TPM News

The walls around Allen Stanford appear to be closing in ever tighter.

David Finn, a lawyer for Jim Davis, the number 2 man at Stanford Financial, tells Bloomberg that Davis is helping investigators track Stanford's European assets, focusing on Swiss banks.

In addition to potentially helping to build a criminal case against Stanford, tracking the assets could help repay victims of Stanford's alleged fraud.

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A court in Dutchess County, New York, met this morning and heard arguments on the most immediate legal issue in the NY-20 special election: When to count the several-thousand absentee ballots that will decide this race. An order could come as soon as today.

The issue here is that all absentee ballots would have normally been counted at the same time Wednesday, after the deadline for them to arrive in the mail. However, the state had entered into a consent decree with the Justice Department shortly before the election, extending the deadline for military and overseas ballots to arrive by April 13.

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As regular readers know, we've been following the nomination of Dawn Johnsen--Obama's chief-designate of the Office of Legal Counsel--ever since reports emerged that Republicans were contemplating filibustering the appointment.

Publicly, Republicans contend that one of their key objections to Johnsen's appointment is that she's a former NARAL employee and a staunch advocate of reproductive rights. But she's also unusually qualified for the position, having served at the OLC for five years during the Clinton administration, and her nomination comes against a backdrop of Republican anger over the possibility that the Department of Justice will declassify and release yet more damning torture memoranda. Johnsen was an outspoken critic of Bush administration policies and legal opinions used to justify them.

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The high-profile proprietor of a second feeder fund has been charged in connection with Bernie Madoff's multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme.

A civil fraud lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo charges Ezra Merkin, the former chairman of GMAC, and a prominent Madoff associate and New York philanthropist, with "betraying hundreds of investors" by placing billions with Madoff without their knowledge, reports the Wall Street Journal.

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It looks like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has now become more careful with her use of the English language. In an interview with NewsMax, Bachmann spelled out in detail what she means when calling for people to be "armed and dangerous" on the issue of cap-and-trade.

Check out the 3:25 mark:

"I want my people in Minnesota to be the most educated people," said Bachmann. "I want them to be armed with knowledge, so they can be dangerous to the policies of the left." (Emphasis hers.)

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In an e-mail to her supporter list, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has announced that she raised more than $2.3 million in the two months since she was appointed to the Senate in late January.

Gillibrand is going into her 2010 campaign as a largely unknown quantity, with the new Quinnipiac poll showing her trailing a possible Democratic primary challenger with a high undecided number, and also leading in the general election against a GOP candidate -- again, with a high undecided number.

The cash-on-hand figure hasn't been released, though the campaign tells us this number has itself not been fully calculated yet.

By comparison, during her whole 2008 election cycle for her old House district, Gillibrand raised $4.5 million, with $272,000 left on hand. So at least for now, Gillibrand appears to be doing a decent job of adapting that fundraising work to the scale of a Senate seat.

The State Department's decision to replace Blackwater Worldwide as its primary defense contractor in Iraq may be little more than a name change. Though Blackwater -- recently renamed "Xe" -- has been widely criticized and investigated on criminal charges for its role a 2007 firefight that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead, most of its security guards will return to Iraq next month wearing the uniform of the State Department's new contractor Triple Canopy. Susan Burke, an American lawyer representing Iraqi civilians in civil lawsuits against "Xe" told the New York Times, "They're really all still there, and it's back to business as usual." (New York Times)

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A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Gov. David Paterson (D-NY) continues to be on course for a defeat in 2010, should he seek a full term.

In a Democratic primary against state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Paterson trails by a 61%-18% margin. In a general election with Rudy Giuliani, Rudy is ahead of Paterson by 53%-32%, while at the same time Cuomo would beat Giuliani 53%-36%. The poll also finds that registered voters say Paterson shouldn't run, by a 53%-39% margin -- including a 49%-45% plurality among Democrats.

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The charges against Ted Stevens may be about to be dropped -- but the fallout isn't over.

The judge in the case yesterday ordered the Justice Department to hand over documents relating to allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in the case, reports the Washington Post.

It was because of this misconduct that Attorney General Eric Holder last week decided to ask the judge, Emmet Sullivan, drop the charges against Stevens.

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Obama Tells Turkey: U.S. Not At War With Islam Speaking to the Turkish Parliament today, President Obama said: "Let me say this as clearly as I can: the United States is not at war with Islam. In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical in rolling back a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject."

Obama's Day In Turkey President Obama is in Ankara, Turkey, today. At 3:50 a.m. ET, he laid a wreath at Ataturk's Tomb. At 4:55 a.m. ET he met with President Gul, and the two made a statement to the press at 6:56 a.m. ET. At 8:30 a.m. ET he addressed the Turkish Grand National Assembly. At 9:25 a.m. ET he will meet with Prime Minister Erdogan. At 11:10 a.m. ET he will leave Ankara for Istanbul, arriving at 12:10 p.m. ET.

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