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Norm Coleman is continuing to speak up and question whether it's possible to tell who won this election, and whether such a conclusion is even legally possible, after his lawyers pitched the judges on the possibility of throwing out the whole result.

Coleman took questions from reporters very briefly this afternoon, and declared: "Clearly, there is a question whether this court can certify who got the most legally-cast ballots."

Norm did add, however, that the court still has an opportunity to deal with the problem of illegal votes -- an apparent reference to his legal team's new push to declare illegal an unknown number of absentee ballots from Election Day, and then attempt to un-count them through proportionate reductions.

Last week, Norm began floating the idea of holding a new election.

Earlier today -- before Norm's presser -- DFL spokesman Eric Fought sent us this comment:

Former Senator Coleman has taken five weeks in court to make his case. He hasn't proven anything to say he won in November and he knows he lost. So now he's asking the court to do something so radical that it has no basis in Minnesota law. Al Franken--who has already won the recount, will soon win this election contest and begin representing Minnesota in the Senate--after a scrupulously fair and transparent process that has done Minnesota proud.


(Coleman presser c/o The Uptake.)

The identities of the counterparties who stand to benefit from the government's huge new bailout of AIG are remaining frustratingly secret, as Josh pointed out this morning, even as taxpayers ensure that AIG's partners in deal-making get paid. But at least one member of Congress isn't satisfied with the explanation coming out of the Federal Reserve and Treasury.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) pressed Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke hard in the Budget Committee this morning on the need to identify AIG's bailed-out counterparties. After Bernanke replied that "under normal conditions, [the counterparties] would have presumption to privacy about their commercial decisions," Wyden sounded extremely displeased:

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Just as happened in the Bernard Madoff scandal, we're now starting to hear some heart-wrenching stories from the victims of Allen Stanford's alleged fraud.

One older couple told their tale of woe to a North Texas TV station:

Marsha and Arlie Carter always planned to live out their golden years in Rainbow, Texas, outside Dallas. They sold their software company -- the business they built together from nothing -- to finance their dream.

"We hoped to pass it down to my kids and grandkids," Marsha said.

Then, last month, they turned on the news and learned the company their broker worked for was entangled in a case of massive alleged fraud. All the money associated with Stanford Financial Group was frozen, including about 30,000 brokerage accounts.

That's where the Carters were keeping most of the money they had saved.

"There's a possibility that we might lose the house if we can't have enough income to make the payments on it," Marsha Carter said.


Less tragically, the Dallas Morning News reports that many clients who had brokerage, money-market or mutual fund accounts with Stanford can't get to their money because those accounts have been frozen by a court-appointed receiver.

Reports the paper:
Mark Choate, chief executive of an irrigation landscape company, has a brokerage account that's been frozen for two weeks. "During that time," Choate says, "the stock market has been dropping like a rock, and I haven't been able to do anything about it."


A lawyer for clients like these tells the DMN:
A guy called me Thursday who has all of his net worth tied up in a construction project and meets his payroll through his Stanford accounts. He said, 'Larry, if I don't have access to that money, all these people aren't going to get paid. My construction project will go kaput, and my whole life will be in ruin.'


There's even a suggestion that Stanford may have swindled some of those West Indian cricket players who "won" $1 million each after beating England in a Stanford-organized match last year. In an interview conducted before Stanford's alleged fraud came to light but published this week, one player told (sub. req.) the New Yorker that he had left his prize-money in Stanford's bank, after the billionaire assured him and other players that he would keep it safe.

Meanwhile, a showdown has quietly been brewing, reports the Associated Press, between that court-appointed receiver, Texas lawyer Ralph Janvey, and the government of Antigua, where the Senate voted Friday to seize Stanford's property.

Stanford is Antigua's largest private employer, with about 800 people working for him. So the country's officials are anxious to keep Stanford's businesses in operation, rather than allowing Janvey to use the assets to pay back swindled investors.

Looks like this story could be with us a while...

So is House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) going to criticize Rush Limbaugh, or not?

Earlier today, Rush told Greg Sargent that Cantor's comments on ABC's This Week, saying that neither he nor other Republicans want President Obama to fail, was in fact in agreement with Rush on the policy issues, and had been distorted by ABC.

So we asked Cantor's office for clarification -- and they're not giving a real answer to it.

Instead, Cantor press secretary Brad Dayspring is daring the Democrats to go talk to Rush themselves:

If Robert Gibbs is worried about the policies Rush Limbaugh talks about on his show, he should call into the show- I'm sure Rush would welcome it. In the meantime, if Mr. Gibbs and the Administration want to focus on creating jobs and helping the Middle Class deal with an economy in recession, they should call Eric Cantor and work with us on the these very real problems.


After seeing what happened to Michael Steele, who can blame Cantor for not wanting to be caught criticizing the great leader?

Today is a big day in the Minnesota trial: The Franken campaign is finally beginning to present their side of the case, after Coleman rested yesterday.

The Franken camp has spent today bringing in a queue of aggrieved voters whose absentee ballots were rejected, 17 of them in total this morning, trying to get the court to rule that these ballots -- presumably all for Franken -- were wrongly tossed and ought to be put in the count.

The previous attempts by Team Coleman to play this game didn't go very well -- the judges even cited one Coleman witness by name by name as an illegal voter in an important opinion they handed down. So far, it seems to be going well for Franken, though it hasn't been perfect.

Lead Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg doesn't seem to be making too much of an effort to declare that these votes were rejected properly, as the Franken campaign worked to accomplish against his own witnesses. This seems to be for two reasons: Team Coleman has been trying to get the court to reverse itself on their strict standards for letting in rejected votes, and therefore he needs to show good faith. And furthermore, the Coleman camp seem to have changed their approach, to demonstrate the fallibility and unreliability of the system, in order to possibly get the whole election thrown out.

Here's one exchange between Friedberg and a Franken witness:

Friedberg: Ms. Meyer, can you think of any reason your ballot shouldn't be opened and counted?

Pamela Meyer: No.

Friedberg: Neither can I. We stipulate this ballot should be opened and counted, Your Honor.


Other cross-examinations were more drawn out than this one was, but you get the idea.

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President Obama's budget, released last week and downloadable here, is almost ten times shorter than the economic recovery law passed last month, but it packs just as big an ideological punch as the stimulus.

Both the presidential and congressional budgets set frameworks for future spending without instituting binding new policies, but the dense documents are considered important "statements of priorities" for the party in power. In the case of Obama and his Democrats, one priority emerges most clearly from the budget: spreading wealth around for the common good (apologies for the Joe the Plumber reference).

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DNC chairman Tim Kaine just appeared on Fox News, and took the opportunity to dig in against Rush Limbaugh's "leadership role" in the Republican Party, and how this is endangering the country in a time of crisis.

See more at FoxNews.com.

Fox host Jon Scott brought up the recent Limbaugh-Steele flap, and asked Kaine: "Democrats are sort of enjoying this, aren't they?"

"Well you know, yeah -- in a way, yes," said Kaine. "But it's a lot at stake when somebody who is in a leadership role -- as Rush Limbaugh clearly is -- states that he wants for the president to fail, and he is followed in that by members of Congress voting against the Recovery Act. That's pretty dire, given our situation right now."

Kaine then went after Michael Steele's apology for having offended Rush, and Steele's having backed down from what Kaine said was a "courageous" comment. "You know, it left a lot of us wondering, who's really in charge? Kaine said. "It seems like Rush Limbaugh is kind of the He Who Must Be Obeyed these days in the Republican Party."

Finally, Kaine played up the national interest: "Again, we're in a time of national crisis. And the shouters aren't gonna get us through it. It's gonna be problem-solvers who will, and that's what we need from both parties right now."

There's an interesting detail buried in those OLC memos released yesterday, that perhaps hasn't gotten the attention it deserves.

In the January 15, 2009 memo written by then-acting OLC head Steven Bradbury -- in which he repudiated many of the previous OLC memos that articulated an expansive view of presidential power in the war on terror -- there's a footnote stressing that the memo is not "intended to suggest in any way that the attorneys involved in the preparation of the opinions in question did not satisfy all applicable standards of professional responsibility."

Why would Bradbury have gone out of his way to make this point -- especially in the context of repudiating those opinions?

Perhaps because the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility has been working on a report on whether OLC lawyers violated standards of professional responsibility when they approved harsh interrogation tactics like water-boarding. And, as Newsweek revealed last month, a draft of the report is sharply critical of three senior OLC lawyers in particular -- John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury.

The report's release was delayed after then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey and his deputy Mark Filip objected that responses from Yoo, Bybee, and Bradbury should be included. As of February 6, Attorney General Eric Holder had not yet reviewed the report, and it had not yet been turned over to Congress.

So the fact that the earlier memos have been repudiated could potentially still affect the OPR report's conclusions about the lawyers' actions. As a result, Bradbury would have had good reason to explicitly state in his recent OLC memo that the repudiation of the original opinions did not bear on issues of professional responsibility.

It'll be interesting to see, when the OPR report is released, whether its authors agree with that take.

The new Marist poll has some truly horrible news for David Paterson, saying that he could lose both primary and general elections in landslides.

In a primary against Andrew Cuomo, Paterson is behind by an amazing 62%-26% margin. In a general election match-up with Rudy Giuliani, Paterson gets crushed by 53%-38%, while Cuomo beats Rudy by 56%-39%.

The poll is a whole lot better for newly-appointed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, though it's not great. Gillibrand edges former GOP Governor George Pataki 45%-41%, and is ahead of GOP Congressman Peter King 49%-28%. In a Democratic primary, Gillibrand is in a near-tie with pro-gun-control Congressman Carolyn McCarthy, with 36% for Gillibrand and 33% for McCarthy.

Here's a sign of just how awful Paterson's ratings are: His approval numbers are worse than Eliot Spitzer's were, when he was in the middle of the prostitution scandal that forced his resignation. Just before he resigned, Spitzer had a 30% excellent/good rating and 64% fair/poor in the Marist poll. By comparison, Paterson is at only 26%-71%.

Another person to feel sorry for here is former Congressman Rick Lazio (R), who ran against Hillary Clinton for the Senate in 2000 -- he actually manages to trail Paterson in a possible gubernatorial match-up by a 47%-35% margin.

So what to make of those Bush administration legal memos, formulating counter-terrorism policy, that the Justice Department released yesterday?

The key news seems to be that at least ten of the opinions issued by the department's Office of Legal Counsel in the early years of the War on Terror -- outlining an expansive view of executive power -- were later deemed flawed and ordered withdrawn. We had previously known that this had occurred with just two such opinions.

In one memo, John Yoo argued that during wartime, the president could ignore free speech protections and could order warrantless searches. In another, the Bush DOJ claimed that detainees could be sent to countries that commit human rights abuses, as long as the US did not intentionally seek their torture. Five days before Bush left office, both of these opinions and several others were repudiated in a separate "memorandum for the Files" by Stephen Bradbury, then the acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel. That document was also released yesterday.

Other Bush administration memos that were later withdrawn argued that the president could unilaterally abrogate foreign treaties; could ignore guidance from Congress in dealing with terrorist suspects being detained; and could conduct warrantless wiretapping.

Since the release of the memos yesterday, expert opinion has essentially been united in denouncing the opinions.

Walter Dellinger, who ran OLC during the Clinton administration tells the New York Times that the Bradbury memo "disclaiming the opinions of earlier Bush lawyers sets out in blunt detail how irresponsible those earlier opinions were."

Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch speaking to the Washington Post, singles out the memo that allowed the administration to send detainees to countries that commit human rights abuses. "That is [the Office of Legal Counsel] telling people how to get away with sending someone to a nation to be tortured," Daskal said. "The idea that the legal counsel's office would be essentially telling the president how to violate the law is completely contrary to the purpose and the role of what a legal adviser is supposed to do."

Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington, focuses on the memo that gave the administration the power to conduct warrantless wiretapping. Writing on the blog The Volokh Conspiracy, Kerr calls the argument that FISA doesn't apply to national security issues -- which appears to be the memo's argument -- "an extremely lame analysis." He continues: "Much of the point of FISA was to regulate that."*

And Salon's Glenn Greenwald is particularly outraged by an opinion arguing that the president can deploy the US military inside the US, directed at both foreign nationals and US citizens. Greenwald calls this "nothing less than an explicit decree that, when it comes to Presidential power, the Bill of Rights was suspended, even on U.S. soil and as applied to U.S. citizens."

He concludes:

If this isn't the unadorned face of warped authoritarian extremism, what is?


* This paragraph has been corrected from an earlier version which reported incorrectly that the blog post was written by Eugene Volokh.

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