TPM News

Obama Seeking International Agreement On Afghanistan President Obama is meeting with NATO leaders today in France and Germany, seeking international backing for his new plans for Afghanistan and Pakistan. And so far he is picking up support, as French President Nicolas Sarkozy said at their joint news conference today: "We completely support the new American strategy in Afghanistan."

Obama's Day Ahead: France And Germany President Obama and Michelle Obama arrived this morning in Strasbourg, France, at about 4:45 a.m. ET. AT 5:35 a.m. ET he met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and at 6:35 a.m. ET the two briefly addressed the press pool. He held a town hall at 7:25 a.m. ET. At 9 a.m. ET the Obamas will leave for Baden-Baden, Germany, with Obama meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel at 9:45 a.m. ET. Obama and Merkel will address the press pool at 10:45 a.m. ET. President Obama and Michelle Obama will attend the NATO Concert at 1 p.m. ET, and President Obama will attend a NATO leaders working dinner at 2:15 p.m. ET. The Obamas will depart from Germany, going back to Strasbourg, at 5 p.m. ET.

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Looks like Sarah Palin agrees with the Alaska GOP:

The Anchorage Daily News reports:

Gov. Sarah Palin and the head of the Alaska Republican Party said Thursday that Sen. Mark Begich should give his Senate seat up to a special election now that prosecutors have abandoned their case against Ted Stevens. "Alaskans deserve to have a fair election not tainted by some announcement that one of the candidates was convicted fairly of seven felonies, when in fact it wasn't a fair conviction," Palin said in a Thursday interview with the Daily News.

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Last night the Senate passed their own budget resolution, too. The roll call is here--the final tally was 55-43 with two familiar Democrats (Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson) joining the Republicans, all of whom voted no. This allowed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to demagogue a little bit:

Over bipartisan opposition, Democrats in Congress passed a budget that clears the way for massive amounts of spending.... Although Democrats rejected several efforts to control spending, create jobs and cut the debt, Senate Republicans were able to slam the door on using the fast track process to jam through a new national energy tax. The strong bipartisan vote on this issue should serve as a clear warning to those involved in crafting the final budget: Americans vehemently oppose a new national energy tax that would hit them every time they flip on a light switch, watch TV, or drive the family car.

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The House GOP budget was up for a vote a few minutes ago and it...failed miserably; 137 in support, 293 (including 38 Republicans) against. Those are the only 38 Republicans in the House who don't think we need a spending freeze and tax cuts for the rich at this particular historical moment. However, none of those 38 civic-minded souls voted for the Democratic budget, which just passed 233-196.

How do I know that? Because as with the stimulus bill, zero Republicans voted with the Democrats on this major agenda item. Not surprisingly, though 20 Democrats voted with the Republicans against the Democratic resolution

I'll post roll calls later tonight or tomorrow, depending on when they become available.

Late update: Roll call on the GOP budget here, on the Democratic budget here.

President Obama, Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi and President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev at the Heads of Delegation Family Group.
Newscom/Sipa

President Obama speaks with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as they take part in a round table meeting.
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Sarah Brown, the wife of the British Prime Minister, Michelle Obama, and author J.K. Rowling, among others, attend a dinner at London's 10 Downing Street.
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Queen Elizabeth II sits with G-20 leaders during a group photograph at Buckingham Palace. Seated at right, the President of Brazil Luiz Innacio Lula da Silva. Behind them from left to right are Kgalema Motlanthe, the President of South Africa; the Prime Minister of Japan, Taro Aso, and President Obama.
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First Lady Michelle Obama pays a surprise visit to the pupils of the Elizabeth Garret Anderson School in Islington, London.
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Queen Elizabeth II talks to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and French President Nicolas Sarkozy during a reception at Buckingham Palace.
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G-20 Summit Day One with all the leaders and Queen Elizabeth II.
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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the ExCel center in London.
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World leaders pose for a group photo.
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Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver personally carries out food for G-20 Delegates and guests.
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and French President Nicolas Sarkozy talk during a reception at Buckingham Palace.
Newscom/Sipa

G-20 delegates and guests attend a dinner at 10 Downing Street.
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French President Nicolas Sarkozy addresses a news conference.
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Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (R) shares a laugh with President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (L).
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British Prime Minister Gordon Brown addresses a news conference at the end of the G-20.
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A man photographs the portraits of G-20 leaders.
Newscom/Zhang Yuwei

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Republicans are weighing the possibility of using their much-beloved filibuster to block Obama judicial and DOJ appointees.

The current Republican focus is on a pair of nominees: Mr. Obama's first selection for a federal appeals court seat, David F. Hamilton, and his choice to head the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, Dawn Johnsen. (By coincidence, the two are in-laws.)


But will they actually prevent an up or down vote? Democrats say early signs are troubling.

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Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) -- who has been Minnesota's one and only Senator since the first week of January -- appeared on MSNBC today and fired back at NRSC chairman John Cornyn for saying this week that it could take "years" to resolve her state's disputed Senate race:

KLOBUCHAR: Well, one of the other things he said, David, he said that we could go in Minnesota with one senator for years. And I would love to know how Texas would like that. I think that Minnesota would prefer to make its own decisions. I think we have a process that's taken a while. I think it's a fair process. It's going to--after these votes are opened up, Norm Coleman will make a decision about whether he wants to go up to the Minnesota Supreme Court. There's a process in place for that. Then I'm hoping it's done.

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The indictment of Rod Blagojevich and his associates includes one RICO conspiracy count. From the DOJ's press release:

The RICO conspiracy count alleges that Blagojevich personally, the Office of the Governor of Illinois and Friends of Blagojevich were associated and, together, constituted the "Blagojevich Enterprise," whose primary purpose was to exercise and preserve power over Illinois government for the financial and political benefit of Blagojevich, both directly and through Friends of Blagojevich, and for the financial benefit of his family members and associates. Blagojevich and Kelly, the only RICO conspiracy defendants, allegedly conspired with Monk, Cellini, Harris, Robert Blagojevich, Rezko and previously convicted cooperating defendant Stuart Levine, to conduct the Blagojevich Enterprise through a pattern of multiple acts of mail and wire fraud, extortion, attempted extortion and extortion conspiracy, and state bribery.

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Here are the major new allegations contained in the indictment of Rod Blagojevich, his brother Robert Blagojevich, and four associates (from a very detailed DOJ press release (pdf)):

[B]eginning in 2002 and continuing after Blagojevich was first elected governor, Blagojevich and Monk, along with Kelly and previously convicted co-schemer Antoin "Tony" Rezko, agreed that they would use the offices of governor and chief of staff for financial gain, which would be divided among them with the understanding that the money would be distributed after Blagojevich left public office.


And:
[I]n 2003, Blagojevich, Monk, Kelly, Rezko and other co-schemers implemented this agreement by directing lucrative state business relating to the refinancing of billions of dollars in State of Illinois Pension Obligation Bonds to a company whose lobbyist agreed to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars to Rezko out of the fee the lobbyist would collect, and Rezko in turn agreed to split the money with Blagojevich, Monk and Kelly.


And:
After it became public that Kelly and Rezko were under investigation and ceased playing a significant role in raising campaign funds, Blagojevich personally continued to trade his actions as governor for personal benefits, including, for example, delaying a state grant to a publicly-supported school while trying to leverage a U.S. Congressman, who supported the school, or the Congressman's brother, to hold a campaign fundraiser for Blagojevich.


And:
[I]n an interview on March 16, 2005, Blagojevich lied to FBI agents when he said that he maintains a separation, or firewall, between politics and state business; and he does not track, or want to know, who contributes to him or how much they are contributing to him.

Chicago Breaking News Center reports:

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, his brother Rob and Christopher Kelly, a former top fundraiser for Blagojevich, were all indicted today on corruption charges, the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago announced.

Also charged in the indictment were Lon Monk, a lobbyist and former Blagojevich chief of staff; John Harris, also a former chief of staff to Blagojevich; and William Cellini, a Springfield insider for decades.


Will bring you more from the indictment itself...

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