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We've obtained a copy of the agreement on Karl Rove and Harriet Miers' testimony about the US Attorney firings, and it appears to answer some of our initial questions.

Are any subjects off limits?

The scope of the interviews will be limited to: (1) facts relating to the evaluation of, decision to dismiss, or decision to replace the former U.S. Attorneys in question; the alleged decisions to retain certain U.S. Attorneys; and any allegations of selective prosecution related thereto; and (2) testimony or representations made by Department of Justice officials to Congress on the U.S. Attorneys matter. For the period beginning on March 9, 2007 (the date of the Committee's first written demand for information from the White House), interviews will not include the content of conversations involving: (i) Mr. Rove and members of the White House Counsel's office; or (ii) Ms. Miers and members of the White House Counsel's office. In the case of Mr. Rove, the interview also will include facts relating to the prosecution of Alabama governor Don Siegelman.


And when can Rove and Miers claim executive privilege?
As to official privileges, counsel will direct witnesses not to respond to questions only when questions relate to communications to or from the President or when questions are outside the scope of questioning set forth above.


You can see the whole thing here.

Over the past few weeks, a lot of questions have been raised about how to stop banks receiving government bailout aid from paying for high-priced lobbying teams with taxpayer money.

The short answer, unfortunately, is that most banks will continue lobbying unless shamed into stopping -- like AIG, which closed its influence shop but kept on hiring pricey PR consultants. Just listen to Roll Call's interview yesterday with Citigroup's chief lobbyist, who formerly served as George W. Bush's legislative affairs chief:

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In an interview with the Washington Post, Michael Steele offered his own unique description of the job of party chairman, in response to those who have criticized him for gaffes: "I'm in the business of ticking people off," Steele explained. "That's why I'm chairman."

Steele also made the case that he -- and not Congressional figures, or perhaps Rush Limbaugh -- is the leader of the Republican Party. "Everyone has a role to play, but at the end of the day, all roads are going to lead to this desk," he said. "From the Hill, from the grass roots, the donors, it all comes here. They're all going to look to me to speak on issues."

Steele also explained that he is trying to break the GOP's mindset of outreach to traditionally non-Republican communities, as opposed to active involvement.

"'Outreach.' I have banned that word from the building," he said. "The Republican Party no longer does outreach. Outreach is a cocktail party where you put your arm around a black friend and say, 'Look who I know,' and that's about it. What I want the party to do and focus on is coalitions, know the major religious players, business players of both parties in your state."

Boehner Op-Ed: Rush Limbaugh Controversy Is A Dem Distraction In a new op-ed piece for the Washington Post, John Boehner denounces the Rush Limbaugh flare-up as a diversionary tactic by the Democrats: "And in a carefully calculated campaign, operatives and allies of the Obama administration are seeking to divert attention toward radio host Rush Limbaugh, and away from a debate about our alternative solutions on the economy and the irresponsible spending binge they are presiding over."

Obama's Day Ahead: Discussing Health Reform President Obama will be speaking at 1 p.m. ET at the White House Forum on Health Reform, at which he will be hosting representatives from labor, business, health providers, insurers and activist groups, plus members of Congress and members of the administration. At 2:30 p.m. ET he will be meeting with Tim Geithner, then at 4 p.m. he will be holding further discussions with the health forum members.

Biden In Miami, Speaking To Labor And Promoting Stimulus Vice President Biden will be speaking at 11 a.m. to the AFL-CIO Executive Council, in Miami Beach. At 1:45 p.m. ET, he will be joining Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz at the construction site of the Miami Intermodal Center, a transportation hub, to promote the stimulus program.

Napolitano, Donovan And Fugate Touring Gulf Coast The White House has announced that Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan will be touring the Gulf Coast today to assess rebuilding efforts. The two of them will be joined by FEMA Director-designate Craig Fugate for a 1 p.m. ET press conference in New Orleans.

Carville: I'm Not Promoting Rush As Head Of GOP -- Rush Is In an interview on CNN yesterday, James Carville denied reports that he was behind any Democratic plan to promote Rush Limbaugh as head of the Republican Party. "I think that honestly I don't want to take credit away from the great Rush Limbaugh who did it on January 16 when he said he wanted the president's policies to fail, and that's what started the whole thing," Carville said. "So don't give Paul and I, or Rahm credit. Credit is due to the great Rush Limbaugh. So my hat's off to you, Rush."

Bill Clinton Wades Into Florida Senate Primary, Supporting Meek Bill Clinton will be holding a fundraiser tomorrow in Florida for Congressman Kendrick Meek's Senate campaign. Meek was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primary season, and by the St. Petersburg Times' count is only the third primary candidate that Bill has supported in a down-ticket race -- the other two were Rahm Emanuel for the House in 2002, and Terry McAuliffe for governor of Virginia this year.

AIG Retains Mark Penn's Firm For PR It turns out that AIG, the insurance giant that is now depending on continuous government rescue, has hired Burson-Marsteller to handle its public relations. An AIG spokesman told PRWeek a while ago that the firm was being retained because of the company's expertise, and not due to its high-profile CEO: Mark Penn, the former chief strategist for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

U.S. lawmakers suffered a minor setback Wednesday in their ongoing effort to close offshore tax havens. Mark Branson, an executive at the powerful Swiss bank UBS, apologized to a Senate subcommittee for helping Americans dodge taxes but he refused to disclose the names of the estimated remaining 33,000 U.S. clients accused of evading taxes with the help of UBS. Branson argued that he could not cooperate because full disclosure would violate Swiss criminal law, and told lawmakers, "the IRS is attempting to resolve this diplomatic dispute in a courtroom, which is neither productive, nor proper." (Associated Press)

The Treasury Department Inspector General reported on Wednesday that bank regulators knew in 2002 about financial instability at several banks owned by First National Banking Holding Co. but failed to act before it was too late. Those banks - in Arizona, California and Nevada - crashed last year because their management favored "growth and profits over appropriate risk management," according to the audit report. This follows the IG's criticism last month of the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision for their insufficient oversight of IndyMac bank. In each of these cases, the IG's actions indicate the potential for increased government regulation of financial institutions. (Financial Week)

Franklin D. Raines, a prominent Democratic businessman, took advantage of a special program reserved for friends of a former Countrywide Financial CEO, claims Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA). Issa released documents Wednesday which indicate that Raines, the former CEO of Fannie Mae, received discounts including a 4.125 percent rate on his mortgage compared to the 5.1 percent prevailing rate for comparable loans. Raines also did not have to pay application or processing fees common for Countrywide's ordinary clients, according to Issa's documents. (Washington Post)

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David Iglesias has responded to the news of a deal to secure Karl Rove and Harriet Miers' testimony about the firings of Iglesias and seven other US Attorneys.

In a statement to TPMmuckraker, Iglesias, whose firing as US Attorney for the district of New Mexico was deemed the "most troubling" by a Justice Department report released last year, said:

Today's agreement represents true progress in this matter which has been on-going for over two years. I trust that the initial private testimony of Mr. Rove and Ms. Miers will become public at the soonest possible date.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Judiciary chair Pat Leahy just released separate statements on the agreement to secure Karl Rove's testimony.

Pelosi:

The agreement for Karl Rove and Harriet Miers to testify upholds a fundamental principle: no one is above the law and Congressional subpoenas must be complied with.

As public officials, we take an oath of office to uphold the Constitution. It is the institutional duty of Congress -- as an independent branch -- to ensure against abuse of power through meaningful oversight over the Executive Branch. When there are credible allegations about the politicization of law enforcement, the need for Congressional oversight is at its greatest.

In upholding our oaths of office, the House of Representatives was determined to preserve checks and balances -- the separation of powers that protects the rule of law. It brought action in court to enforce the Judiciary Committee's subpoenas, and won a major ruling by U.S. District Judge John Bates dismissing the extreme position of absolute immunity from Congressional oversight advocated by the Bush Administration for former Administration officials. Under this agreement, the precedent established by Judge Bates' historic ruling rejecting this extreme Bush Administration doctrine will be preserved.

Today's agreement is a great victory for the Constitution, the rule of law, and the separation of powers. I appreciate the strong leadership of Chairman John Conyers and the assistance of the Obama Administration.

Congress now has the opportunity to uncover the truth and determine whether improper criteria were used by the Bush Administration to dismiss and retain U.S. Attorneys.


Leahy:
I hope today's agreement will help to finally uncover the truth about the firings of U.S. Attorneys and the Bush White House cover up designed to shield from public view the inappropriate and illegal actions of the last administration.

It should not have taken until now to obtain testimony and documents from Bush administration officials connected to the investigation into the firings. Today's agreement leaves in place the court ruling that rejected the Bush administration's unprecedented and unfounded blanket claims of executive privilege and immunity. I rejected those claims as excessive and wrong in my ruling on President Bush's position over a year ago, and a bipartisan majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee ultimately found Karl Rove and former White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten in criminal contempt.

I commend Chairman Conyers for the agreement reached today. I hope Congress, and the American people, will now finally hear long overdue answers to serious questions about political interference by the Bush White House in our nation's top law enforcement agency.

The House Judiciary committee's announcement this afternoon of an agreement on Karl Rove and Hariet Miers' testimony about the US Attorney firings leaves a few key questions still unanswered:

1) The committee says: "It was agreed that invocations of official privileges would be significantly limited." Limited how? Exactly when can Rove and Miers invoke the privilege? The devil could very well be in that detail.

2) Did the committee agree to steer clear of any specific subjects?

3) Why won't Rove and Miers be under oath? It's true that they'll still be under penalty of perjury, and, when you're talking about a congressional investigation, that penalty is no different whether the subject is under oath or not. But in that case, why not just put them under oath to avoid any confusion? Presumably, because the Bush administration objected. And if it objected, then the oath question is meaningful. (Lawyers with relevant experience, feel free to weigh in here!)

We've called the Judiciary committee to put these questions to them, and will keep you posted.

The Franken legal team made an interesting move this afternoon, in an obvious attempt to cut off Norm Coleman's suggestion that the election can be thrown out because of various instances of clerical errors by officials -- they have quite openly established in court that mistakes are made, and that a perfect election is impossible.

Franken attorney Kevin Hamilton has been examining Joe Mansky, the elections director for Ramsey County (St. Paul), about all the procedures used to recruit and train election workers, and the mechanics of absentee voting itself.

Hamilton then bluntly asked if there is any way to completely eliminate mistakes from this human process. "It's impossible," Mansky said, explaining that his responsibility as an election manager is to understand that mistakes are made, to plan for how they happen, and to minimize them.

"There's really no way to run a perfect election, with no mistakes?" Hamilton said.

Manksy responded: "I'm afraid that's right."

So why ask Mansky about this? It might not be a coincidence that Team Coleman started planting the seeds for this latest rationale when they were first questioning Mansky all the way back during the second week of the trial, when one of the Coleman lawyers asked him if there's a point at which the margin of error in an election can be higher than the difference in a close election, such that we can't tell who really won.

At the time, it was Hamilton who objected to Mansky answering. But now Hamilton has revisited the errors issue with Mansky, using it to illustrate that Coleman is asking the court to hold the election to an impossible standard.

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The House Judiciary committee just announced an agreement that it says will secure Karl Rove's testimony about the US Attorney firings.

The committee says in a press release that it has forged a deal with the Bush White House which will see Rove and Harriet Miers conduct transcribed interviews before the committee, under penalty of perjury, on the subject of what they know the about the White House's role in the firings. If the committee wants to follow up by with public testimony by requiring public testimony, it has reserved the right to do so.

By the terms of the agreement, Rove and Miers' ability to invoke executive privilege -- a privilege that President Bush has been claiming exists in perpetuity even after a president leaves office -- will be "significantly limited", though the announcement does not indicate the nature of those limitations.

The interviews won't technically be under oath. But since the criminal penalties for lying to Congressional investigators are the same whether or not the interview is conducted under oath, that's not seen as a major hurdle in getting to the truth.

In addition:

The Committee will also receive Bush White House documents relevant to this inquiry. Under the agreement, the landmark ruling by Judge John Bates rejecting key Bush White House claims of executive immunity and privilege will be preserved. If the agreement is breached, the Committee can resume the litigation.


And:
[I] the Committee uncovers information necessitating his testimony, the Committee will also have the right to depose William Kelley, a former White House lawyer who played a role in the U.S. Attorney firings.


Committee chair John Conyers called the agreement a victory:
I have long said that I would see this matter through to the end and am encouraged that we have finally broken through the Bush Administration's claims of absolute immunity. This is a victory for the separation of powers and congressional oversight. It is also a vindication of the search for truth. I am determined to have it known whether U.S. Attorneys in the Department of Justice were fired for political reasons, and if so, by whom.


Today was the deadline a court had set for the Obama administration to file a brief in the Miers-Bolten case, indicating whether or not it supports the Bush White House's claim of executive privilege. White House counsel Greg Craig has reportedly been working with the Judiciary committee and with former Bush White House officials to forge a deal.

Late Update: It's worth noting that TPMDC's Matt Cooper pointed to something like this outcome in a post from January...

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