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Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias has been giving lots of talks as he promotes his new book, In Justice, but this interview with Harper's has been one of the best so far.

Iglesias treads a lot of old ground, but he also gives an interesting look ahead. As we wait for the OIG's report on the U.S. attorney firing scandal to drop, this is a good reminder of what we have to look forward to (Iglesias' response is in italics):

The Justice Department's Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) have been investigating the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, including yourself, and their report is now due. The OPR has been heavily criticized lately for its failure to follow through on major investigations, and it has been manipulated--sometimes overtly--by political appointees. OIG has maintained its independence and integrity, however. Have you been interviewed in connection with this probe? Did it strike you as thorough and professional? Do you expect a report to be issued shortly, and if so, what are the major conclusions you would anticipate?

Yes, I was interviewed by attorneys from both OIG and OPR. They initially interviewed me in Albuquerque in June, 2007. They called me a couple more times with follow-up questions. I viewed them as professional and thorough. I expect the report to be filed any day now. I expect them to conclude that there is sufficient evidence to show that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty committed perjury in their statements before Congressional committees and investigators. They may find that former McNulty chief of staff Mike Elston intimidated witnesses based on his calls to former U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins of Arkansas. I was aware that Elston had told Cummins that "the gloves would come off" if we kept speaking out about our forced resignations. I found out after In Justice went to print that Elston also told Cummins we would be "thrown under the bus" for our speaking out. It is appalling that a former career federal prosecutor like Elston would so flagrantly violate the law against witness intimidation. There may be enough evidence to warrant a formal investigation of conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges against Gonzales, McNulty and Elston.

Sen. John McCain's campaign has admitted that his top foreign policy adviser has lobbied for not two but three different firms run by cash-for-access deal-maker Stephen Payne.

But the McCain camp insists that Randy Scheunemann did not lobby McCain himself on "any issues relating to" Stephen Payne.

That might come as a relief to McCain supporters, since Payne was caught on video a few weeks ago telling a Kazakh politician he could set up high-level meetings at the White House in exchange for big donations to the future George W. Bush Presidential Library fund.

But is it true?

Let's go back to 2001. That's when Scheunemann and Payne first met, according to the McCain camp.

Scheunemann was lobbying on behalf of the government of Latvia. Latvia was seeking entry into NATO. And McCain was among the lawmakers he targeted. In fact, Scheunemann and McCain both traveled to Latvia in August 2001, where McCain met with an slew of Latvian officials and talked about NATO expansion and U.S. policy with Sheunemann, according to lobbying documents filed with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Reader DG points out that it was just a few days later that McCain announced his support for the Baltic country's admission into NATO. (It was granted admission in 2004)

And what was Stephen Payne doing in Latvia?

According to his own firms' documents, a lot. One brochure said Payne's firm, Worldwide Strategic Partners, "led Lavia's efforts to become a NATO member." Another for his related firm, Worldwide Strategic Energy, said the same thing.

Payne has been Latvia's "honorary consul" in Texas, which is among the many business activities he conducts from the same office address in suburban Houston.

It looks like Payne and Scheunemann were on the same side of the issue, trying to convince people like McCain and other U.S. lawmakers to back Latvia's bid for NATO membership.

Payne doesn't always register his work for foreign countries in the Department of Justice database maintained under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

The McCain camp told us that Sheunemann and Payne met in Latvia in 2001. How exactly did they meet? Were they working together? Did McCain at any point meet Payne? Those are some of the questions we've asked the campaign. We'll let you know if and when they get back to us.

Karl Rove has categorically denied any involvement whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, in the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, in written responses to questions from the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, entered into the Congressional record today and obtained this afternoon by TPMmuckraker.

The questions from Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and the answers submitted by Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, are available here. More soon.

Below is a sample of the Q&A. Rove's answer is in italics, and is emblematic of his response to all 14 questions raised by Smith.

1. Before former Alabama Governor Donald E. Siegelman's initial indictment in May 2005, did you ever communicate with any Department of Justice officials, State of Alabama officials, or any individual other than Dana Jill Simpson, Esq., regarding Governor Siegelman's investigation or potential prosecution? If so, please state separately for each communication the date, time, location, and means of the communication, the official or individual with whom you communicated, and the content of the communication.

I have never communicated, either directly or indirectly, with Justice Department or Alabama officials about the investigation, indictment, potential prosecution, prosecution, conviction, or sentencing of Governor Siegelman, or about any other matter related to his case, nor have I asked any other individual to communicate about these matters on my behalf. I have never attempted, either directly or indirectly, to influence these matters.


Rove has long refused to comply with a committee subpoena about his role in the Siegelman prosecution, claiming executive privilege. Instead, he's offered to respond to written questions from the Democrat-controlled committee.

So Smith sent Rove's attorney, Luskin, a sycophantic letter on July 15, requesting that he make good on his promise and answer some questions from the committee:

The Committee majority, as before, declined your offer when it was renewed on July 9th. This unnecessarily forced up on your client the Hobson's choice of obeying the limitations placed upon him by the President or obeying the demand of the majority that he appear and testify at a July 10, 2008 hearing before the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law. The forcing of this issue did not obtain information for the Committee. Rather, it simply provoked partisan spectacle and gratuitously exposed your client to potential legal jeopardy.


Luskin, graciously accepted the request, and conveyed his bafflement at the committees' prosecution in his cover letter with his client's answers:

We simply cannot understand the Committee's interest in provoking a confrontation with Mr. Rove while the precise legal issue that is presented by his subpoena is subject to a pending action in District Court. We have struggled instead to find a method by which Mr. Rove could answer the Committee's questions while at the same time respecting the prerogatives of the President. We thank you for providing such an opportunity, and we trust that Mr. Rove's answers will assist the Committee in resolving these utterly unfounded allegations.


Late Update: The majority of the Q&A refutes the affidavit of attorney Jill Simpson, not that that's anything new. As you might remember, Simpson spoke before the HJC in October of last year and testified to Rove's involvement of Siegelman's prosecution. From what I can tell, the documents spend nine pages detailing the ways in which Rove does not know Simpson.

For the record, Karl Rove has never "communicated, directly or directly with Simpson." He does not and has "never known Simpson personally." He has "never worked with her." He is "not the Karl referenced" in the email on the FEMA contract. He never told Simpson to take "compromising pictures" of Siegelman.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey is having a lovely time in front of the House Judiciary Committee today, bantering about college football with Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and quoting America's archetypal socialist during questioning with Rep. Ric Keller (R-FL):

KELLER: Back to my original questions. You've got less than six months on the clock here with the end of the Bush administration, uh, will you commit today to sitting down with our congressional leaders to try to fashion a compromise relating to these national security issues that would ultimately result in you being able to reccomend that the president sign the bill or in the alternative is there no bill that you would recommend being signed?

MUKASEY: Um, I'm in the same position as, um, a Socialist candidate for president named Eugene Debs who said, "I'll talk to anybody who'll talk to me." I'll sit down with anybody that wants to sit down and have a serious conversation about what can be done and what can't be done, but first we need to talk about what's there and what's there is not acceptable.


Before that, Keller asked the AG some questions about the Media Shield Bill -- which is a really, really, really bad idea according to Mukasey. Not even ten angels could save it, nevermind presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain:

KELLER: . . . Obama and Senator McCain said they would sign the bill and I think we can agree that one of those two men is going to be the president of the United States. And so, you would agree with all three of those facts?

MUKASEY: I would agree with all of those facts and I would also agree that ten angels swearing on bibles that that bill was harmless would not change the provisions that are in it.

From the Washington Post:

Auditors at an oversight agency of the Pentagon were pressured by supervisors to skew their reports on a major defense contractor's work, hiding wrongdoing and charges of overbilling, according to an 80-page report from the Government Accountability Office.

The Defense Contract Audit Agency, which is charged with overseeing contractors for the Defense Department, made an upfront agreement with "a major aerospace company" to limit the scope of work and basis for an audit, the report said.

When the contractor, who is not named in the report, objected to the draft findings of the DCAA audit, managers at the audit agency assigned a new supervisor to the case and threatened the senior auditor with personnel action if "he did not delete findings from the report and change the draft audit opinion to adequate," according to the GAO report.

In a rather odd bit of procedural maneuvering, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), neglected to swear Attorney General Michael Mukasey before he testified to the committee today.

Mukasey seemed perplexed, and mentioned the omission before questioning began by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY):

CONYERS: The Chair recognizes, to begin the questioning, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Jerry Nadler of New York.

MUKASEY: I'm sorry, um, Mr. Chairman, I don't mean to raise a matter that's none of my business, but I haven't been placed under oath. Did you want me to take an oath?

CONYERS: No, I do not require that.


We're no strangers to hearings here at TPM, but we're not quite sure what's going on with this. Our best guess? Conyers is trying to ensure quality testimony from Mukasey by relaxing the hearing. Readers have any other guesses?

After Democrats failed to muster any substantive opposition to the Bush White House's overhaul of domestic spying laws just a few weeks ago, it would be a striking turn of events if the House leadership launched into a massive, multi-decade investigation of how the government has been monitoring its own citizens since the Cold War.

But that's what Salon speculates about today in a far-reaching report from Capitol Hill.

While reporting on domestic surveillance under Bush, Salon obtained a detailed memo proposing such an inquiry, and spoke with several sources involved in recent discussions around it on Capitol Hill. The memo was written by a former senior member of the original Church Committee; the discussions have included aides to top House Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers, and until now have not been disclosed publicly.
That's pretty interesting. This Democratic leadership doesn't seem to have done anything over the past couple years to suggest it is about to launch a broad, sweeping investigation into highly sensitive national security-related issues. (They haven't even really questioned the president on his hugely unpopular Iraq policies).

Reporter Tim Shorrock reaches as far back as the Regean Administration and culls evidence of a secret and potentially illegal database maintained by the National Security Administration called "Main Core." The existence of such a database has been the subject of speculation for years, but never confirmed. This database would presumably be the focus of any large-scale congressional investigation.

The investigation under consideration would be rare in its scope, potentially encompassing both Republican and Democratic administrations.

During one recent discussion on Capitol Hill, according to a participant, a senior aide to Speaker Pelosi was asked for Pelosi's views on a proposal to expand the investigation to past administrations, including those of Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. "The question was, how far back in time would we have to go to make this credible?" the participant in the meeting recalled.

That question was answered in the seven-page memo. "The rise of the 'surveillance state' driven by new technologies and the demands of counter-terrorism did not begin with this Administration," the author wrote. Even though he acknowledged in interviews with Salon that the scope of abuse under George W. Bush would likely be an order of magnitude greater than under preceding presidents, he recommended in the memo that any new investigation follow the precedent of the Church Committee and investigate the origins of Bush's programs, going as far back as the Reagan administration.


It's hard to think of any examples of a Congressional probe of the scope described here.

The Salon report notes that Democrats on the Hill may be reluctant to green-light the investigation because of their own party's complicity in approving certian surveillance techniques. Key lawmakers declined to comment for Salon's story, including Pelosi, Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Russ Feingold (D-WI).

However skeptical we may be, the idea sounds fascinating. It's hard to think of much more exciting than a parade of witnesses on Capitol Hill revealing how the government has been spying on all of us since the Cold War. We'd be sure to cover that gavel-to-gavel.

Tom Delay's lawyers have ruled out asking President Bush for a pardon. Delay was indicted over two years ago on charges of money laundering, and is still in the middle of legal proceedings in Washington and Texas. Delay's lawyers insist he has not committed a crime, and therefore has no use for a pardon. (The Hill)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is asking for immunity from lawsuits filed by victims of the Katrina and Rita hurricanes who claim they were exposed to harmful fumes while living in FEMA trailers. A U.S. district judge is set to hear FEMA's request today. (AP)

A new Government Accountability Office report reveals that the Information Sharing Environment which is responsible for sharing information on terrorism has achieved limited success. The ISE is faulted in the report for putting too much emphasis on "activities accomplished rather than results achieved". (AP)

Read More →

More evidence of ties between John McCain's top foreign policy adviser and Stephen Payne, the guy caught on video offering to arrange meetings with top White House officials in exchange for big donations to the future George W. Bush Presidential Library Fund.

We knew that Randy Scheunemann had worked for two of Payne's firms in recent years. Now the AP reports on a third:

International Business & Energy Development Corp., is the third of Payne's firms to emerge as paying money to Scheunemann. The payments from mid-2001 to mid-2003 totaled $80,000, for issues ranging from monitoring legislation concerning global energy developments to lobbying on a bill authorizing Bush to provide assistance to Pakistan and India, according to the Senate filings. The post-Sept. 11 legislation lifted the last remaining economic sanctions against Pakistan.


That brings the total paid by Payne's firms to McCain's adviser to about $130,000 since 2001.

The McCain campaign said Scheunemann has had no business relationship with Payne since July 2006 and has no knowledge of Payne's business activities since that time.

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