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The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that the FBI has expanded its probe of ethics allegations that dogged Norm Coleman during the final days of the 2008 campaign (insofar as that campaign can be said to have ended!), relating to whether wealthy donor Nasser Kazeminy paid for clothes for Coleman and his wife Laurie at Neiman-Marcus:

The questioning of at least one person in Minnesota within the last two weeks -- and the topic of clothing -- signifies an expansion of an FBI inquiry that touches Coleman. In December, a different source told the Pioneer Press that FBI agents had talked to or made efforts to talk to people in Texas following allegations, contained in a pair of lawsuits, that Kazeminy had tried to steer $100,000 from a Houston firm he controlled to Coleman via Coleman's wife's employer in Minneapolis.

The Colemans have not been accused of wrongdoing, and they, Laurie Coleman's employer and Kazeminy have all denied doing anything wrong.

When asked whether Coleman himself had been contacted by the FBI, Coleman's spokesman Tom Erickson did not answer Wednesday evening. Instead, he said: "The senator called for an investigation by the appropriate authorities and has promised to cooperate fully with them. To that end, any further comment is not necessary."

House Republican Leaders have sent President Obama a letter seeking "common ground" on the issue of health care. Obama has insisted that his efforts to reach out to members of the Congressional minority are sincere, and this letter largely mimics that language.

The signatories say they agree with Obama that a health reform plan ought to pave the way for all citizens to enjoy coverage, while allowing Americans, if they choose, to keep their existing, employer-based health insurance, and and achieving savings through wellness initiatives.

Unfortunately they want to accomplish this without ceding any ground on other key issues.

We believe it is possible, and necessary, to achieve these objectives through common sense reforms without rationing care, eliminating employer-sponsored health benefits for working families, raising taxes, or empowering government bureaucrats at the expense of patients and doctors. We also believe these goals can be accomplished through health reform that maintains current law provisions regarding restrictions on federal funding of abortion services, restricts federal funds from flowing to abortion providers, and does not impose mandates either on insurance carriers or medical providers to participate in activities that violate their religious and moral beliefs.


There's a lot of code in there, but a loose translation suggests that they still oppose a public plan, and want the government to pay for up-front costs either by slashing spending elsewhere, or by magic. You can read the full letter below the fold.

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Here's a very interesting line from the statement Nancy Pelosi just gave:

We also now know that techniques, including waterboarding, had already been employed, and that those briefing me in September 2002 gave me inaccurate and incomplete information.

At the same time, the Bush Administration was misleading the American people about the threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. (our itals)

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Arkansas state Sen. Kim Hendren, who is currently the only announced Republican candidate for U.S. Senator against Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln in 2010, has apologized for referring to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as "that Jew," at a county Republican meeting last week.

"I don't use a teleprompter and occasionally I put my foot in my month," Hendren told Arkansas blogger Jason Tolbert.

"At the meeting I was attempting to explain that unlike Sen. Schumer, I believe in traditional values, like we used to see on 'The Andy Griffith Show,'" he explained. "I made the mistake of referring to Sen. Schumer as 'that Jew' and I should not have put it that way as this took away from what I was trying to say."

Late Update: Hendren gave a further apology to the Associated Press. "When I referred to him as Jewish, it wasn't because I don't like Jewish people," he said. He also added: "I shouldn't have gotten into this Jewish business because it distracts from the issue."

A new Democracy Corps (D) poll of Missouri finds Democratic Sec. of State Robin Carnahan as the immediate frontrunner to win the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Kit Bond in 2010, with solid leads right now over both of her potential GOP opponents.

Carnahan leads Rep. Roy Blunt by a margin of 53%-44%. Against former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, who ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for governor in 2008, Carnahan leads 54%-42%. The margin of error is ±3.5%.

The pollster's analysis that Steelman could actually be the stronger Republican, with more room to grow after respondents were given both positive and negative statements about all the candidates: "The consummate political insider, Blunt is weighed down by his long history of voting the Republican Party line, his numerous votes to give himself pay raises while opposing a minimum wage increase, and his leading support for the TARP bailout."

A new Rasmussen poll tests the reactions of likely voters to former Vice President Dick Cheney's recent public activism against the Obama Administration -- with Obama currently the winner on the issues.

The poll asked: "Former Vice President Dick Cheney has been speaking out lately on a number of topics. Now that he has left office, how important are Dick Cheney's opinions?" Only 39% say his views are very or somewhat important, to 57% who say his views are not very or not at all important.

And finally: "Cheney says America is less safe because of changes President Obama has made in national security. Do you agree or disagree with Cheney's statement that America is now less safe?" Here's it's only 38% agreeing, to 51% disagreeing.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is bringing aboard an almost entirely new staff to back up the minority members on the Judiciary Committee. Among the senior aides is one Brian Benczkowski. Does that name ring a bell?

If it does, you're probably a long time reader of Talking Points Memo, and we salute you. Benczkowski was Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General under Michael Mukasey, and a key figure working behind the scenes to cover up corruption in the Bush Justice Department.

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Nancy Pelosi has accused the CIA of lying to Congress about torture.

In a press conference given amid questions on what she knew and when about the Bush administration's torture program, Pelosi said that she was explicitly told in her September 2002 briefing that waterboarding was not used. We've since learned that Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded 83 times by then.

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Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is apparently not agreeing with Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, who said in the New York Times on Monday that the Obama Administration was deliberately increasing unemployment and lowering stock prices, "intended to inflict damage and hardship on the free enterprise system, if not to kill it."

The Dallas Morning News asked Cornyn whether he agreed that Obama wants higher unemployment and other economic problems. "Absolutely not," said Cornyn.

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  • A new cache of Treasury emails released by Judicial Watch reveals, inter alia, that Hank Paulson's chief-of-staff was a guy named Jim Wilkinson who was nt only clueless -- and this is, mind you, an entire month after the Lehman bailout -- as to the names of the nation's nine biggest financial institutions, he was clueless enough to put it in writing. But not so clueless that he didn't understand that the administration's decision to flow them a few hundred bil was a hit with the Dow Futures, bro! This guy makes Neel Kashkari look pretty awesome.

  • Also in the docs: Paulson used his "Texas Fed" strongman tactics with all nine big banks, couldn't get ahold of McCain to brief him; JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon arrived 45 minutes early. [Judicial Watch]

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