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On the heels of the Senate Judiciary Committee's questioning on Wednesday of Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine, and the two recently released OIG reports, seven Democratic members of the committee have requested that Attorney General Michael Mukasey review the damage done to the DOJ by the illegal hiring practices.

Signed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), the letter requests an assessment on the "long-term damage" done to the Department:

We are concerned that the people hired into important career positions throughout the Department using the unlawful, politicized process described in the reports remain in place. This raises the troubling possibility that those positions are held by unqualified, partisan individuals. With this possibility extant, we believe it is inadequate for the Department simply to commit to discontinue the bad practices. There may be continuing consequences of the widespread illegal hiring process. We urge you to ensure that the people put in place via this illegal process meet the Department's high standard of qualifications, and do not undermine the Department's independence and ability to enforce the law without fear or favor.

House Democrats defeated a measure to censure Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) yesterday. The bid to censure, put forward by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), was over Rangel's questionable rent-stabilized housing arrangement in Harlem. At the same time, the House ethics panel announced yesterday that they plan to review Rangel's lease and his use of congressional letterhead in solicitations donations. (AP, Politico)

A former official at the Treasury Department is the focus of a new civil complaint filed by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo against UBS. The official, David Aufhauser, is described as "Executive A" in Cuomo's case against UBS over fraud in the auction-rate-securities market. (Wall Street Journal)

A MnDOT emergency response executive who was fired for taking an unauthorized state-funded trip to Washington directly after the Minnesota bridge collapse, was recentlyhired by the Department of Homeland Security. The former executive, Sonia Pitt, confirmed Wednesday that she is now a Transportation Security Specialist at the department. (Star Tribune)

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Around 5 PM Alaska time, Sen. Ted Stevens' office issued a second statement on his arraignment earlier in the day in federal court.

From the Anchorage Daily News:

I am pleased that the Judge has set a speedy trial date, which should allow ample time for a decision before the general election. I am looking forward to this trial as a way of finally showing the truth - that I am innocent.

We have a Bill of Rights and a trial by jury in our country to protect our citizens - so that every person has their day in court.

I am humbled by all the outpouring of support, expressions of friendship, and offers of prayers. This process has lasted for more than a year, causing great distress to my family and confusing the Alaskans who have put their trust in me for more than 40 years.

When all the facts come out at the trial, Alaskans will know that I continue to be a dedicated public servant and that I am working hard for them every day.

Just hours after a federal judge shot down the White House's claim to sweeping immunity from Congressional oversight, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) fired off a round of letters renewing his demand for testimony from Karl Rove and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten.

The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman sent a letter to White House Counsel Fred Fielding asking whether the two officials will agree to testify in light of today's ruling against the Bush administration's blanket claim of executive privilege.

The investigation at issue is the allegedly political firings of eight U.S. attorneys. The Senate committee issued subpoenas in June and July 2007 for Bolton and Rove to testify on Capitol Hill.

"Today's decision renders the grounds for Mr. Bolten and Mr. Rove's refusal to comply with the Committee's subpoenas moot," Leahy wrote in the letter to Fielding.

Leahy also sent a terse letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey asking whether he planned to rescind the legal memos based on the theory of blanket executive privileged that the judge dismissed today.

Please advise me by no later than next Thursday, August 7, when you will withdraw the erroneous [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion from Stephen Bradbury relied upon by the White House to justify its non-compliance with congressional subpoenas since that opinion has been repudiated by the court.

In addition, please inform me whether the court's decision will cause you to re-evaluate your memos and those from [Office of Legal Counsel] in support of overbroad and unsubstantiated executive privilege claims not only in the U.S. Attorneys investigation, but also in other matters, like the claims used to block Congress from investigating warrantless wiretapping, the leak of the name of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame for political retribution, and White House interference in the Environmental Protection Agency's decision-making. Which of these do you now intend to withdraw?
Leahy sounds like he's asking for a complete surrender in this ongoing battle over White House officials' testimony. But there's a lot of litigation still to go in this case.

Now that we have a partial decision on House Judiciary Committee v. Harriet Miers et al. , maybe it's a good time for a little refresher on why the HJC wanted White House documents and Miers' testimony in the first place.

Miers name came up repeatedly over the course of congressional investigations into the U.S. attorney firing scandal, over her communications with former Chief of Staff to the Attorney General, Kyle Sampson.

Those communications revealed that Sampson and Miers began exchanging emails discussing the dismissal of U.S. attorneys, almost two years before those attorneys were purged from the department in December 2007. In March 2006, Sampson famously sent an email to Miers, ranking all of the sitting U.S. attorneys in order of "loyalty to the Attorney General."

Though Miers initially suggested that all 93 U.S. attorneys be dismissed, Sampson vetoed that idea, with the approval of the Attorney General, and arranged for limited dismissals, ultimately providing Miers with a seven person list of targeted candidates to be considered for removal.

Outside of the emails, others were observing politicization first hand. In the late summer of 2006, U.S. Attorney John McKay, who would be requested to resign just a few months later, described sitting down with Miers and others for an interview on a federal judgeship. McKay was asked, "why Republicans in the state of Washington would be angry" with him in regards to his failure to prosecute allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 Washington gubernatorial race.

A few months before the U.S. attorneys were asked to resign, in September of 2006, Sampson again emailed Miers another list of possibilities, this time with nine people listed.

The majority of this information and correspondence came out in the testimony of Sampson and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the spring of 2007.

Naturally all of this piqued the interest of the House Judiciary Committee, who were also investigating the U.S. attorney firings. They subpoenaed Miers to testify, and requested relevant documents from the White House. Miers and Bolten, on behalf of the White House, both claimed executive privilege in late June, with Miers even refused to show up to the Congressional hearing.

This ticked off House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) who held both Miers and Bolten in contempt. As we discussed yesterday, the contempt vote then went to the full House for a vote, where it was upheld, and the lawsuit was filed.

The Department of Justice has been taking a lot of heat lately for the inspector general's report detailing pervasive, illegal partisanship among upper-level officials.

But former employees from the Office of Special Counsel say they've been complaining about the exact same problems for more than three years, and the White House is blocking a public report about misconduct in that office.

We often remind you that Special Counsel Scott Bloch is under investigation by the FBI. He's accused of deleting emails -- and possibly obstructing justice -- in an investigation stemming from his employees complaining about the same kind of partisan activity outlined in Monday's report from the DOJ Inspector General.

Now that group of employees who filed that complaint back in 2005 wants the White House to publish a report about their former employer.

A lawyer for the former employees, Avi Kumin, wrote a letter today to the White House Counsel, urging for a formal, public report.

Kumin rattled off several examples of parallels between DOJ and Bloch's office.

My clients' complaint reported that OSC officials hired several career employees primarily because they attended the Christian, conservative (and at the time only provisionally accredited) Ave Maria Law School. ...

My clients reported years ago that Mr. Bloch fired them because of their perceived sexual orientation or perceived support for enforcing sexual orientation protections for federal employees. ...

My clients' compliant about OSC raised significant evidence that Mr. Bloch and his staff evaluated whistleblower and Hatch Act investigations based on partisan politics.
In theory, federal employees who feel they've faced discrimination for partisan or ideological reasons can file a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel. But it's hard to think that would get investigated impartially by an office itself accused of discriminating against people for political agendas.

A federal judge has granted Sen. Ted Stevens' request for a speedy trial -- calling for jury selection to begin just weeks before the elections this fall.

Stevens (R-AK) is set for trial Sept. 24 on seven counts of making false statements on his Senate financial disclosure forms, court documents show.

Accused of taking more than $250,000 in undisclosed gifts from the CEO of an Alaska-based oil services firm, Stevens said he wants to "clear his name" before voters decide whether to give the 84-year-old lawmaker a seventh term.

The schedule outlined allows less than two months for all pretrial preparations, a remarkably quick turnaround for a federal case.

For now, the case is scheduled for trial before Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington, DC. The judge has not yet ruled on Stevens' attorney's request that the case be moved to federal district court in Alaska, where Stevens is a popular political patriarch.

From the AP:

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens has pleaded not guilty to charges that he lied about accepting more than a quarter of a million dollars worth of gifts from a powerful oilfield contractor.

In the midst of his re-election bid, lawyers for the Senate's longest-serving Republican maintained Stevens' innocence at his afternoon arraignment in federal court in Washington.

Stevens did not speak when U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan asked for his plea. Stevens' attorney, Brendan Sullivan, answered for him.

Prosecutors say the Alaska Republican accepted more than $250,000 in house renovations and gifts from contractors but didn't disclose them on Senate financial records.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) hailed today's court ruling and said he expects former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and political director Karl Rove to testify on Capitol Hill in September.

"Today's landmark ruling is a ringing reaffirmation of the fundamental principle of checks and balances and the basic American idea that no person is above the law.

Judge Bates' decision makes clear that the Congress had the right to subpoena Harriet Miers to learn of her role in the US Attorney firings, that her claim to be immune from subpoena was invalid and that the Committee was entitled to challenge that claim in Court. The Judge also ruled that the White House may not claim Executive Privilege over documents without describing them in reasonable detail so that these claims of privilege can be evaluated by Congress.

We look forward to the White House complying with this ruling and to scheduling future hearings with Ms. Miers and other witnesses who have relied on such claims. We hope that the defendants will accept this decision and expect that we will receive relevant documents and call Ms. Miers, as well as ex-White House official Karl Rove, to testify in September"


Later, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) echoed Conyers' statements:

The claims are part of an arrogant White House cover up, designed to shield from public view the inappropriate and illegal actions of this administration. It is past time for senior administration officials to abide by the law and appear before Congress to offer testimony compelled by subpoena.

We already know that in the years just before the invasion of Iraq, Randy Scheunemann, now John McCain's top foreign policy aide, was part of the circle of advisors and operatives around Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi exile who used bogus intelligence to sell the war. Over the last few days we've spoken to associates of Chalabi's and Scheunemann's from those years to fill out the picture of the working relationship between the two men.

Entifadh Qanbar, who worked for Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress (INC) in Washington in 2001 and 2002, described Scheunemann to TPM as a "close friend....We exchanged thoughts, exchanged ideas. We would often meet, go for lunch." Qanbar said Scheuenemann was also very close with both Chalabi and Francis Brooke, a longtime Chalabi aide and spokesman. Qanbar said he believes it was Brooke who first connected Scheunemann to Chalabi and the INC.

In fact, said Qanbar, Scheunemann was so friendly with the INC crowd that when the INC moved out of the shabby office space that Qanbar had found at 918 Pennsylvania Avenue SE on Capitol Hill, Qanbar suggested to Scheunemann -- who at the time was looking for a cheap spot to house his new lobbying shop, Orion Strategies -- that Scheunemann take the place over. To this day, Orion HQ is at 918 Penn (though the McCain campaign has said Scheunemann suspended his activities there earlier this year). And that was also the address Scheunemann later used for the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), the group he founded in late 2002 to gin up public support for the war.

But the links between Chalabi's INC and Scheunemann's CLI may go even further. Here's a photo of a webpage from the INC site. But notice the web address at the bottom: http://liberationiraq.org. That's the address for the CLI. The picture was taken by the Washington journalist Jim Lobe, who blogged about it in May, and confirmed its authenticity to TPM. According to Lobe, in April 2003, he typed in the address for Scheunemann's group, and got the INC homepage. When he called CLI to ask why, Scheunemann "mumbled something about how both the CLI and the INC used the same server in London."

Scheunemann seems to have set out from the start to make himself useful to Chalabi. Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector, got a firsthand look at just how. Ritter told TPM that back in 1998, he came to Washington for a meeting with Scheunemann. Instead, Scheunemann sent him over to Chalabi's Georgetown townhouse, where Chalabi, Brooke, and a who's-who of Washington neoconservatives explained their half-baked plan to topple Saddam. The next day, Ritter did meet with Scheunemann, and shared with him a lab report that, Ritter believed, suggested Saddam was making chemical weapons (the intelligence proved to be flawed). Ritter asked Scheunemann to leak the report to the press, in order to put pressure on the Clinton administration and the UN to toughen their inspections. Scheunemann was more than happy to do so, says Ritter. But when, a short time later, The Washington Post ran a story on the lab report, the story was sourced to Chalabi's INC. Scheunemann, it seemed, had, without Ritter's permission, passed the intel on to Chalabi to leak, as a way of enhancing Chalabi's status, and currying favor with the INC leader. Ritter wrote about the incident in March.

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