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Admit it: when George W. Bush is gone, you're going to miss him. Who else would politicize the surgeon general's office? Who else would embed junk science into a mostly ceremonial post? And who else could turn a congressional hearing into strengthening that sinecure into an exploration of political corruption?

Yesterday, Richard H. Carmona, U.S. surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about the Bush-inflicted horrors he experienced during his tenure. Some of Carmona's experience will be familiar to administration-watchers, like a dismissal of global warming as "a liberal cause" by senior officials. Health and Human Services cronies struck references to stem-cell research from his speeches while instructing him to mention President Bush three times on every page. Come election time, the nation's doctor was to prescribe voting for the GOP ticket.

Other aspects are more inventive, even for President Bush. Consider the case of the Special Olympics:

And administration officials even discouraged him from attending the Special Olympics because, he said, of that charitable organization’s longtime ties to a “prominent family” that he refused to name.

“I was specifically told by a senior person, ‘Why would you want to help those people?’ ” Dr. Carmona said.

The Special Olympics is one of the nation’s premier charitable organizations to benefit disabled people, and the Kennedys have long been deeply involved in it.

When asked after the hearing if that “prominent family” was the Kennedys, Dr. Carmona responded, “You said it. I didn’t.”

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If at first Rahm doesn't succeed, try, try again in the Senate.

This afternoon, a Senate appropriations panel chaired by Dick Durbin (D-IL) stripped $4.8 million out of Vice President Cheney's budget for not complying with security rules for classified information. The move -- on a day consumed by Iraq -- came two weeks after a previous effort in the House by Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) failed. It's unclear if the move will survive a full Appropriations Committee vote, but if Cheney wants his money back, all he needs to do is allow the National Archives' Information Security Oversight Office to perform a few unobtrusive inspections. Don't hold your breath, though.

It gets thornier.

Tomorrow, the House Judiciary Committee will vote to authorize subpoenas against the Republican National Committee for emails relevant to the U.S. attorney firings. The RNC, you'll remember, provides email to a number of White House aides, including Karl Rove and his staff.

Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) requested the emails back in April, and yesterday, he got his final answer from the RNC, via the White House: no. In a letter to the RNC's counsel, White House special counsel Emmet Flood wrote that the RNC emails, since they involved White House officials, were covered by the president's assertion of executive privilege last week. The RNC has said that it will abide by the White House's direction. You can see Flood's letter to the RNC here.

The committee's subpoena, if issued later, would add yet another dimension to the fight over documents and testimony and yet another test, if the battle goes to court, of the president's claim of privilege.

Note: House oversight committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) has also been conducting an investigation of the White House's off-the-record email system.

Former White House counsel Harriet Miers will comply with the president's assertion of executive privilege, her lawyer wrote the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. Nevertheless, Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and subcomittee Chairwoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA) have asked Miers to appear anyway.

The committee subpoenaed Miers last month, ordering her to appear this Thursday. In a letter to Conyers yesterday, Miers' lawyer George Manning wrote that Miers is "subject to conflicting commands, with Congress demanding the production of information that the Counsel to the President has informed her she is prohibited from disclosing." He went on, overstating the president's power to stop Miers from testifying:

Ms. Miers is, of course, respectful of her obligations to respond appropriately to the subpoena issued and served upon her. In these circumstances, however, as I am sure you know, Ms. Miers has no choice other than to comply with direction given her by Counsel to the president in his letters mentioned above. This is particularly so because, as the members of the Committee are aware, the assertion of the privilege in this circumstance is supported by the thorough and reasoned opinion of the Solicitor General of the United States....

Accordingly, and will all due respect, I must inform you that in light of the President's assertion of Executive Privilege, Ms. Miers cannot provide the documents and testimony that the Committee seeks.


As I reported yesterday, Miers does in fact have a choice. She could choose to defy the president's direction, though the move would certainly send the battle to court. You can read Manning's letter here.

Conyers was straightforward in his reply, saying that he was just writing to confirm that Miers would be appearing Thursday:
I understand from your letter that Ms. Miers may decline to produce documents or answer questions based on your interpretation of letters you have received from the White House, and those claims will be considered at the hearing, but it is of course incumbent on Ms. Miers to appear at the hearing pursuant to the subpoena.


Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has taken the same approach to Karl Rove's former aide Sara Taylor, who's scheduled to appear before his committee tomorrow.

From The San Diego Union-Tribune:

Mark Geragos, the high-profile lawyer for indicted Poway defense contractor Brent Wilkes, was removed from the case by a federal judge yesterday because he refused to go through a background check that would allow him to see classified information.


Wilkes, remember, is accused of bribing Dusty Foggo, the former executive director of the CIA. Without access to classified information, Geragos couldn't represent his client, prosecutors said. But Geragos, who represented Michael Jackson, Gary Condit, and other celebrities, took a stand, telling the judge, “I am just not going to, under any circumstances, submit myself to a security clearance so I can represent my client in federal district court." So the judge tossed him off the case. The Union-Trib says that Geragos may appeal.

That puts Wilkes, who's indicted for bribing Duke Cunningham in addition to Foggo, in a jam. Before Cunningham went down in 2005, Wilkes was swimming in government contracts. But it's been a long time, and Geragos, you can be sure, doesn't come cheap. Wilkes told the judge that his resources were "stretched beyond the point of breaking," the SDUT reports.

But that wasn't all the bad news Wilkes had yesterday.

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Former Gov. Don Siegelman (D-AL) won't have to pay $118,000 in restitution on charges of which he was acquitted, the judge overseeing his case decided.

Originally, Siegelman had been ordered to pay the money to reimburse the state for losses based on a warehouse scandal. A jury acquitted Siegelman of charges relating to that scandal, but the prosecution pressed for punishment during the sentencing portion of the trial. The judge changed his mind yesterday, siding with Siegelman's lawyers.

The prosecution's decision to push for a harsher sentence based on the warehouse scandal and a variety of other charges of which Siegelman was acquitted sparked outrage from the defense lawyers. Siegelman's supporters pointed to the decision as more evidence of a political vendetta behind the initial investigation.

Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) has sent a letter to the head of the House Judiciary Committee asking that the case be looked into as part of the broader investigation into the politicization of the Justice Department.

Following up on today's Washington Post bombshell that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales knew about abuses of FBI counterterrorism powers years before a Justice Department inspector general's report earlier this year, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said the misdirection went beyond Alberto Gonzales' spoken testimony before Congress in 2005 and then again in April of this year. The Justice Department had misled Congress in written responses to questions for the record as well, which were provided to Congress just last week. For instance, a response, signed by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard Hertling, read:

"Prior to the release of the Inspector General's report on March 9, 2007, the Inspector General provided drafts of the report for classification and factual review. Upon learning of the findings contained in the report, the Attorney General was concerned, promptly ordered a detailed review of the report's findings and recommendations, and directed senior Department officials, including officials at the FBI, to address the shortcomings identified in the Inspector General's report."


Unless "prior" means "two years before," the DOJ's reply to the committee neglects to mention that Gonzales received numerous alerts as to FBI abuses of the sort the inspector general found.

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A press release just out from Kim Dower, Larry Flynt's spokesperson:

Larry Flynt's ongoing investigation into the dirty secrets of prominent elected officials has exposed another hypocrite. Monday's confession of marital infidelity by GOP right-wing marriage-protection advocate Senator David Vitter of Louisiana was the result of a multi-pronged investigation launched and run by Larry Flynt, publisher of HUSTLER Magazine.

Within hours of a phone call from the offices of HUSTLER Magazine asking Vitter to comment on an article HUSTLER reporters were working on, Vitter ran to the Associated Press in an attempt to get ahead of the story.

As of 2 p.m. West Coast time on Monday, only Larry Flynt and the HUSTLER investigative team knew that Vitter¹s phone number appeared on the phone records of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam. Within hours of obtaining the phone records, Flynt¹s team found what ABC News has so far been unable to ferret out. Flynt's team is currently continuing its investigation into improprieties by other high-ranking elected officials.

Senator Vitter, a churchgoing Catholic who is married and has four children, is seen as a hard-line right-winger. A staunch supporter of President Bush, Vitter has built his reputation on family-values platforms such as marriage protection and abstinence-only programs.

In opposition to same-sex marriage, Vitter recently stated, "Marriage is a core institution of societies throughout the world and throughout history. It's something that has provided permanence and stability for our very social structure."

Sen. Vitter announced his support for Rudy Giuliani in March and was tapped by the presidential nomination candidate to serve as his Southern Regional Chair.


Update: Here's more on this from Justin over at the Blotter.

Update: So maybe Vitter doesn't have such a blind faith in the Fourth Estate. Oh well.

It wasn't immediately apparent from the stories yesterday, but Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) showed great faith in the Fourth Estate yesterday, admitting to being a customer of the D.C. madam as a sort of preemptive measure. The madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, released her business' phone records to the press last week and uploaded the records to her website (currently down) yesterday. Apparently Vitter thought it was just a matter of time before some muckraker found him out.

Update: Actually, Hustler Magazine says it was behind Vitter's sudden statement.

Vitter's statement only admits obliquely that Vitter's number was on one of Palfrey's old lists. The AP's New Orleans' bureau apparently received the statement yesterday, and then spent some time trying to confirm its authenticity. "Vitter's spokesman, Joel Digrado, confirmed the statement Monday evening in an e-mail to The Associated Press," according to an early version of the wire story.

No one seems to know when (or how often) Vitter used the service; all his statement says is that it was "prior to his running for the U.S. Senate" in 2004. He'd been a congressman since 1999, and Palfrey's records date back to 1996. The AP still hadn't seen the records as of last night, since reporters were "unable to connect to Palfrey's website."

The records contain thousands upon thousands of numbers without names. Most of the recent records, dating from 2002 to 2006, were released to ABC News back in March; a team of researchers set to matching the numbers to names. Jeff Schneider, a spokesman for ABC News, said that they had not found Vitter's number in those records. "With the release of a full ten years of records, it seems clear that his number came up in one of the records we did not have access to," he told me.

As for now, the race is on for who can pile up the most vividly hypocritical quote from the family values (or as he put it, "Louisiana values") conservative. In the running: Sen. Vitter maligning the "Hollywood left" for violating the "sanctity of marriage," and Vitter arguing that President Clinton should step down for his extramarital affair (Vitter, by the by, replaced Rep. Bob Livingston (R-LA) after the speaker was forced to step down because of an affair). There are, you can be sure, many more. Glenn Greenwald has a rundown here.

Update: The prevailing quote of the day seems to be this one:

In 2000, Vitter was included in a Newhouse News Service story about the strain of congressional careers on families.

His wife, Wendy, was asked by the Newhouse reporter: If her husband were as unfaithful as Livingston or former President Bill Clinton, would she be as forgiving as Hillary Rodham Clinton?

“I’m a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary,” Wendy Vitter told Newhouse News. “If he does something like that, I’m walking away with one thing, and it’s not alimony, trust me.”

“I think fear is a very good motivating factor in a marriage,” she added. “Don’t put fear down.”

The federal government has been very good to two of Sen. Ted Stevens' (R-AK) business partners, Leonard Hyde and Jonathan Rubini, reports (sub. req.) John Stanton of Roll Call.

In 2004, Stevens slipped them a $3.5 million earmark for an empty plot of land in Anchorage that was to be used by the National Archives and Records Administration. The deal meant $2 million profit for Hyde and Rubini.

What's happened since the initial windfall for Stevens' business partners? Not much:

Since the land deal was finished, federal funding has slowed significantly for the project. Despite a price tag of at least $29 million in construction costs, Stevens appears to have taken only modest interest in securing funding for the project since the land transfer. Stevens set aside $3 million in 2005 for site preparation, while the archives earmark diminished to just $1.9 million last year.

However, according to a May 11, 2007, Anchorage Daily News story, $290,000 tagged for the construction has been reprogrammed for a new speed-skating-rink project being planned next to the NARA land. Stevens also secured a $940,000 earmark specifically for the skating rink in 2004, according to the story.

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