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It's official: the FBI is looking into more than Sen. Ted Stevens' Veco-overseen remodeling project. Roll Call reports that the FBI and the Department of Interior are also looking into a series of earmarks for one of Stevens' pet projects.

The project, the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seaward, Alaska, has received some $50 million in federal money since 1998. One of Stevens' former aides, Trevor McCabe, was paid $558,000 of that money for an adjacent piece of land. Federal investigators want to know more about the arrangement.

It wasn't the only time that federal money found its way to McCabe's pocket. McCabe is also tied to the federal investigation of Stevens' son, former state Senate President Ben Stevens. The FBI raided the younger Stevens' offices last year, gathering documents related to his time on an Alaska board that handed out millions in federal grants to the seafood industry. While Stevens was on the board, he partnered with McCabe in a consulting company that took fees from the companies that received the federal money. The older Stevens saw to it that the board was stocked with federal funds.

If the three-pronged federal investigation into Stevens run by the IRS, FBI and Interior Department doesn't impress you, Roll Call mentions that the raid of a US senator's home is a historical moment in Congressional corruption: "Stevens appears to be the only member of the Senate to have ever had his residence raided by the FBI."

Another D.C. watchdog, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has joined the call for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) to relinquish his committee seats, this time focusing on Stevens' seat on the committee that funds the Justice Department. Says CREW director Melanie Sloan:

"Senators should follow the lead of their House colleagues and require anyone whose property has been searched in connection with a criminal probe to relinquish his plum committee post. Senator Stevens, who sits on the subcommittee responsible for funding the Justice Department, which is conducting a probe into his potentially criminal activities, should immediately resign his position on the Appropriations committee."


A similar situation occurred in the House earlier this year, where Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), who's been under federal investigation since last April, did not step down from his chairmanship of the panel that oversees the Justice Department's budget. Mollohan, however, recused himself from Department matters. That recusal has been called into question, however. Roll Call reported (sub. req.) yesterday that Mollohan nevertheless voted against an amendment last week that would have increased the FBI's budget by $6 million.

Below is the letter the nonpartisan D.C. watchdog Taxpayers for Common Sense sent to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) this morning asking that Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) get the temporary boot from his committee seats.

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Did Alberto Gonzales lie? Or were his "narrowly crafted answers, while legalistic,... technically correct"?

Yesterday, Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, gave an 80-minute briefing to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and a few other senators about the NSA wiretapping program and its history, the first he's ever received, reports The Washington Post.

It's unclear whether Specter, who aggressively questioned Gonzales during last week's hearing, was convinced by what he heard. But he's said that he expects a letter from the administration at around noon today on the subject, which will be addressed to both Specter and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and released to the press. We'll bring it to you as soon as it's available.

As The Hill reports, "Tuesday’s letter may hold the key to Gonzales’s future. Specter has so far refrained from joining Democrats’ effort to unseat the attorney general and held off on judging the current flap."

Note: It's really not clear from Specter's statement what this letter is about -- whether noon is an ultimatum set by him, or whether it will serve as the public explanation from the administration for Gonzales' testimony. We'll just have to wait and see.

Two dozen FBI and the IRS agents took a close look yesterday at the infamous remodeling job overseen by Veco Corp. that doubled the size of Sen. Ted Stevens' (R-AK) home, snagging him in the widening probe into Alaska political corruption .

The Anchorage Daily News has the colorful details.

The agents were at Stevens' improved home in the small town of Girdwood with curtains drawn well into the night -- collecting evidence and shooting photos and video of the house and neighboring property. The FBI and IRS declined to comment on the raid, but a reporter perched outside Stevens' home got a pretty good idea of what was going on:

The agents were obviously cataloging the house and its fixtures, from light switches and electrical outlets to a big stainless steel barbecue grill on a second-floor deck that neighbors said was hoisted there with a crane. At one point, agents climbed on the pitched metal roof to take pictures of heat tape in the gutters.

One agent carried a full large black garbage bag out of the house and put it in the white truck.

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After reports came out that the research findings of Bush's previous surgeon general might have been stifled by one William Steiger, Rep. Waxman (D-CA) asked to see exactly what changes had been made to official documents. Yesterday, Waxman wrote that the report written by former SG Richard Carmona "thoughtfully covers a wide range of global health topics. Mr. Steiger’s draft ignores or glosses over serious global health problems and emphasizes the achievements and policies of the Bush Administration." (The Gavel)

Democrats are at the final push to pass an ethics and reform bill that was unveiled Monday before the start of the August break. The bill focuses mostly on lobbying, but the idea of an independent Office of Public Integrity that could bring charges against violators has unfortunately been scrapped. (Roll Call)

June 3, 2008. According to the New Yorker, this might be the most important date in next year's election. That's because a California ballot-initiative will be voted on that, if passed, will award electoral votes by district, rather than as a winner-take-all block for the entire state. The likely result would be a swing of as many as twenty California electoral votes to the party who usually loses the bid for the state; we'll give you two guesses who that is. (New Yorker)

"You could open an ice rink between the buildings." That's how one Mueller aide describes the current relationship between the FBI and main Justice after Mueller gave testimony that undermined that of the Attorney General. Via ThinkProgress. (NY Daily News)

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From the Anchorage Daily News:

Federal law enforcement agents are currently searching the Girdwood home of Alaska U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, an FBI agent said.

"All I can say is that agents from the FBI and IRS are currently conducting a search at that residence," said Dave Heller, the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Anchorage office. The search began this afternoon, he said.


That's the same home, of course, that was doubled by a renovation undertaken in 2000 -- the contractor, curiously, was Veco, the corrupt oil company. Veco, prosecutors have pointed out "was not in the business of residential construction or remodeling." And that's not all that's curious about the renovation.

The New York Times, citing current and former government officials, reported this weekend that the 2004 dispute over the NSA's surveillance program concerned data mining (how? why? we still don't know). "If the dispute chiefly involved data mining, rather than eavesdropping," the paper reported, "Mr. Gonzales’ defenders may maintain that his narrowly crafted answers, while legalistic, were technically correct."

But House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers' (D-MI) eyebrow is raised. In a letter to Alberto Gonzales today, he wondered about the timing of these leaks:

...W]e are concerned that this disclosure, stemming from “current and former officials briefed on the program,” may simply be an effort to respond via Administration leak of potentially classified information designed to rehabilitate previous controversial testimony by you. In this regard, we would inquire whether you or anyone in your front office has any knowledge or involvement in these leaks, and if so, who and the nature thereof.


In 2005, when the Times first reported the existence of the NSA warrantless wiretapping program, the Justice Department promptly launched a criminal investigation of the leaks. Conyers, clearly, is wondering whether these leaks (which are rather more favorable to the administration) will receive the same scrutiny.

Conyers also asks again for background materials on the wiretapping and program -- as he has been since the beginning of this year.

Dick Cheney musters his vanishing popularity on behalf of Alberto Gonzales:

Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that he is a "big fan" of embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

In a interview with CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller, the vice president also said Gonzales has been truthful in his testimony before Congress.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy, a Democrat, has said he doesn't trust Gonzales, but Cheney said the attorney general has the support of the only man who really counts.

"I've had my differences with Pat Leahy," Cheney said. "I think the key is whether or not he (Gonzales) has the confidence of the president — and he clearly does."


You can listen to the clip here:

This weekend has seen a flurry of Gonzales' related news, with The New York Times doing its fair share. We'll be covering it all in depth, but here's a nice little sentence that might get lost in the shuffle: "Mr. Gonzales is expected to be sidelined from any significant part in the debate on Capitol Hill this summer over legislation eagerly sought by the administration to update terrorist surveillance laws." (NY Times)

Gonzales last week wasn't just testifying about visiting John Ashcroft or firing U.S. Attorneys. He was also insisting that when he had testified previously that there had been no FBI abuses of the Patriot Act, what he had meant was that there had been no "intentional, deliberate misuse of the Patriot Act." Apparently, he forgot about this one. (Washington Post)

Via War and Piece: The Senate Judiciary is planning to listen to the testimony of another former Justice Department official. Jack Goldsmith, former chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, will make an appearance in the upcoming weeks. Odds are Goldsmith won't be Gonzales' biggest fan; while at the Department, he wrote the opinion that challenged the legality of the NSA eavesdropping program in 2004. (Newsweek)

Senator Leahy (D-VT) reiterated his statements that Gonzales must clarify his testimony or face further consequences that might include a special prosecutor or direct Congressional action. (Associated Press)

The New York Times has tried to shed some light on the semantic parsing that is Gonzales' testimony; they reported this weekend that the unspoken "other intelligence activities" have some something to do with the well-known (but never officially unacknowledged) NSA data-mining program. (NY Times)

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