TPM News

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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Appearing on C-Span today, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) gave a very interesting spin on the right-wing attacks against President Obama for shaking Hugo Chávez's hand -- saying that Chávez and Obama are so very much alike:

"But something that comes to mind when I see this image, too, is here are two world leaders that have both, within the last month, nationalized huge private-sector companies," said King. "In the case of President Obama, General Motors and Chrysler, at least in effect if not in actuality, and moved it down that path, when he fired the CEO of General Motors, and when he ordered that Chrysler merge with Fiat."

"Those two have done the same thing to private business," King added, "and I think that image also will soak into the minds of investors around the world, and where they want to put their money."

Too often a tedious standoff between the somnolent/dry and the grandstanding/gratuitous, Congressional hearings about the financial crisis have nevertheless produced a few moments of existential clarity. (We refer, obviously, to the time in December when Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings asked Neel Kashkari if he was a "chump", which was surely a question on the lips of anyone who had glimpsed the then-TARP overseer's high school yearbook photos.)

But Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's appearance before a the TARP oversight panel this morning yielded a similarly exchange when AFL-CIO Associate General Counsel Damon Silvers dared to accuse Geithner of being a "banker":

Partial transcript after the jump.

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The Franken campaign has filed its motion for an expedited appeal with the Minnesota Supreme Court, arguing for a quick response to Norm Coleman's appeal of his defeat in the election trial.

The court is widely expected to grant a fast-tracked appeal, whether it's by the Franken camp's exact requested timeline or in some other way. The proposed schedule from Team Franken calls for Coleman to submit his legal brief by next Monday, April 27, for Franken to submit his brief by Saturday, May 2, and for Coleman to file any new reply by that Monday, May 4, with oral arguments scheduled as soon as possible after those preparations.

The filing cites the election-contest statute itself, and its requirement that the appeal "takes precedence over all other matters before the Supreme Court." Beyond the strict legalese, they also get into the political significance of this whole matter: "Under the United States Constitution, Minnesota is entitled to be represented by two United States Senators. Minnesota has been without its second Senator for more than 100 days."

Think Progress, the blog of the Center for American Progress, is circulating an online petition calling on Congress to impeach Jay Bybee, who, while at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, wrote one of the torture memos released last week. Bybee is currently a federal judge.

CAP is led by John Podesta, a close White House ally who helped run Barack Obama's transition.

Think Progress joins Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Jerry Nadler, the New York Times, and the Center for Constitutional Rights in calling for Bybee's impeachment.

Late Update: Sen. Pat Leahy, who chairs the Judiciary committee, has called on Bybee to step down from the bench, though he doesn't seem to have mentioned anything about impeachment.

Judge David Hamilton will testify once again before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the behest of the committee's Republicans, most of whom refused to attend his first hearing.

Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) isn't happy. "It has been four weeks since Judge Hamilton first appeared before the Committee, and I am disappointed that Committee Republicans have yet to ask a single question of this nominee," Leahy said.

Nonetheless, at the request of the Ranking Member, I have invited Judge Hamilton to testify on April 29. Judge Hamilton has the strong support of his home state senators, Senator Lugar and Senator Bayh. After Judge Hamilton appears again before the Committee, I hope Republican members will not further delay our consideration of this qualified judicial nominee.

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As David noted over at TPM, there was some potentially big news in a blog post that was written this morning over at Foreign Policy by Philip Zelikow, a top State Department lawyer under Condoleezza Rice.

Zelikow wrote that, in 2005, he had written a memo on the legality of harsh interrogation techniques that expressed an "alternative view" to the OLC memos. He continued:

My colleagues were entitled to ignore my views. They did more than that: The White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo. I expect that one or two are still at least in the State Department's archives.

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TARP watchdog Neil Barofksy appeared on CNBC today to discuss the 250-page report card on the bailout the SIGTARP office (that's Special Inspector General of the Toxic Assets Relief Program, but you knew that) submitted today to Congress. The tenor of his appearance was a great deal milder than that of his report. Asked if he worried that his prosecutorial zeal would dissuade financial institutions from participating in federal programs to restore the system to health, he emphasized that those who "play by the rules" had nothing to worry about. "Those institutions -- those banks, those creditors, those those hedge funds -- that are seeking to steal from the system, to game this program -- I hope we do scare them off," he told the program Squawk Box.

The scary thing, of course, is that from the sound of his report there still aren't many rules governing the bailout -- and in part as a result, it's in danger of destroying the government's credibility. Video and excerpts after the jump.

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Sunday's bombshell article by Jeff Stein--and the New York Times' helpful follow up piece--open up so many new lines of inquiry it's hard to know where to begin. But a few things definitely stuck out at us. One question we had is why, according to Stein's story, did the NSA (and not the FBI) conduct the wiretaps? (Yesterday afternoon a couple reports emerged indicating that perhaps the FBI, and not the NSA had done the surveillance, but the Times story seems to confirm what Stein wrote).

Why the curiosity? Well, for one thing, at the time Harman's conversation was supposedly recorded, the FBI had long been investigating the conduct of AIPAC officials under suspicion of passing on classified information and the Harman conversation allegedly involves an attempt to obstruct the DOJ's case. Harman has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, but assuming the taps were conducted in conjunction with the AIPAC investigation, this was certainly the FBI's bailiwick, and, for that matter, the FBI has real investigative capability whereas the NSA, though equipped with robust interception capability, does not. NSA furthermore is almost largely in the business of foreign intelligence surveillance, so why would they become involved?

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