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Sen. Kit Bond told the Washington Times today that Attorney General nominee Eric Holder privately "gave me assurances he is looking forward" on the issue of prosecutions of former Bush officials who authorized torture or operatives who carried out the policy.

The paper paraphrases Bond's remarks this way: that "Mr. Holder assured [Bond] privately that Mr. Obama's Justice Department will not prosecute former Bush officials involved in the interrogations program."

But Bond's quoted remarks are not quite so clear cut:

[Bond] added, "I was concerned about previous statements he made and others had made. He gave me assurances that he would not take those steps that would cause major disruptions in our intelligence system or cause political warfare. We don't need that kind of political warfare. He gave me assurances he is looking forward."

Mr. Bond also said, "I believe he will look forward to keep the nation safe and not look backwards to prosecute intelligence operators who were fighting terror and kept our country safe since 9-11."

Holder said at his confirmation hearing two weeks ago that "waterboarding is torture." And while President Obama has voiced a preference for looking "forward as opposed to looking backwards" when it comes to potential prosecutions, Holder's unequivocal statement on waterboarding raised the possibility that a full-scale investigation is required.

Indeed, Senate GOPers were so spooked by Holder's statement, they held up his nomination over the issue. This morning, the Judiciary Committee approved Holder, by a vote of 17-2.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus just released a memo that offers a worthy counterpoint to our discussions today about the Republicans' baldly misleading message on the stimulus.

The Progressives have rounded up elements of their proposed $1 trillion stimulus that ended up making it into the Democratic leaders' final bill, in part or in whole. It's a list that's worth remembering while tax cuts seemingly dominate the airwaves.

The highlights of the memo are after the jump:

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The Minnesota election court is rolling along without delays today, and the fairly productive morning we've just had served to make even clearer something that we've known all along: Once you get to the most minute levels of an election, the whole thing is a legal mess.

The Coleman legal team continued its questioning of Jim Gelbmann, the Deputy Secretary of State who oversaw much of the recount. The focus of the Coleman team's case is not simply human error but human variation -- that is, the recount rules may have been uniform statewide, but the human beings administering the rules applied them differently -- and this constitutes a violation of the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.

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Those directives issued by President Obama last week, reversing the Bush administration's policy of secrecy, have really shaken things up.

Earlier this week, the House Judiciary committee subponaed Karl Rove for testimony in the US Attorney firings matter. That move appears to have been in response to the Obama's moves, since Rove had long been claiming executive privilege backed by President Bush.

Now, McClatchy reports, the ACLU has asked the new administration to release Bush Justice Department memos justifying harsh interrogation methods, eavesdropping, and secret prisons.

The Bush administration had long refused to release them, citing national security concerns, among other things.

It's clear that Obama's moves -- specifically, his rescinding of a Bush DOJ memo that gave backing to agencies when they refused to disclose material, and his issuing of an executive order urging agencies to take a broader view of the Freedom of Information Act -- triggered the request.

"The president has made a very visible and clear commitment to transparency. We're eager to see that put into practice," an ACLU staffer told McClatchy.

Pro Publica has a rundown of the missing memos.

As McClatchy notes, Obama's nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel, Dawn Johnsen, has written articles suggesting she thinks that in general, such memos should be released.

So this could be another set of crucial Bush records that will finally see the light of day.


After weeks of delays, the Senate Judiciary committee has voted by 17-2 to send Eric Holder's nomination to the full Senate.

In a statement, committee chair Pat Leahy said:

Mr. Holder has demonstrated that he is committed to restoring the rule of law, and, as President Obama said in his inaugural address 'to reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals,'" said Leahy. "I am more convinced than ever that Eric Holder is a person who will reinvigorate the Department of Justice and serve ably as a key member of the President's national security team. He will pursue the Justice Department's vital missions with skill, integrity, independence and a commitment to the rule of law.

The two "no" votes were from conservative Republicans John Cornyn and Tom Coburn.

Leahy's full statement follows after the jump...

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In his remarks earlier this morning about his stimulus plan, Obama touted as a website where Americans "will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars." Actually the site is empty pending the passage of the bill. Basically, it's a placeholder for after the bill is passed. Shouldn't there be something in there about the competing proposals? The options? Etc. It seems kind of lame for such a techno-savvy White House. Besides after the bill is passed how quickly are they really going to be able to update how Topeka spends it's sewer money?

Amidst the confirmation of Eric Holder and the president's first dis of the Sidwell Friends School--he mocked the institution, not by name, but for cancelling school today in contrast to hardy Chicago where the coating of ice that closed D.C. schools, public and private, would be all but ignored--there was some interesting news.

The counsel's office had some interesting appointments. One is the highly regarded Karen Dunn, a longtime Hillary aide and Yale Law grad, whose presence further solidifies the number of former Clinton aides in the Obama White House. (Like her friend, Howard Wolfson, she's a Nita Lowey alumnus, too.) Susan Sher, the former corporation counsel for the City of Chicago also joins the counsel's office strengthening the Chicago contingent. Maybe most interesting is Norm Eisen, one of the founders of CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) and a special counsel for ethics issues helps carry through Obama's commitment to ethics reform. Friends of General Counsel Greg Craig will note that he's brought his assistant, Catherine Whitney, over from Williams & Connolly, too. Neal Wolin, a veteran of the CIA and the National Security Council, will be there, too suggesting a return to a traditional legal view of those agencies. This will be an interesting office to watch.

The counsel's office is important in and of itself but it's also a springboard to many other jobs. Lisa Brown, who holds the important position of Staff Secretary in the White House--the person in charge of paper flow--was Al Gore' s counsel. From John Dean to Fred Fielding to Lloyd Cutler, it's always at the center of things. Putting a Hillary alum and a special ethics counselor in there makes the mix that much more intriguing.

What would you have to do not to get a bonus?

AIG, the insurance giant that was essentially nationalized in September, has confirmed to the Associated Press that it's paying bonuses to employees who sold credit default swaps -- the very deals that helped cause millions in losses, leading to the company's collapse.

According to news reports, the bonuses amount to $450 million -- or $1.13 million for each of the 400 staffers in the financial products unit.

In a statement, an AIG spokeswoman confirmed the bonuses, but not the dollar figure:

We adopted and disclosed this contractual retention program months before the government provided support to AIG. We did so because it was clear, given the market environment, that we would need to retain employees to manage the complex issues arising in our Financial Products business, which we are now unwinding.

An expert tells AP that it's possible AIG was contractually obligated to pay the bonuses. But that points up a larger problem: the TARP didn't allow the government to invalidate those agreements, as a bankruptcy judge would have been able to do. Since AIG and other firms were essentially bankrupt, there's a good argument that the same rules should apply.

Former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain has come in for criticism (by TPMmuckraker, among others) for signing off on billions in bonuses, on an accelerated schedule, despite seeing massive losses and a government assisted takeover by Bank of America.

Attorney General nominee Eric Holder was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning on a 17-2 vote.

The full Senate must sign off on Holder before he can officially join Obama's DoJ, but today's vote effectively removes the political obstacles that stood in the way of full confirmation. We'll let you know soon which two Republicans voted no on Holder.

Late Update: The two GOP nos were Sens. John Cornyn (TX) and Tom Coburn (OK).

Republicans have blanketed the airwaves in the past week, carrying a single message that's been well-amplified, with almost no skepticism, on MSNBC ...

[Sen. John] ENSIGN [R-NV]: You know, politically, what we're trying to do is choose the right policy, something that actually stimulates the economy, that creates jobs. ... If we could lower the corporate tax rate, that would be one of the best things that we could do to make American business more competitive in the world and actually help stimulate the economy.

... not to mention CNBC:

[Rep. Spencer] BACHUS [R-AL]: We have said let's do tax cuts, let's let the American people make the decisions on how they'll spend the money. That will stimulate the economy more than bringing all that money to Washington and then distributing it out in all sorts of government programs.

... and, of course, on Fox News:

[Rep. Mike] PENCE [R-IN}: What House Democrats have done here is get out a dusty old wish list of liberal spending priorities, dump it all in a bill, and throw in a few token tax cuts on top of it. That's not going to create jobs. It's not going to put this economy back on its feet.

There's only one problem with the stimulus debate's focus on whether the percentage of spending on tax cuts should be 40 or 20, as opposed to the outright merits of such breaks: Tax cuts are an ineffective economic stimulus.

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