucus members into agreeing to proceed to debate.

This week, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) suggested Democrats would be lucky to get the bill on to the floor before Thanksgiving recess. Looks like they'll be pushing up against that deadline.