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The Franken legal team is postponing the resting of their case -- which lead attorney Marc Elias had announced yesterday evening would be happening today -- due to logistical difficulties in bringing in some witnesses.

Franken lawyer Kevin Hamilton told the judges that he has another absentee voter whose ballots has been rejected, ready to come in tomorrow. And he's been trying to line up testimony by the Clay County auditor.

"We would be prepared to provisionally rest at some point tomorrow," Hamilton said, "once we get that remaining testimony in, and allow the case to move forward."

On the one hand, a couple loose ends have introduced a slight delay into the process. But on the other hand, this is still way ahead of when anyone would have predicted the Franken camp resting their case.

Also, the court has just handed down a ruling to allow the counting of 14 ballots from a petition brought by a group of Franken-voters. There were 61 people involved in the original petition, for which the court initially granted permission to 24 a month ago, then rescinded permission on three a little over a week ago, and is now adding in 14 after additional evidence was submitted -- a total of 35 Franken-voters in this action who have been granted permission for now to have their ballots opened and counted at a later date.

The Obama administration has ordered a wide-ranging review of the signing statements that his predecessor frequently used to sidestep congressional edicts -- but that's not stopping the president from issuing one of his own.

After Obama signed the $410 spending bill that keeps the government funded until October, the White House released a statement outlining its take on the constitutionality of several of the bill's provisions.

Perhaps the most notable portion of the statement gives Obama room to reallocate money as he sees fit without abiding by the spending bill's requirement to first get approval from Congress:

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If I was a gambling man, I would bet that Michael Steele is going to make it.

I realize that he's not popular, that a lot of people in the Republican Party would like to see him go and as Josh Marshall pointed out he doesn't have a single, solid constituency like the conservative Christian activists or state party chairs united behind him.

But look at Roland Burris. I point to him not because of race, although surely the forcible removal of the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee would have racial overtones. Burris is arguably much less popular among his peers than Steele is with the Republican National Committee members who elected him RNC Chairman in January. Burris seems like a goner just a few weeks ago. Now, he's a Senate regular and his ouster seems unlikely in the extreme.

Still it's worth examining just what the party rules say about removing a chairman if it comes to that. If you look at Rule 5 of the RNC rules it says explicitly: "The chairman or co- chairman may be removed from office only by a two- thirds (2/3) vote of the entire Republican National Committee." The ballot has to be open under Roberts Rules of Order which is the playbook for RNC rules--which is kind of amusing given the opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act. That is a pretty high bar.

And the vote could only come--as best I can tell; I have a call into the RNC-- at one of the two semiannual meetings of the RNC. Thus, you couldn't have a phone coup d'etat or the Executive Committee of the RNC lead the fight.

Can Steele hold a third of RNC members? My bet is yes although the fact that it's even a question is pretty amazing.

By the way, the shortest chairmanship of the RNC ever was C. Wesley Roberts of Kansas who served four months as chair in 1953. According to Wikipedia, Alvin Scott of The Kansas City Star won a Pulitzer Prize in 1954 for local reporting for a series of articles that drove Roberts to resign. Roberts was accused of collecting a $10,000 commission on the sale of a hospital to the State of Kansas which the state already owned. His son, interestingly, is U.S. Senator Pat Roberts.

Remember Ted Haggard, the politically powerful megachurch pastor from Colorado who's career came crashing down in a male-prostitution scandal in late 2006? Haggard has since moved on -- he's no longer a preacher, but is instead working as an insurance salesman -- and seems to be adjusting to an undesired place in pop culture.

Time Out New York reports that Haggard attended the performance of a play called The Beautiful City, all about evangelical culture in Colorado. And an important plot point in the play is...the downfall of Ted Haggard.

Haggard kept a low profile, with the cast not knowing he was there, although the crew knew about it. Artistic director Steven Cosson said: "And they would come back and say, 'Oh, he laughed at this line. He smiled at that. He's sticking around for the second act.'"

Haggard and his wife were also accompanied to the show by a friend of theirs: Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Nancy Pelosi, who made the HBO documentary The Trials of Ted Haggard, plus Alexandra's husband.

Haggard didn't bask in any limelight, though. He, his wife and the Pelosis were the first to leave the theater after the play was over, and Pelosi was overheard saying, "I didn't understand the point."

In better days, Allen Stanford was, by most accounts, a loqacious and charming figure, wooing clients, lawmakers, and foreign dignitaries alike with the sheer power of his personality.

Now, not so much.

In court documents filed today, Stanford took the fifth, declining to testify in the SEC's complaint against him, in which he is accused of orchestrating an $8 billion Ponzi scheme.

His former college roommate and Number 2 at Stanford Financial Group, Jim Davis, is likewise staying mum, it was reported last week.

Three House Democratic committee chairmen -- Henry Waxman (CA) at Energy & Commerce, Charles Rangel (NY) at Ways & Means, and George Miller (CA) at Education & Labor -- have just sent a letter to President Obama vowing to work together on health care reform legislation that can become law this year.

The letter is notable for its emphasis on a uniform, coordinated timetable to ensure that turf battles over committee jurisdiction do not slow down the debate over health reform. The still-unwritten climate change bill, by contrast, is already the subject of some jockeying for position by Rangel and Waxman.

Also, the House chairmen's letter contains stronger indications of a coordinated effort than a similar missive sent to Obama by the Senate's key chairmen on health care, Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA).

The senators declared their "continuing commitment to enacting comprehensive health care reform this year," while their House counterparts committed specifically to "work from a harmonized approach [in their committees] to ensure success." There was some initial concern on the Hill that Baucus and Kennedy would butt heads as both committees moved forward with health care, but the Boston Globe reported this week that the two are working well together.

You can read the House chairmen's full letter after the jump.

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Bernard Madoff is set this week to plead guilty to orchestrating a massive Ponzi scheme. But could we be in line for more guilty pleas before this is all over?

The Daily Beast reports:

[T]he [Madoff] investigation ... has broadened to include a number of suspected co-conspirators, according to federal officials involved in the case.


The Daily Beast story -- written by Lucinda Franks, whose byline identifies her as a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist who was formerly on the staff of the New York Times -- also reports that, according to sources, "several members of Madoff's inner circle transferred assets to their wives, transactions thought to be laundered through an English bank."

There are said to be three groups of possible co-conspirators, who could potentially be charged either criminally by the Justice Department, or civilly by the SEC.

In the first group are employees of Madoff's firm who concocted false trades and sent out phony statements to thousands of unsuspecting clients.

The second group is comprised of principals in feeder funds such as Cohmad Securities Corp. and Fairfield Greenwich Group, which funneled investor dollars to Madoff and received large fees for steering this business. If they were aware of Madoff's fraud, they could face criminal charges; if they were not, they could be hit with civil charges for a lack of due diligence.

The third group is the target of an investigation that's still in its early stages into money laundering through British banks, in which US and British authorities are cooperating. This group consists of solicitors, accountants, and others in London who may have assisted Madoff in transferring funds from client accounts to a Madoff entity that lists Ruth Madoff, brother Peter Madoff, and sons Mark and Andrew Madoff among its board members.


It's not clear from any of this that any specific members of Madoff's family, or his inner circle, are in immediate legal jeopardy.

But the Wall Street Journal appears to be thinking along similar lines (sub req). It notes:
Prosecutors alleged Tuesday that Mr. Madoff hired numerous employees with "little or no prior pertinent training or experience in the securities industry" and caused them to "communicate with clients and generate false and fraudulent documents."


Its report doesn't go as far as the Daily Beast's. The Journal says it's still unclear whether prosecutors believe these people knew they were involved in a fraudulent scheme, and doesn't explicitly say that the investigation has broadened beyond Madoff himself.

But it's noticeable that the paper does take the time to lay out what's known about the possible involvement in the scheme of five of Madoff's relatives and associates -- including his wife Ruth, who has hired her own lawyer, and his brother Peter, who was the chief compliance officer for Madoff's firm.

With Madoff's guilty plea soon to be safely in the bag, are these reports an indication of where prosecutors are going next?

Has Michael Steele's bumbling reached a critical mass that it will cost him the chairmanship of the RNC -- or will he just keep on bumbling instead?

The latest bad news for Steele is a report that certain Republicans may be plotting a coup against him, a no-confidence vote to be held after the March 31 special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat is out of the way.

In an interview with Cal Thomas, Steele dismissed any call for a resignation. "No!" he shouted. "And shame on [those] who should have the cojones to at least come and talk to me." And here's how he characterized his detractors: "The mice who are scurrying about the Hill are upset because they no longer have access to the cheese, so they don't know what's going on."

Meanwhile, Mike Allen thinks Steele isn't leaving any time in the immediate future. However, the real test will be when the fundraising numbers come in for the next two quarters.

Granted, there have been some foul-ups so far. It's been just under a month and a half since Steele became RNC chairman, and in that time he has, among other things:

• Promised a new "off the hook" image for the Republican Party, appealing to "hip-hop settings."

• Gone back and forth on threatening to cut off financial support for pro-stimulus Republicans, and attracted criticism from Senators for doing so.

• And of course, he disassociated himself from Rush Limbaugh, was then attacked by Limbaugh, and then apologized to Limbaugh and praised his leadership. And he was later denounced by Joe The Plumber.

The question, then, is to what degree the anti-Steele push may be coming from people who were against him to begin with, and thus see an opening, and how much political capital there may be among the rest of the GOP to either keep or dump him.

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TPM alum Spencer Ackerman points to a genuinely inexplicable revenue-raising move being considered by the Obama administration: charging veterans through their private health insurance companies for injuries suffered during their service.

Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed yesterday that the administration is weighing whether to start charging veterans for their combat-related injuries -- an admission that got strongly shot down by both Democratic and Republican senators.

It's worth noting that progressives hammered Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) during his presidential bid last year for suggesting that veterans should be able to seek private treatment for health problems unrelated to their service. Should the Obama VA follow through with the plan it's now considering, it would arguably be moving farther right than McCain on the sensitive question of privatizing veterans' health care.

Late Update: The Navy Times offers more background on the private-insurance proposal under consideration by the Obama VA, explaining:

Whether private insurers would pay anything [on service-related claims] would depend on their policies on serving as the second payer on medical expenses. Some insurance policies cover such costs and others do not.

If at first you don't succeed....

In what looks like a second bite at the apple, Michael Steele's RNC has put out a new Request-For-Proposal for the redesign of its website -- after its original two-page effort was widely panned as sketchy and unprofessional.

That first RFP, which was circulating earlier this week, was so lacking in detail that one prominent right-wing blogger suggested it could mean Steele already had a favored contractor in mind, and was just going thru the RFP process for show. We offered a suggestion for who that favored contractor might be here.

The new RFP, posted by the site Tech President, is a bit longer -- five pages -- and a bit more specific about what the committee is looking for.

One interesting detail: the RNC says it wants a site that, in Tech President's words "functions as the backbone of a distributed network of sites populated by state parties and campaigns -- nonetheless connected back to the mothership at RNC headquarters." It's unclear whether that means it might subsume the state party sites, which currently are independent.

And, unlike before, there's a budget: $250,000 for the main site, plus $200,000 for the network of sites.

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