TPM News

A Wayne County circuit judge in Michigan ruled that embattled Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick cannot be removed from office by the city council. Rather, Kilpatrick can only be removed from office by Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D). A removal hearing has been scheduled by Granholm for September 3. (Detroit Free Press)

The FBI laid out more scientific evidence to members of the press yesterday linking scientist Bruce Ivins to the 2001 anthrax attacks. The briefing, which focused on microbial forensics, was in part a response to widespread skepticism over the largely circumstantial evidence of the case. (New York Times)

The ranking senators of the Senate Judiciary Committee urged Attorney General Michael Mukasey yesterday to delay the expansion of FBI investigative powers. Both Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) said the move would "employ more expansive investigative practices with limited oversight." (Senate Judiciary Committee)

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Harriet Miers, former White House counsel, one-time Supreme Court nominee and current partner at Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell, can now add lobbyist for the Pakistan People's Party and the Embassy of Pakistan to her resume, according to documents filed with the DOJ earlier this month.

In May of this year, Locke Lord Strategies signed a one-year $900,000 agreement to lobby for the Embassy of Pakistan. On her foreign agent registration short form, Miers listed the "Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Asif Ali Zardari, Co-Chairperson of PPP and his children" as clients. The group's ongoing work lobbying for the PPP continues on a pro bono basis.

In case you're wondering if this has anything to do with the current events in Pakistan, The Blog of Legal Times has your answer:

What does President Pervez Musharraf's resignation mean for Locke Lord? Probably not much. The firm has represented Asif Ali Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party and an opponent of Musharraf, since March, when the firm was retained to promote democracy and pressure Pakistan's government to investigate former PPP head Benazir Bhutto's assassination.

Former VECO CEO Bill Allen, the oil executive who orchestrated Sen. Ted Stevens' (R-AK) home renovations and whose testimony led to the indictment and conviction of a number of state legislators, has had a relatively soft fall from grace. Since testifying, little has been seen of Allen, whose sentencing on his May 2007 guilty plea has been continuously delayed as he remains free on a $10,000 unsecured bond.

As those connected to him fall to federal indictments, Allen is enjoying the windfall from the sale of steeped-in-corruption-VECO, for $146 million. Thanks to a carefully negotiated plea deal, two-thirds of that profit went to Allen and his three children. Oh, and did we mention he has no passport or travel restrictions?

According to the Anchorage Daily News, just seven months after his plea deal, Allen and two of his children bought a small jet, with an estimated value of $2 million. The plane has been flying all over the west, notably landing at airports near New Mexico racetracks, where all of the Allen children own licensed racehorses. And though he still owns his half-million dollar Anchorage home, Allen is reportedly spending the majority of his time in New Mexico:

Dick Cappellucci, a New Mexico licensed horse trainer from El Paso, Tex., who used to work for Allen's son, Mark Allen, and once owned a race horse with Mark, said Bill Allen is living on his son's Double Eagle Ranch. The county lists the ranch as a 46-acre property.

Mark Allen himself "is building a fancy, fancy place over there," Cappellucci said.

. . . Recently, the Allens have been showing up big at horse sales, Cappellucci said. "They've spent a lot of money in the horse business."

"A lot of money in the horse business," might be an understatement. According to the ADN, Mark Allen spent $726,000 for eight horses shortly before the sale of VECO.

But all is not as rosy as it might seem for Allen and Co. and their soft money bed at the race track. According to Bob Bundy, Allen's defense lawyer, Allen is "just kind of marking time. . . waiting for the axe to fall. . . it's not a very happy situation."

This weekend, Sen. John McCain brushed aside all criticism of his chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, and the lobbying work Scheunemann has done for the government of Georgia.

In an interview with USA Today, McCain expressed no concern about the fact Scheunemann last year was simultaneously working for McCain's campaign and lobbying the senator on behalf of a foreign government.

"I'm proud to have supported them," McCain said of Georgia in an interview on the campaign plane. "And I'm so proud that so many of my friends have done so, who also believe in freedom and democracy."

McCain dismissed criticisms from the Barack Obama campaign as beside the point.

Yet "rather than worry about the people of Georgia," McCain said, his Democratic rival "worried about whether someone on my staff had supported Georgia or not."

Last year, Scheunemann's firm, Orion Strategies, signed a $200,000 lobbying contract with Georgia on the same day McCain spoke on the phone with the country's president and issued a public statement in support of the government.

A military barracks for wounded soldiers in Oklahoma that was set up last year in response to the poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center is infested with mold. Soldiers at the barracks, Fort Still, were ordered not to speak about the conditions there after the situation was ignored for months. (USA Today)

The FBI investigation of American business man Morris Talansky, who is connected to the corruption probe of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, did not come as a suprise to Israeli police officials. Olmert is accused of accepting illicit funds from Talansk for years. Israeli officials said Sunday that the FBI typically becomes involved with Israeli cases that are conducted within the U.S. (Haaretz)

A former Marine sergeant who has been charged with war crimes in the killing innocent people in Fallujah claimed Saturday that his prosecution sends a bad message to marines in Iraq. The former sergeant, Jose Luis Nazario Jr., said that his trial will cause troops to fear that they too may be prosecuted if they follow what he maintains was basic training. (AP)

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Remember when the FBI told us that military microbiologist Bruce Ivins gave investigators a bogus sample of the anthrax from his lab in 2002 -- suggesting an effort to mislead and cover up his own connection to the 2001 anthrax attacks?

Well, that might not be true, according to the New York Times. Ivins did give investigators a sample of his own anthrax -- which allegedly matched the strain used in the attacks -- but the FBI botched the testing process.

But F.B.I. officials acknowledged at the closed-door briefing, according to people who were there, that the sample Dr. Ivins gave them in 2002 did in fact come from the same strain used in the attacks, but, because of limitations in the bureau's testing methods and Dr. Ivins's failure to provide the sample in the format requested, the F.B.I. did not realize that it was a correct match until three years later.

That closed-door briefing came as the FBI has agreed to begin providing more details about the science underpinning its case against Ivins.

The bureau is coming forward with more information at least partly in response to the experts who have publicly expressed skepticism about the FBI's case, which concluded that Ivins was the one and only person involved in the attacks.

Last week the Department of Justice gave a private briefing to Congress and this week the DOJ plans to make the new details public, the Times reports.

According to those who attended last week's briefing, the FBI appears to be backpeddling on some initial components of its case against Ivins.

In addition to the new version regarding the anthrax sample Ivins provided in 2002, investigators now say the envelopes used in the mail attacks were more widely available than initially suggested.

Investigators said two weeks ago that the envelopes were unique and easily traced back to the Maryland post office near Ivins' home. But reports from the close-door session say that is not the case.

Many scientists are looking forward to hearing details of the investigation, but do not expect the science to persuade all the skeptics.

"I expect people to be dazzled by the science. I am worried that people will confuse solid science (and I expect the science to be very good) with a solid case," Gigi Gonvall, a senior associate at the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told TPMmuckraker this morning.

"The science will only take you so far."

The Justice Department appears one step closer to prosecution of Blackwater security guards involved in the Nisoor square shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians, after reportedly sending six employees target letters earlier this summer. The high likelihood of indictment of a few "bad apple" Blackwater security guards, rather than the company itself, has been expected since early May.

From the Washington Post:

Anne E. Tyrell, a spokeswoman for North Carolina-based Blackwater, said that the company believes the guards fired their weapons "in response to a hostile threat" and is monitoring the investigation closely.

"If it is determined that an individual acted improperly, Blackwater would support holding that person accountable," Tyrell said in a statement. "But at this stage, without being able to review evidence collected in an ongoing investigation, we will not prejudge the actions of any individual. The company is cooperating fully with ongoing investigations and believes that accountability is important."

Blackwater has maintained that its men acted in self-defense, though an Iraqi investigation found that the guards had been unprovoked.

Norm Coleman took some tough questions today from the press back in Minnesota about his interesting housing deal in Washington, which involves him renting a studio apartment on Capitol Hill from a political contributor for only $600 per month.

For months, the senator had no written lease and paid no utility bills.

Coleman's answer: People appreciate that he's living so humbly. Here's a tracking video from the Minnesota Democrats:

Coleman said this really isn't a big deal -- it's just a nine-and-a-half feet by nine-and-a-half feet bedroom. "It's not not paying taxes on millions and millions of dollars in income. It's a shoebox that I spend a couple waking hours in."

"And as I travel the state," Coleman added, "I gotta tell you, people of Minnesota actually appreciate the fact that I live humbly as a senator -- that I'm not living the way some people think senators live."

The Columbus Dispatch reports:

Former Congressman Bob Ney is a free man.

The six-term lawmaker from eastern Ohio walked out of a Cincinnati halfway house at 7:30 this morning, ending his 17 months in federal custody for trading legislative acts for meals, a golf trip and other perks from a disgraced Washington lobbyist. ...

Ney, a Republican from Heath, pleaded guilty in October 2006 to taking actions on behalf of clients of lobbyist Jack Abramoff in exchange for gifts. Abramoff remains in prison for his role in a wide-ranging corruption case.
Now Ney can get on with his career as a radio commentator.

Here's another interesting email federal prosecutors found when they were sifting through Sen. Ted Stevens' files.

Stevens (R-AK) was writing to a friend described here only as "Person A," who was slated to appear before a grand jury.

This is how the scenario is spelled out in court documents filed last night:

By mid-May 2007, Stevens learned that Person A had been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in D.C. On May 17, 2007, Stevens sent Person A two emails that discussed Person A's upcoming grand jury testimony. In the first email, Stevens told Person A that "I hope we can work something out to make sure you aren't led astray on this occasion."

In the second, Stevens was more explicit: "don't answer questions you don't KNOW the answers to."

It's not clear who "Person A" is but it's likely one of Stevens' close friends, possibly one who lives near Stevens' home in Girwood, AK. The only other reference to that person in the motion describes an incident just after the FBI mounted a series of raids and Stevens, emailing in the middle of the night, asks this same person whether federal agents had searched Stevens' own home in Girdwood.
On September 1, 2006, defendant Stevens sent two emails to Person A, asking if Stevens' house had been searched in connection with the Allen/VECO investigation. At 3:49 a.m. on September 1, 2006, Stevens wrote Person A: "press releases say the FBI served a warrant in Girdwood??? Did they hit our house? T."

At 5:33 p.m. later that day, Stevens again wrote: "Have you been by the Chalet? Teds"