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In new court documents filed today, the Justice Department acknowledged that twelve of the destroyed CIA interrogation tapes depict "enhanced interrogation techniques" -- what most people call torture -- the ACLU announced in a press release. The government also said it would provide a list of summaries, transcripts, and memoranda related to the destroyed tapes, though the ACLU noted that a previous list was almost entirely redacted.

The CIA admitted earlier this week that it had destroyed 92 interrogation tapes. The destruction was ordered by then operations chief Jose Rodriguez.

In an earlier Freedom of Information Act request, the ACLU asked for information on the treatment and interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody. It filed a motion in December 2007 to hold the CIA in contempt for its destruction of the tapes, which it argued violated a court order requiring the agency to produce or identify all the records it was asking for.

The budget debate has yet to reach critical mass on Capitol Hill, but here's one Republican talking point to watch out for in the coming days: criticism of President Obama's choice to put the cost of the Iraq war in the annual budget, rather than relying on "emergency supplemental" war funding that doesn't impact the deficit (as George W. Bush did).

Rep. Paul Ryan (WI), the senior GOPer on the House Budget Committee, was the first to raise this point during a hearing with White House budget chief Peter Orszag on Tuesday. Ryan derided as a "budget gimmick" the Obama team's decision to assume savings from a gradual end to the war in Iraq. As the AP put it, Ryan

told Orszag that administration claims of deficit-cutting are mostly bogus since the deficit would fall anyway as the war in Iraq winds down.

Orszag offered a rebuttal to this claim on his blog this afternoon, pointing out that former President George H.W. Bush assumed a similar savings from the gradual winding-down of the Cold War -- which ultimately panned out.

As Orszag's numbers show, assuming that defense spending would fall below the budget "baseline" (which Obama bases on 2008 previous war costs) ended up paying dividends for Bush 41.

The Senate Budget Committee's Republicans go into more detail in their critique of the president's budget, available for download here (second link from the top). The Senate GOPers argue that "the budget claims 'silly' savings by imagining new baselines," asserting that the real model for 2010 war spending is what was spent so far in 2009, or $70 billion.

Now, at the risk of attempting to analyze a budget debate that's far in the weeds, should the budget baseline assume a full year of war spending or a partial one? The former is a far more honest method.

The Minnesota election court today heard a series of contentious oral arguments, with the decisions likely to have a huge impact on the future of this case.

First up, let's take a look at the Coleman campaign's motion to declare that "Rule 9" -- the set of procedures that the campaigns created for counting original damaged absentee ballots, rather than the duplicates made on Election Night -- was illegal. The Coleman has maintained that human errors in the labeling of duplicates and originals resulted Franken gaining an illegitimate gain, that votes were counted twice.

Lead Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg argued that the rule created by the Coleman campaign was illegal, overriding the interests of the voters, and pointed out how the Secretary of State's office didn't want to go along. "And the Secretary of State abdicated his function by allowing two political parties to set aside a statute that was not designed for their benefit in the first place," he said. "You can't do that."

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Here's some interesting Friday afternoon reading ... The Deal's Robert Teitelbaum on the question of how much blame the financial press deserves for the current mess we're in.

We don't agree with everything Teitelbaum says -- he goes too easy on the press in places -- but the notion you often see thrown around, that business reporters necessarily failed because they didn't "predict" the collapse has always struck us as simplistic, so it's refreshing to see someone trying to think a bit more deeply.

Don Siegelman has responded to the appeals court ruling earlier today that upheld most of the charges of which he was convicted.

In a blast email message to supporters, Siegelman wrote:

I am disappointed, but not discouraged. The fight will continue.

He added:
My family and I are deeply appreciative of the outpouring of support and prayers. Your words and actions keep our spirits lifted and our resolve strong. We will get through this, and we will win.

It's often tempting to dive into the GOP's noisy crusade against earmarks, if only to point out the unabashed hypocrisy of lawmakers like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- who watched many in his party decry the earmarks in this year's $410 billion spending bill while securing a nice bit of cash for his own home-state projects.

And on the topic of shooting fish in a barrel, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) was pretty exercised about earmarks today on Fox News:

Now is not the time to be earmarking a lot of this money. People don't mind paying taxes and they understand the government needs to be run, but they hate to see their money wasted. So that's a second reason for opposing [the bill.


Well, I suspect there will be some that vote for it. Some like these earmarks, for one thing.

And Kyl would be one of those who likes earmarks. He secured $5 million in funding for solo earmarks in the bill, along with $25.8 million for joint earmarks with other lawmakers, according to a database assembled by the non-partisan Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Or as Kyl told the Washington Examiner this week, "Anything I have in the bill, I have a reason for."

Yet another indictment in the Jack Abramoff case...

The Justice Department has announced that Fraser Verrusio, the other Hill staffer who went on that 2003 Team-Abramoff-funded trip to the World Series -- including a trip to a strip club and a chauffeur-driven limousine -- has been charged with accepting an illegal gift, and failing to report it on his financial disclosure form.

Last November, Trevor Blackann, an aide to Sen. Kit Bond, pleaded guilty to failing to report that same trip.

Verusio was at the time a policy director on the House Transportation committee. According to the indictment, he accepted the trip in exchange for inserting into the Federal Highway bill amendments favorable to an equipment rental company, which had hired Abramoff's firm to lobby for it.

Todd Boulanger and James Hirni, two members of Abramoff's team, have already pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme. The Transportation committee was at the time chaired by Alaska GOPer Don Young. So today's news may bring federal prosecutors closer to Young himself, whose ties to Abramoff and his firm have been amply documented.

We're guessing it won't be long before prosecutors announce a plea deal with Verrusio, in which he agrees to cooperate fully. Hope those strippers were worth it.

The Minnesota Supreme Court just handed down their opinion on Al Franken's lawsuit to force the state to issue him a certificate of election -- and it's a unanimous No:

It is our legislature that is charged by both the federal and state constitutions with the authority and responsibility to fashion the processes for the election of United States Senators from Minnesota. The legislature has done so and has clearly chosen not to authorize issuance of a certificate of election until an election contest is completed. Franken has failed to establish that either the United States Constitution or federal statutes mandate the issuance of a certificate of election immediately. In the absence of such a mandate, overturning a legislative choice in order to maintain comity with a federal scheme is not within our judicial powers.

The remaining question, then, is when does somebody get a certificate? When does a "court of proper jurisdiction," as the law terms it, decide the case? The court cites prior case law declaring "the term 'proper court' in the same section applies to the state court which is given jurisdiction." This appears to suggest that a certificate could be issued after this goes through state court -- and not an onerous federal appeals process as the state's solicitor general said during oral arguments in this case.

However, the possibility would still exist of federal appeals placing an injunction against issuing a certificate -- so who knows.

This line has to be the cruelest cut for Franken. The opinion also says that Franken is not being hurt by the lack of a certificate -- the Senate can seat him if it wants:

In other words, if the Senate believes delay in seating the second Senator from Minnesota adversely affects the Senate, it has the authority to remedy the situation and needs no certificate of election from the Governor to do so. We cannot conclude, therefore, that the Minnesota Legislature's choice to defer issuance of a certificate of election until the full state election process has run its course unconstitutionally usurps the Senate's authority.

Of course, Senate Republicans are saying they'll block any attempt to suspend the rules and seat Franken without a certificate, even if theoretically the Senate has the power to do so. Remember all that fuss the Democratic leadership made over Roland Burris, demanding that everything be checked out on his credentials? Oy.

Team Coleman has just filed their formal opposition to the Franken campaign's motion to dismiss all of the various counts in the Coleman lawsuit, demonstrating a fundamental disagreement going on here: Team Franken insists that Coleman is bound to a much higher standard of proof than the Coleman lawyers say.

Check out some highlights, after the jump.

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is responding to Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY), without naming him directly, over his recent prediction that she would be dead from pancreatic cancer within nine months.

In an interview with USA Today, Ginsburg explained why she made sure to attend President Obama's speech to Congress last week. "First, I wanted people to see that the Supreme Court isn't all male," the lone female justice said of the evening event Feb. 24. "I also wanted them to see I was alive and well, contrary to that senator who said I'd be dead within nine months."

Bunning made his remarks while speaking to a local GOP event back home in Kentucky, in explaining the importance of his commitment to appointing conservative judges, and how this would be an issue soon.