TPM News

An Associated Press review of Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton's official correspondence found that she directly intervened six times on behalf of companies who donated to her husband's foundation. The issue of the Clinton Foundation has already created a headache for the senator, with Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) insisting that the foundation no longer accept donations from foreign governments. (Associated Press)

The trial of Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr was essentially reset after U.S. military commission officials secretly withdrew and then re-issued charges against the defendants in the case, according to Khadr's defense lawyer. The move is known as "withdrawal and re-referral" and nullifies all prior proceedings against defendants. The top Pentagon official in charge of commissions withdrew charges on December 17; a new trial date is yet to be determined. Khadr, a Canadian, is the only Western citizen still being held at the facility. (CBC News)

A new rule enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency will make it easier for industrial operations to expand without having to apply for new pollution permits. The most recent midnight regulation issued by the Bush administration allows plants to exclude emissions from unrelated activities when calculating whether or not new pollution control measures will be needed. The rule is part of an effort by the Bush administration to make over a pollution-control initiative called the New Source Review. (Washington Post)

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Over the weekend, President-Elect Obama said we should "look forward as opposed to looking backwards" on the question of prosecuting Bush administration officials for torture, illegal wiretapping, and other possible crimes committed in the name of national security.

But yesterday, the House Judiciary committee got behind a very different approach, releasing a nearly 500-page report that recommends establishing a blue-ribbon commission -- along the lines of the 9/11 commission, but with subpoena power -- to investigate whether crimes were committed. (Last week, as we reported over at Election Central, Judiciary chair John Conyers and nine other lawmakers introduced a bill to set up such a commission.)

The report also advocates an investigation by the Justice Department, potentially involving a special prosecutor. And in addition to focusing on issues of torture, wiretapping, and the like, the report also recommends continuing to probe matters like the leaking of the name of former CIA agent Valerie Plame, and the US Attorney firings.

It'll be interesting to see how Democrats will reconcile Conyers' aggressive stance, which seems to enjoy broad support among the party's base, with Obama's more cautious approach.

There's been some confusion today over the question of whether Sen. Carl Levin intends to publicly release ten contracts, signed by the Treasury Department with banks receiving bailout funds, that Treasury has agreed to give him.

We just got the following statement from Levin's office:

Senator Levin intends to release the documents, consistent with Senate rules, after reviewing them for proprietary information.

So that clears that up.

But it leaves a larger, related confusion. As we reported earlier this afternoon, many of the firms that received bailout funds (including a number that appeared in Levin's list) have filed, with the SEC, the "Letters of Agreement" they signed with Treasury. These letters appear to be detailed contracts spelling out the terms of the transactions in question, and are publicly available on the SEC site.

We've asked Sen. Levin's office what additional information is included in the contracts he's referring to, and will keep you posted.

So we're confused about something.

Yesterday, as we reported, Sen. Carl Levin announced that the Treasury Department had agreed to release the contracts for bailout funds that it signed with 10 firms -- though it remains unclear whether Levin's office will release them publicly.

But at least some of those companies appear to have filed documents with the SEC covering their receipt of the funds. These "Letters of Agreement" are contracts signed by bailout czar Neel Kashkari and firm executives, which spell out in detail the amount of capital the firms are receiving, on what terms, and even cover issues like executive pay limits.

For instance, here's the one for AIG (not technically a part of the TARP program) which seems similar to what Levin has obtained.

And here's the agreement Treasury came to with American Express, signed by the firm's CEO Kenneth Chenault.

And the database appears to contain similar Letters of Agreement for hundreds of other companies that have receive TARP funds -- though it's not clear that it contains such letters for all the firms Levin has asked for.

We called Levin's office to ask whether there's additional information -- beyond what's in the SEC filings -- contained in the contracts Treasury has agreed to hand over, but have not yet received a response.

Late Update: And here's what seems to be Bank of America's "Letter of Agreement" with Treasury, signed October 26. B of A is another firm that Treasury has agreed to release its contract for, according to Levin's announcement. It has received $15 billion in TARP funds.

And here's the same thing for Bank of New York Mellon, which got $3 billion in TARP funds back in October, and is another firm for which Treasury has agreed to its release the contract to Levin.

It looks like Bradley Schlozman will escape prosecution, at least for now, despite having been found in a DOJ report to have broken the law by politicizing hiring decisions at the department, and then lying about it to a Senate committee.

But a flood of readers has written in to ask whether Schloz might still be disbarred in the state of Kansas, where he's currently practicing law.

So we called the state's disciplinary administrator, who would handle the issue. Stanton Hazlett told TPMmuckraker that Schlozman has been registered in the state since 1994, but no complaints about him have been filed.

Indeed, Hazlett at first said he wasn't familiar with Schlozman's name, and asked us to send him the DOJ's report released this morning. Eventually, he said that he did recall the allegations of politicized hiring, but wasn't aware that Schlozman had lied to Congress about it. Unsurprisingly, Hazlett suggested that he would take such a matter very seriously.

We'll keep you posted on any developments...

Late Update: The Washington Post reports:

Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine and Office of Professional Responsibility chief H. Marshall Jarrett said they would refer their findings to legal disciplinary authorities.

According to one TPMmuckraker source: "DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility routinely refers findings of ethics violations by Justice Department lawyers to the state bar associations in states where that lawyer is licensed to practice".

So perhaps those complaints will soon start coming in.

Good news for those still hoping we'll get to the bottom of the White House's role in the US Attorney firings.

The Associated Press reports:

A federal judge says the incoming administration of Barack Obama must be given copies of documents the Bush White House has been withholding from Congress on the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

The order by U.S. District Judge John Bates is a minor victory for the House Judiciary Committee.


The House committee was concerned that the documents would no longer be readily available once they were shipped to the National Archives when President George W. Bush leaves office on Jan. 20.

The White House has refused to provide the crucial documents, which were subpoenaed by Rep. John Conyers' Judiciary committee. In addition, Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and Josh Bolten - all senior White House officials at the time of the firings, have so far defied subpoenas issued by the committee.

It sounds like Sen. Pat Leahy isn't too happy about the US Attorney's office's decision not to prosecute Bradley Schlozman for making false statements to Leahy's Judiciary committee.

In a speech on the Senate floor this morning, Leahy left no doubt that he disagrees with the US Attorney's office's decision, and declared: "When somebody deliberately, purposely sets out to subvert the constitution of the United States, and then lies about it, lies about it, Mr. President, I find that a heinous crime."

You can watch the speech here, but here's the entire relevant excerpt:

I really wish that the current U.S. attorney's office appointed by this administration had prosecuted. I think that the only way you stop such blatant criminal violations by people who know better, people who are sworn to uphold the law, (unint.) that they know they'll go to jail for breaking the law. That's what should have been done. And just because they broke the law in the Bush administration and the Bush administration did not, or deemed not to prosecute, I think that raises real questions. Prosecution should be done no matter who breaks the law. I think about one of the people who testified that same investigation and said that, uh, "we swear an oath to President George Bush." I said, "no, you swear an oath to uphold the Constitution. That constitution is the constitution you're sworn to uphold and I'm sworn to uphold and it's the constitution that reflects all Americans."


And when somebody deliberately, purposely sets out to subvert the constitution of the United States, and then lies about it, lies about it, Mr. President, I find that a heinous crime. We will see some kid who steals a car, they'll be prosecuted as they probably should. But when you have a key member of the DoJ lie about it under oath, who subverts the consitution of the United States, all the more reason to prosecute that person. Mr. President what Mr. Schlozman did was reprehensible, it was disgusting, it was wrong, goes at the very core of America's principles. The distinguished presiding officer, like me, had the great opportunity to serve as a prosecutor, and I have every reason to believe that he did not show fear of favor when he brought prosecution, as I did, as I did not, I did not show fear of favor, most prosecutors do not. And when you have somebody who is part of the Justice Department lie under oath, and do it in a way to cover up subverting the laws that protect all of us, the civil rights laws protect all of us, white, black, brown, no matter what our race, our creed, it protects all of us. And what has marked this country since the time I was a young lawyer in the sixties, is our adherence to the civil rights laws. You can't go back to a time where they're enforced for some but not for others.

After Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate subcommittee on investigations, announced yesterday that he is getting copies of the contracts for companies receiving bailout money under the TARP program, we were thrilled to finally see what terms the government insisted on for taxpayer funds. But this morning in the New York Times, a Levin aide was quoted as saying that his office would not publicly release the contracts. And a Levin spokeswoman told TPMmuckraker the same thing in an email.

What gives, we asked.

And it turns out Levin is asking the same question. When we asked why his office would keep the bailout contracts under wraps, he replied simply: "My instinct would be to release them." He pointed out that legal restrictions might limit the dissemination of the info but said he would consult with his counsel on the matter.

We're still waiting to hear the reason why the contracts can't be made public, if indeed they can't. We'll keep you posted.

On a conference call this morning, Sen. Pat Leahy was asked about his ongoing spat with ranking GOPer Arlen Specter over the nomination of Eric Holder to be Attorney General -- which Leahy supports and Specter has expressed extreme skepticism about.

In response, Leahy upped the rhetoric, saying of Specter:

It may be coincidence that his positions have been those of Karl Rove. I suspect it is coincidence.

Leahy added:
He was a lead supporter in the US Senate of Alberto Gonzales. I disagreed with him on Alberto Gonzales. If he could support Gonzales, who turned out to be a disaster as Attorney General and was eventually forced out by President Bush, I would think that he would be very happy to support Eric Holder.

This might be the most horrifying excerpt from the Schlozman report:

In that incident in August 2004, Voting Section Chief John Tanner sent an e-mail to Schlozman asking Schlozman to bring coffee for him to a meeting both were scheduled to attend. Schlozman replied asking Tanner how he liked his coffee. Tanner's response was, "Mary Frances Berry style - black and bitter." Berry is an African-American who was the Chairperson of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from November 1993 until late 2004. Schlozman forwarded the e-mail chain to several Department officials (including Principal DAAG Bradshaw) but not Acosta, with the comment, "Y'all will appreciate Tanner's response." Acosta said that when he was made aware of the incident, he required Schlozman to make a written apology to him for his role in forwarding the e-mail and that Schlozman did so.

Tanner, as longtime readers will remember, was the guy who left the voting-rights section soon after saying that voter ID laws discriminate against the elderly, and therefore not against African-Americans, because African-Americans die younger.

We've contacted both Berry and Tanner to get their reactions...