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EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson will not be rushed, no sir. We gave you the rundown earlier this month of how Johnson had managed to ignore a landmark Supreme Court ruling. The EPA could no longer avoid taking a stance on whether greenhouse gases were covered by the Clean Air Act. And it's become crystal clear from statements that Johnson has made where the agency will come down on the issue.

But of course Johnson has avoided just that. And now he says that, a year after the ruling came down, he needs a couple more months to think on it. From the AP:

The government made clear on Thursday it will not be rushed into deciding whether to regulate emissions linked to global warming, as the Supreme Court directed nearly a year ago.

Such action "could affect many (emission) sources beyond just cars and trucks" and needs to be examined broadly as to other impacts, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency wrote lawmakers.

Stephen Johnson said he has decided to begin the process by seeking public comment on the implications of regulating carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas, on other agency rules that cover everything from power plants and factories to schools and small businesses.

That process could take months and led some of his critics to suggest he was shunting the sensitive issue to the next administration.


The man continues to impress with his chutzpah.

From The Birmingham News:

Former Gov. Don Siegelman will be released from prison, after the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals granted him an appeal bond, the lead prosecutor in the case said.

Acting U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin said he received a courtesy call from the court today. "He's going to be released," Franklin said.

He said he was disappointed but said, "The 11th Circuit has the discretion to do that and I respect that."


Update: I just got off the phone with Hiram Eastland, one of Siegelman's lawyers, who said that today the appeals court had issued a "straightforward" four-page order simply finding that there were, indeed, "substantial questions" raised by Siegelman's appeal. The ruling overruled the controversial finding by the district judge in the case, which had sent Siegelman immediately to prison after his conviction. Eastland said that Siegelman could be released as early as tonight or tomorrow morning at the latest. "We're obviously very gratified that the court gave it that thoughtful consideration," he said. "The governor is coming home!"

Siegelman's release means, obviously, that the House Judiciary Committee won't have to go through the trouble of getting Siegelman released for him to testify.

From CQ:

Embattled Rep. Rick Renzi , R-Ariz., has asked a federal judge in Arizona to delay his scheduled April 29 trial on conspiracy, fraud, extortion and money laundering charges stemming from a land-swap deal.

Prosecutors will not oppose the Arizona lawmaker’s bid to have his trial deemed a “complex case,” which would allow more time to sort out motions, discovery and other pre-trial issues.

Renzi’s lawyers also said that because he is a sitting congressman who faces allegations related to his legislative activities, they would raise the issue of legislative privilege afforded by the Constitution’s Speech or Debate clause.

Dude! It's time to testify before Congress!

House sleuth Henry Waxman (D-CA) read the news today, oh boy. And he wants 22 year-old AEY President Efraim Diveroli, his 25 year-old VP (and masseur) David Packouz, and the company's general manager, also 25, to testify before Congress about how they managed to get a $300 million U.S. contract to supply (sometimes forty year-old) ammunition to the Afghan Army, among other contracts. Waxman also wants officials from the Department of Defense and Department of State to appear as well. He's set the date of April 17th.

Update: Here's a copy of the letter that the Army sent AEY on Tuesday, suspending any further contracts. The attached letter also runs through all of the contracts AEY won since 2004.

Hardly a week goes by where EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson isn't interrogated by lawmakers, sued by states and environmental groups, or undermined by his own angry staff. So you can understand the urge to get the hell out of Dodge.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), one of Johnson's main persecutors as the chair of the Senate environmental committee, has got wind that Johnson is leaving for a prolonged trip to Australia. She is, typically, dubious. "I understand that you and a substantial number of EPA staff members are planning a trip to Australia, and that this trip has made you unavailable to testify before this Committee on certain important matters through much of April," she writes in a letter to Johnson today.

And she wants to know a little more about it such as: what it's for. "If your goal is to learn about actions to address global warming, I suggest that you visit California, which has moved ahead aggressively with greenhouse gas controls," she writes, in a bit of irrepressible snark. Johnson, against the unanimous recommendation of his staff, has blocked California's attempt to institute tougher greenhouse gas limits on cars and trucks. Boxer also inquires about the cost of the trip, noting that Bush has proposed to cut $500 million from the EPA's budget next year.

My call to the EPA wasn't returned. But an environmental committee spokesperson said that Boxer's staff have heard that the trip will last for two weeks.

The full letter is below.

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Last week, the U.S. Attorney for Los Angeles disbanded his office's public corruption unit.

Current and former prosecutors from the office said that the move will hurt the office's ability to take on crooked pols (while LA USA Thomas O'Brien has argued the opposite). We also posted an email from a former prosecutor in the office saying that O'Brien may have handled the move badly (by reportedly threatening lawyers in the unit to stay quiet about the move), but he's "no Rachel Paulose."

Given that the major role that the LA office plays, however, (including its handling of the investigation of Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA)). Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) wants some answers about the move. So yesterday she sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey -- who, perhaps coincidentally, is giving a speech today in California about the Department's public corruption efforts.

You can read the letter in full below.

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The House Judiciary Committee will seek to hold a hearing where ex-Gov. Don Siegelman (D-AL), currently in a federal prison after conviction on bribery charges, will testify before the committee. A spokesperson for the committee told me that the panel has notified the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prisons of their intent, and that the official request to the Department would be forthcoming. The spokesperson said that the committee was hoping to hold the hearing sometime this spring.

The committee has already held one hearing on Siegelman's case, a hearing that featured one of Siegelman's former defense lawyers, Doug Jones. Jones testified that prosecutors had told him in 2004 after the collapse of one prosecution against Siegelman, that Justice Department officials had ordered them to "take another look at everything." An effort which ultimately resulted in the successful second prosecution -- a prosecution full of holes as 60 Minutes showed in its report last month.

Three anti-war U.S. lawmakers, Jim McDermott (D-WA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), and then-Representative David E. Bonior (D-MI), accepted travel to Iraq in October 2002 that had been secretly financed by Saddam Hussein's intelligence agency. The travel was arranged through a Michigan charity official who has been charged with "with setting up the junket for Hussein's government." None of the lawmakers have been charged with any misconduct and a DoJ spokesman says there's no evidence any of them knew that Hussein had backed the trip. (AP)

U.S. military leaders privately informed President Bush yesterday about their concerns that U.S. military forces have been strained by the long war in Iraq. The briefing was conducted in a secure room at the Pentagon referred to as "the tank." Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell remarked, "armed with all that, the president must now decide the way ahead in Iraq." (USA Today)

Puerto Rico Governor Anibal Acevedo-Vila has been implicated in a corruption probe involving federal campaign-finance crimes. Fund-raiser Robert M. Feldman and three other Philadelphians have also been charged. The governor was charged with conspiracy to violate federal campaign laws, wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the the IRS and filing a false tax return. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

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Courtesy of The New York Times, I'm proud to present to you a brand new member of the Bush Administration War Profiteer Hall of Shame: 22 year-old Efraim Diveroli, whose company AEY has been awarded approximately $300 million in contracts by the Pentagon.

How does a 22 year-old get a multi-million dollar defense contract? you ask. “AEY’s proposal represented the best value to the government," the Army tells the Times. (Never mind that AEY was headed by a guy who'd been busted by the police for carrying a fake ID.)

AEY's fattest contract came in January of last year, when a Pentagon contract made AEY, "which operates out of an unmarked office in Miami Beach,... the main supplier of munitions to Afghanistan’s army and police forces." AEY's VP is 25 and a licensed masseur. AEY also had a $5.7 million contract for rifles for Iraqi forces, among others.

As the Times found out, AEY fulfilled that contract by dealing with a variety of shady arms dealers (one Czech, one Swiss) to get their hands on ammo stockpiles in the old Eastern bloc. And as far as ensuring the quality of the munitions? Here's how it went in Albania:

Albania offered to sell tens of millions of cartridges manufactured as long ago as 1950. For tests, a 25-year-old AEY representative was given 1,000 cartridges to fire, according to Ylli Pinari, the director of the arms export agency at the time of the sale.

No ballistic performance was recorded, he said. The rounds were fired by hand.


Not surprisingly, the Afghan army has been unhappy with the product. AEY shipped the decades-old ammo in cardboard boxes -- apparently to save money on shipping charges. And the Times reports that the boxes arrived in Afghanistan spilling out of the boxes, "revealing ammunition manufactured in China in 1966." It's illegal to deal in Chinese arms.

In response to the Times' questions, the Army has suspended AEY "from any future federal contracting, citing shipments of Chinese ammunition and claiming that Mr. Diveroli misled the Army by saying the munitions were Hungarian."

But surely the most memorable details of the story (which is well worth reading in full) have to do with a kid trying to wiggle out of legal trouble on the basis of his work fighting terror:

By [2005, when Diveroli became president of the company at the age of 19, taking over from his father], pressures were emerging in Efraim Diveroli’s life. In November 2005, a young woman sought an order of protection from him in the domestic violence division of Dade County Circuit Court….

Mr. Diveroli sought court delays on national security grounds. “I am the President and only official employee of my business,” he wrote to the judge on Dec. 8, 2005. “My business is currently of great importance to the country as I am licensed Defense Contractor to the United States Government in the fight against terrorism in Iraq and I am doing my very best to provide our troops with all their equipment needs on pending critical contracts.”…

On Dec. 21, 2006, the police were called back to the condominium. Mr. Diveroli and AEY’s vice president, David M. Packouz, had just been in a fight with the valet parking attendant.

The fight began, the police said, after the attendant refused to give Mr. Diveroli his keys and Mr. Diveroli entered the garage to get them himself. A witness said Mr. Diveroli and Mr. Packouz both beat the man; police photographs showed bruises and scrapes on his face and back.

When the police searched Mr. Diveroli, they found he had a forged driver’s license that added four years to his age and made him appear old enough to buy alcohol as a minor. His birthday had been the day before.

“I don’t even need that any more,” he told the police, the report said. “I’m 21 years old.”


Diveroli would have been prohibited from dealing in contracts if he'd been convicted of possession of a forged document, which is a felony, the Times reports, but "to avoid a conviction on his record, Mr. Diveroli entered a six-month diversion program for first offenders in May 2007 that spared him from standing trial."

Unfortunately, it seems that AEY is unwinding with all this public attention:

[I]n Miami Beach, even before the suspension, AEY had lost staff members. Michael Diveroli, the company’s founder, told a reporter that he no longer had any relationship with the company. Mr. Packouz, who was AEY’s vice president, and Levi Meyer, 25, who was briefly listed as general manager, had left the company, too.

Mr. Meyer offered a statement: “I’m not involved in that mess anymore.”


So it seems pretty clear that Diveroli is a shoo-in for the Hall of Shame. But the question becomes whether he's in competition to be the champ. Is he competition for Erik Prince, Brent Wilkes?

Maybe it's a coincidence. But a little more than a week after the U.S. Attorney for Los Angeles created a stir by disbanding his office's public corruption unit, Attorney General Michael Mukasey will be giving a speech in California "to highlight the Department's efforts to investigate and prosecute public corruption" according to a press release.

The speech, sponsored by the Commonwealth Club, will be given at the Intercontinental Hotel Grand Ballroom in San Francisco.

So if last week's move sent a message to California politicians, it seems Mukasey is striving to send the opposite one.

TPMLivewire