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Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman have sent a letter to President Obama urging him not to prosecute Bush Justice Department officials who wrote legal rationales for torture. "[T]he Department of Justice is currently conducting an internal ethics review of the OLC memos," the trio write, "but that is a quite a different matter from making legal advice with which we may disagree into a crime."

This has been a common refrain from these three for some time, but this letter belies the facts that the use of torture predated the memos that were written to retroactively justify it, and that the Attorney General has independent authority to investigate and, possibly, prosecute their authors. I've pasted the full text of the letter below the fold.

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In an interview with The Hill published yesterday, Neil Barofsky, the inspector general for the bailout, said that he was pursuing 20 criminal and civil investigations into potential fraud in the TARP program.

And it looks like at least one has now paid off.

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A new survey of Colorado from Public Policy Polling (D) shows appointed Sen. Michael Bennet in a potentially tough situation going into his 2010 campaign, though he could still have some room to grow.

Bennet's approval is at only 34%, with 41% disapproval and a high undecided number. When matched against former GOP Rep. Bob Beauprez, who was also the 2006 nominee for governor, Beauprez gets 43% to Bennet's 42%. Bennet leads 39%-35% to Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier 39%-35%; he leads Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck 40%-34%; and he leads state Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry 41%-34%.

"These numbers for Michael Bennet are not very good," said PPP president Dean Debnam, in the polling memo. "The good news for him is that he still hasn't had the opportunity to define himself the way he wants to the voters in a campaign, and when he has the opportunity to do that next year he may fare better than he is now."

Jim Tedisco, the GOP nominee in the disputed NY-20 special election, has just won a legal victory for now, with Judge James V. Brands reversing himself on a major ruling from last week, which had appeared to stop Tedisco in his tracks in his efforts to challenge absentee votes for Democrat Scott Murphy. But he still has a lot of work to do in overcoming Murphy's current 273-vote lead.

Brands had ruled last week that Tedisco and the GOP were not entitled to copies of the original absentee-ballot applications. Brands has now agreed with the Tedisco camp's arguments that the legal precedents he cited didn't truly apply here, and that the law does entitle Tedisco to those absentee applications.

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Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who sits on the House Judiciary committee (and also happens to be TPM's congressman) went on MSNBC's Countdown last night to repeat his call for the impeachment of Judge Jay Bybee, who, while a member of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, wrote one of the torture memos released last week.

Nadler also said he supported the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate whether Bush administration officials, including Bybee, committed crimes.


The Coleman campaign has now filed its reply to the Franken camp's motion yesterday for an expedited appeal in the Minnesota election litigation -- arguing that while this case does necessitate a sped-up schedule, they need more time than Franken has asked for.

"Appellants agree this is a time-sensitive case that should be resolved as expeditiously as possible," the filing says. "Appellants respectfully submit, however, that the parties, and the Court, must be given enough time to fully develop and consider the issues on appeal."

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Two new polls in New Jersey show Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine trailing GOP frontrunner Chris Christie, a former U.S. Attorney under George W. Bush, in this year's gubernatorial election.

From Strategic Vision (R): Christie 47%, Corzine 36%, with a ±3% margin of error. Corzine's approval is at only 36%, to 54% disapproval.

And from Quinnipiac: Christie 45%, Corzine 38%, with a ±4.6% margin of error. Corzine's approval rating here is 37%-54%. From the pollster's analysis: "By any measure, Corzine is losing the support of key independent voters. More importantly, he is not generating the level of love from fellow Democrats he needs to offset his big negatives among Republicans and independents."

Corzine could very well lose this election. On the other hand, we have not yet made it to the crucial home-stretch period in a New Jersey election -- in which the Dems attack the GOP nominee as right-wing and Bush-friendly, which in prior elections has spurred reluctant Dem-leaners to shift back into the blue column. A big question is whether that can work again this time, with Bush now out of office.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) has picked up where he left off almost a year ago last night by unveiling an unclassified report (PDF) detailing the origins of U.S. torture policies and the route those policies took through the government and into the darkened rooms where military interrogators put them into practice.

The release of this report is coincidental to last week's release, by the Obama Justice Department, of a series of Bush-era memos written to justify a number of torturous CIA interrogation techniques.

Levin got this process rolling in June of last year, releasing a shorter report and a series of Pentagon memos--the fruits of a two year investigation--which painted a more skeletal picture than last night's report does.

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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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