TPM News

Jonathan Turley, the media-friendly George Washington Law School professor, who's an outspoken advocate of curbing executive power, gave a bravura performance on MSNBC's Countdown last night, on the subject of possible torture prosecutions.

Arguing that investigations aren't just necessary but long overdue, Turley made two important points that have been getting a bit lost in the rapid-fire debate lately.

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Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) called for an investigation into whether AIG and other medical benefits providers denied costly treatment for civilian contractors injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a letter Tuesday to Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who chairs the Subcommittee on Domestic Policy of the House Oversight Committee, Cummings said he was "absolutely disgusted to read about the atrocities that individuals are being forced to endure as they attempt to get treatment for the injuries they received while serving our country." The LA Times and ABC News reported last week that providers of medical benefits were unwilling to fund basic medical needs like artificial limbs, surgery, and psychological counseling. (LA Times)

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We didn't get to this yesterday, but as part of her media blitz to beat back CQ's report, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) went on CNN to again deny that she intervened with anyone on the AIPAC case.

And Wolf Blitzer actually did a pretty good job of pressing her...


Senate Confirms Christopher Hill As Ambassador To Iraq The Senate last night confirmed Christopher Hill to be President Obama's Ambassador to Iraq. The nomination had previously been delayed by some Republican Senators, including John McCain and Sam Brownback, but Hill was finally able to win confirmation on a 73-23 vote.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama is traveling to Iowa for Earth Day today, accompanied by former governor and current Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack. He will depart the White House at 9:45 a.m. ET, and take off from Andrews Air Force Base at 10 a.m. ET. He will arrive in Des Moines at 12:15 p.m. ET, and will tour the Trinity Structural Towers Manufacturing Plant, which makes wind-energy towers, at 1:20 p.m. ET. At 2 p.m. ET, Obama will deliver remarks on his energy plan, laying out a strategy focused on clean energy. He will leave Des Moines at 3:15 p.m. ET, and is scheduled to arrive back at the White House at 6:30 p.m. ET.

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Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) is the latest to call for the impeachment of Judge Jay Bybee, in response to the release of those torture memos last week.

Bybee wrote one of the memos in 2002, when he served in the Justice Department's Office of Special Counsel.

Here's Feingold's statement:

The just released OLC memos, including the 2002 memo authored by Jay Bybee, are a disgrace. The idea that one of the architects of this perversion of the law is now sitting on the federal bench is very troubling. The memos offer some of the most explicit evidence yet that Mr. Bybee and others authorized torture and they suggest that grounds for impeachment can be made. Clearly, the Justice Department has the responsibility to investigate this matter further. As a Senator, I would be a juror in any impeachment trial so I don't want to reach a conclusion until all the evidence is before me.

It's worth thinking about the story from CQ, that the DCCC has received $250,000 in leftover money from El Tinklenberg, the Democrat who lost to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) last year by a 46%-44% margin. How did he come so close, and have that much money left over?

You might recall that after Bachmann's now-infamous Hardball appearance on October 17, in which she said she was deeply concerned that Barack Obama might be anti-American and called for the media to investigate members of Congress for anti-Americanism, liberals around the country immediately clamored to send some money to her opponent. As a result, Tinklenberg took in $1.9 million in the home stretch.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will meet with Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid tonight--a weekly meeting--and will discuss the creation of a congressional panel to investigate the causes of the financial crisis and worsening recession, Hill sources say.

In 1933, a Sicilian-born American lawyer named Ferdinand Pecora became the chief counsel to the Senate Banking Committee, and conducted a wide-ranging investigation on the causes of the financial crisis that prefigured the Great Depression. Today, Pelosi says she wants Congress to take a similar look into the collapse on Wall Street.

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The White House press corps gave Robert Gibbs a hard time today about President Obama's comments this morning that left the door open to prosecutions of Bush officials for torture.

It's true that the president's comments go further than anything he'd said before, and could suggest that the White House is tacking this way and that on a crucial subject. That impression is strengthened by the fact that the White House has now had to walk back Rahm Emanuel's comments from Sunday that the Bushies wouldn't be prosecuted.

Late Update: Looks like The Huffington Post's Sam Stein had the same response to the briefing that we did.

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Rep. John Conyers, who chairs the House Judiciary committee, has announced that he plans to hold hearings into the Bush-era OLC memos released last week.

Despite his pledge to hold hearings in his own committee, Conyers said he agrees with President Obama's statement that he favors a probe conducted by a bipartisan commission, rather than solely by a congressional committee.

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Regular readers know we've been following the nomination of Dawn Johnsen pretty closely. Johnsen is President Obama's choice to head the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel and her appointment has sent the right into conniptions for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to, her writings on abortion and her criticisms of the Bush administration's Justice Department. Senate Republicans have even hinted at the possibility of filibustering her confirmation vote.

Two of the leading indicators on this front are the fact that a date has not been set for the nomination to be debated and voted on, and that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has not yet determined whether he'll support a filibuster (Johnsen's nomination cleared the committee on a party line vote from which Specter abstained).

Congressional Quarterly has an update from Specter, though, and the update is that...there is no update.

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