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Late this afternoon the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released six photographs cited in today's report that show President Bush meeting with jailed uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The pictures contradict the White House's previous statements that the President met with Abramoff only two times:

While the Committee obtained no evidence that Mr. Abramoff ever personally lobbied the President or that the President personally directed an action in response to a request by Mr. Abramoff, the Committee did receive evidence that Mr. Abramoff met the President and was photographed with him six times. Four of the six photographs occurred at political receptions.


In a statement today, the White House spokesman Tony Fratto responded to the House committee report "There's nothing new of any significance in it. it is warmed-up leftovers. It confirms what has become clear in all of this -- Abramoff was spectacularly unsuccessful in influencing administration policy."

The photos released by the committee actually look like black and white photo copies of the originals. They are very dark and grainy. We have lightened the picture below to make it more discernible. It is, according to the committee, a photo of Mr. Abramoff, Pam Abramoff, President Bush, and First Lady Laura Bush taken at a December 10, 2001, Hanukkah party at the White House.



The rest of the photos are below the fold:

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As we previously reported, Gov. Jim Gibbons (R-NV) has been going through a very messy divorce with the First Lady, Dawn Gibbons.

Two weeks ago, Dawn made not-so-veiled threats to implicate the governor in one or more scandals by opening their divorce proceedings to the public.

But in a joint statement released today from Gov. Gibbons and Dawn Gibbons' attorneys, it seems that the future-former First Lady has had a change of heart:

     JOINT STATEMENT BY COUNSEL
     (Gibbons Matter)


The Governor and The First Lady have entered into an agreement to suspend litigation activities in an attempt to resolve issues regarding the divorce action filed by the Governor. While they are in negotiations, no court documents will be filed.

     The First Lady has agreed to move to the guest house on the Mansion grounds and the Governor shall reside in the Mansion.

     The Governor and the First Lady will share the Public Areas of the Mansion for their respective Public Duties with their respective staff coordinating the scheduling with each other.

     The parties have agreed that there will be no further Public comment from either side while the parties attempt to resolve issues related to the divorce action.


     Dated June 9, 2008

     CALVIN R. X. DUNLAP      GARY SILVERMAN

Scott McClellan will go to Capitol Hill to testify next week about his allegation that Vice President Cheney "directed" him to lie about who leaked CIA a operative's identity.

From AP:

McClellan's lawyers said he has accepted House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers' invitation to testify June 20. The attorneys said McClellan will appear and be sworn during the proceedings.

McClellan said he was misled by others, possibly including Cheney, about the role of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby in the leak and has said publicly that Bush and Cheney "directed me to go out there and exonerate Scooter Libby."

Back when the Jack Abramoff scandal was exploding across Washington in 2005 and 2006, the White House went to great lengths to publicly distance itself from the Republican uberlobbyist -- even though anyone who knew anything about Republican politics knew Abramoff was hard-wired into the very fabric of the modern GOP.

Following Abramoff's guilty plea in January 2006, President Bush said, "I don't know him." A White House spokesperson stated that Abramoff had only attended "a couple of holiday receptions . . . then a few staff-level meetings on top of that." And through a spokesperson, Rove said that he "remembers they had met at a political event in the 1990s. ... Since then, he would describe him as a casual acquaintance." Later, we learned that Rove and Abramoff met on D.C. street corners, Jack in his limo, to avoid detection in White House phone and visitor logs.

But the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform report issued today detailing the ties between Abramoff and the Bush White House specifically stated that the White House's own investigation into Abramoff's contacts there had been cursory at best.

This evidence suggests that the White House failed to conduct even the most basic internal investigation of the White House relationship with Mr. Abramoff before making public statements characterizing the connection between Mr. Abramoff and the White House.


In reality, the Committee uncovered extensive contacts between Abramoff team and the White House, including access to Rove and direct influence on White House policy, from unseating Department of Interior official Alan Stayman to affecting nominating processes:

One action that White House officials took at the request of Mr. Abramoff was to intervene to force the removal of a State Department official, Alan Stayman. In a previous position at the Office of Insular Affairs in the Department of the Interior, Mr. Stayman had advocated positions opposed by the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, then a client of Mr. Abramoff. Mr. Stayman was appointed to his position at the Department of State during the Clinton Administration.

In a recent Committee deposition, Monica Kladakis, then-Deputy Associate Director in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel (OPP), confirmed that OPP became involved in Mr. Stayman's removal after White House officials were contacted by Mr. Abramoff's team.


The White House led the committee in 2006 to believe that the extent of the Abramoff connections existed only between Abramoff and Rove's mutual secretary, Susan Ralston. Ralston was painted to be the whole of Abramoff's connection to the White House and her resignation was the culmination of a 4-day investigation by the White House, described by the deputy press secretary as a "thorough" review of the matter.

But in the Committee's examination of Ralston's relevant correspondence, specific electronic conversations shed light on Ralston's role as a conduit between Abramoff and Rove, rather than a stopping point.

One example of the Abramoff team's access to the White House regarding the nomination process is a February 20, 2001, e-mail from Susan Ralston to Matt Schlapp to let him know that Jack Abramoff had called Karl Rove a few days earlier to discuss appointments at OIA.

According to this e-mail, Mr. Abramoff had heard that Esther Kia'aina was going to be considered for a position and "wanted to let Karl know that he didn't think this was a good idea."

Ms. Ralston continued, "Karl asked that you return his call." Ms. Kia'aina was not appointed to a position at OIA.


Beyond nominations and appointments, Abramoff, through Rove, also played a hand in creating White House policy:

On a number of occasions, White House officials used information Mr. Abramoff provided in policy deliberations. For example, in September 2002, when Matt Schlapp, then-Deputy White House Political Director, asked Ms. Ralston if Karl Rove wanted "Fred Radewagon to get strong consideration" for appointment to the position of Director of OIA. Ms. Ralston replied minutes later with the note, "Definitely not Radewagon. Here's the intel I got on him."

The rest of her e-mail quotes directly, without attribution, from an e-mail Jack Abramoff had sent her the previous month. In this e-mail, Ms. Ralston passed on information from Mr. Abramoff to support her assertion that Mr. Rove would not support Mr. Radewagon. Mr. Radewagon did not get the appointment.

The term "fruit" was used as a code word for tickets to sporting events or concerts between Jennifer Farley, former White House Associate Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Kevin Ring, a lobbyist for Jack Abramoff's firm, according to today's draft report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

On December 12, 2002, Ms. Farley asks Mr. Ring, "Do you have any kind of fruit tonight?" Mr. Ring responds, "No games tonight." In another e-mail exchange about an issue of interest to one of Mr. Ring's clients, Ms. Farley stated, "Let me know about the fruit in the middle of the basket." Mr. Ring responded, "The fruit is going to happen. Just trying to make sure it is picked on the right day."


In another email, Ring asked: "All set to use the fruit on a new date?"

Abramoff's team of lobbyists and White House officials often shared dinner, drinks and good stadium seats, according to the report. Records from Abramoff's firm obtained by the committee show that his team members met with White House officials over meals or drinks 186 times, billing the firm's clients for these meetings on 156 occasions. Many meetings took place at "expensive Washington restaurants such as Oceanaire, Bistro Bis, and the Oval Room."

Who exactly picked up the tab? That's still pretty hazy.

In most cases, the documents and billing records did not provide any evidence as to whether the White House officials paid for their share of the meals and drinks. ... The Committee in many cases also could not reach any conclusion about who paid for the meals and tickets.


However, the Committee's 32-page report did feel compelled to note that:

The acceptance of meals and gifts by White House officials would raise concerns about White House officials' compliance with federal laws regarding the solicitation and acceptance of gifts.


At least three White House officials refused to answer some questions from the Committee and instead invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Susan Ralston, Karl Rove's then-personal assistant who had previously held a similar position with Abramoff, requested tickets to seven events and was given tickets to nine, including Wizards, Capitals, and Orioles games, as well as concerts by Bruce Springsteen and Andrea Bocelli, according to documents from Abramoff's firm obtained by the committee.

When asked about that, Ralston "did not answer these questions and indicated that she would invoke her Fifth Amendment rights if compelled to respond," according to the committee report.

Matt Kirk, the former Deputy Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, also refused to answer any questions from the committee. Documents from Abramoff's firm obtained by the committee show he was given tickets to a Wizards game and to the NCAA basketball tournament.

Abramoff's firm had 27 contacts with Farley. She was provided with "fruits" to three events, two Orioles games and a Yanni concert, the firm's records show.

Ms. Farley's attorney told the Committee that Ms. Farley would not respond to questions on the following subjects: "First, what benefits she may or may not have been offered; and, two, any communications between Ms. Farley and any member of the so-called Abramoff team."


The report also mentions Ken Mehlman, former Bush campaign manager and RNC chairman. The firm's documents say the Abramoff team had designated tickets for Mr. Mehlman for a U2 concert in June 2001. The Committee sent Mehlman a letter asking about the concent and it got no response.

In his interview with the Committee, Mr. Mehlman said that he did not respond to this letter on the advice of his attorney. Mr. Mehlman also indicated that he did not recall having accepted tickets from the Abramoff team to the June 15, 2001, U2 concert, and said, "My recollection is that I didn't attend. I don't think I attended." He further stated: "I've been to a lot of concerts. I've been to U2 concerts. ... I don't remember going to that concert."

John McCain's campaign has taken down a web page that listed lobbyist Carlos Bonilla as an economic advisor.

Bonilla, a former special assistant to the president for economic policy, was included in today's report about White House ties with Jack Abramoff as one of the White House officials who received tickets from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's firm.

A McCain aide said Bonilla was dropped from the campaign a few weeks ago when McCain implemented a tougher conflict-of-interest policy barring most active lobbyists from his team. Bonilla is a senior vice president with the Washington Group.

Campaign workers thought they had already removed the web page, the aide said. It was removed after the page was brought to the campaign's attention by TPMmuckraker.

Bonilla joined the McCain campaign in July 2007. He did not return a phone call for comment today.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a "proposed" report this morning finding that Jack Abramoff did indeed have "personal contact with President Bush" and that Abramoff and cohorts were "held in high regard" by White House officials.

The proposed report also finds that Abramoff and his associates "influenced some White House actions" and gave White House officials "expensive tickets and meals."

The report (.pdf), technically a draft of the committee's findings, will be marked up and voted on by committee members in a meeting on Thursday.

We'll be looking through the report and bringing you updates, but in a first read through here are some findings that stuck out.

Abramoff and team gave gifts to Carlos Bonilla, at the time a Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and now an economic policy advisor for John McCain:

On October 18, 2001, Kevin Ring sent an unknown number of tickets to an unknown event to Mr. Bonilla by courier. In addition, in response to an offer from Kevin Ring, Mr. Bonilla requested and was provided with two tickets to sit in the Abramoff suite for the November 20, 2001, Washington Wizards game.


The report confirms much of what was already known about the Abramoff-led effort to oust Department of Interior official Alan Stayman, Abramoff's nemesis on issues involving his client, the Mariana Islands:

One action that White House officials took at the request of Mr. Abramoff was to intervene to force the removal of a State Department official, Alan Stayman. In a previous position at the Office of Insular Affairs in the Department of the Interior, Mr. Stayman had advocated positions opposed by the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, then a client of Mr. Abramoff. Mr. Stayman was appointed to his position at the Department of State during the Clinton Administration.

In a recent Committee deposition, Monica Kladakis, then-Deputy Associate Director in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel (OPP), confirmed that OPP became involved in Mr. Stayman's removal after White House officials were contacted by Mr. Abramoff's team.


Late Update: McCain Camp: Advisor Linked to Abramoff No Longer with Campaign

A lawyer for Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr says he was shown an operations manual that ordered interrogators to destroy notes, or any other evidence that would have signified harsh treatment which could be used by suspects in their trial defense. Khadr's lawyer said he will use the manual to seek a dismissal of charges against his client. (Associated Press)

A German citizen is suing the German government to force the extradition of 13 CIA agents who allegedly kidnapped and tortured him. Mistaken for a terrorism suspect, Khaled al-Masri was abducted in Macedonia on Dec. 31, 2003 and taken to Afghanistan where he was tortured and probed for four months before his release in Albania. (Associated Press)

Despite public outcry,and a new majority Party, a study led by the Associated Press and assisted by two watchdog groups, the Sunlight Foundation and Taxpayers for Common Sense, found the earmark process in Washington D.C. is as strong as ever. A total of 11,234 earmarks at $14.8 billion ran through congressional bills this year, according the study. (Associated Press)

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The system designed to keep corporate cash from secretly slipping into the hands of doctors who do highly influential medical research isn't working very well.

Even at the nation's top institutions - such as Harvard - and affecting the most vulnerable populations - children with psychiatric problems.

A front-page story in Sunday's New York Times reports that a Congressional probe found some top child psychiatrists earning more than $1 million in often undisclosed consulting fees from drug firms.

What's most troubling about the investigation is that the these individual doctors and their public advocacy for certain drugs for mentally ill children "has helped fuel an explosion in the use of powerful antipsychotic medicines in children."

Dr. [Joseph] Biederman is one of the most influential researchers in child psychiatry and is widely admired for focusing the field's attention on its most troubled young patients. Although many of his studies are small and often financed by drug makers, his work helped to fuel a controversial 40-fold increase from 1994 to 2003 in the diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder, which is characterized by severe mood swings, and a rapid rise in the use of antipsychotic medicines in children. The Grassley investigation did not address research quality.


Biederman, who works at Harvard Medical School's department of psychiatry, received $1.6 million in consulting fees from drug makers from 2000 to 2007 but for years did not report much of this income to university officials, according to information given congressional investigators.

While there are rules for disclosing such payments, there's virtually no enforcement of those guidelines.

"It's really been an honor system thing," said Dr. Robert Alpern, dean of Yale School of Medicine. "If somebody tells us that a pharmaceutical company pays them $80,000 a year, I don't even know how to check on that."


While the probe, led by Sen. Charles Grassley, (R-IA) is scrutinizing the system for disclosing such payments, there is no effort to examine whether these payments may have influenced the doctors' research.

As the Times notes: "The Grassley investigation did not address research quality."

Controlling for bias is especially important in such work, given that the scale is subjective, and raters often depend on reports from parents and children, several top psychiatrists said.

More broadly, they said, revelations of undisclosed payments from drug makers to leading researchers are especially damaging for psychiatry.

"The price we pay for these kinds of revelations is credibility, and we just can't afford to lose any more of that in this field," said Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, executive director of the Stanley Medical Research Institute, which finances psychiatric studies. "In the area of child psychiatry in particular, we know much less than we should, and we desperately need research that is not influenced by industry money.

Since leaving the Department of Justice in the fall-out over the U.S attorney scandal, former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has had a little trouble finding work.

Well turn that frown upside down, Alberto, you've got a job.

From Bloomberg:

Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who was forced from his job amid a controversy over the firings of federal prosecutors, has been hired to provide assistance to a special master on a patent case.

Gonzales will help former U.S. District Judge Layn R. Phillips oversee settlement talks in the case of a Texas company which claims banks such as Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc.'s Citibank and Bank of America Corp. are violating its patents for taking and transmitting digital images of checks.

Phillips, in an order signed yesterday, said he needed Gonzales's help because of the number of parties in the case and the "overall complexity of this litigation.''

. . . Special masters are hired in patent cases to help district judges with complex issues. In this case, Phillips was hired to handle settlement talks between DataTreasury Corp. and the banks.

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