TPM News

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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We didn't have the chance to get to this earlier but CQ's Jeff Stein went on MSNBC's Countdown last night to talk about his now-famous report on Jane Harman and AIPAC*.

Among other things, Stein said that there are "several people who have known this for some time."

And interestingly, he adds that, according to his sources,the investigation into Harman that Time first reported on back in 2006 "never got started" because it was quashed by then-AG Alberto Gonzales.

The whole segment is worth watching...

* This sentence has been corrected from an earlier version that wrongly said Stein had appeared on Hardball.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) just appeared on MSNBC to give a guns blazing denial of the allegations in CQ's explosive report from yesterday.

The congresswoman, speaking to Andrea Mitchell, reiterated her claim that she didn't intervene with anyone -- not the Justice Department, or the White House -- in the AIPAC case. And she renewed her call for DOJ to disclose all the material associated with the investigation into her that, according to CQ's report, Alberto Gonzales helped stymie.

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A newly-elected Democratic Senator is now breaking with the Obama administration on trade, after Trade Representative Ron Kirk commented yesterday that issues with NAFTA can be addressed without officially renegotiating it.

Freshman Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), whose textile state has never been friendly to free trade, put out this press release today:

"While I understand the President's desire to maintain a good relationship with our North American trading partners, I am disappointed US Trade Representative Ron Kirk has said it is not necessary to renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)," said Hagan. "This country's current trade policy is not working. The manufacturing economy in North Carolina has suffered and far too many North Carolinians have lost their jobs. It is only right we require our trading partners to enforce the labor and environmental standards that we ask of our manufacturing industry."

In yet another setback for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL), U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel has just ruled that Blago is not allowed to travel to Costa Rica to appear on a Survivor-style reality show for celebrities.

Blago would have needed to this special permission to leave the country during a time when he is under indictment. The Chicago Sun-Times quotes the judge as saying: "I don't think this defendant in all honesty ... fully understands the position he finds himself in."

Besides, this whole thing seemed pretty superfluous: Blago already starred on a really fun reality show.

President Obama is leaving the door open for prosecutions of Bush DOJ officials who provided the legal rationale to support torture policies.

In comments to reporters this morning, Obama said he didn't support prosecuting CIA officers who were carrying out the policy. But:

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Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) has just released a letter she sent to Attorney General Eric Holder. Harman calls on Holder to give her all materials related to the government wiretapping of her, and to the investigation into her, so that she can release them publicly.

Harman also, crucially, takes her denial further than yesterday, saying she never contacted either DOJ or the White House or anyone else to seek favorable treatment for anyone.

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