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Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) continues his full-court press on Dick Cheney's claims to be exempt from oversight on how his office handles classified information. In a just-released letter (pdf) to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Waxman -- joined by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) -- asks after the status of a DOJ review requested by the head of the Archives' Information Security Oversight Office in January to settle the matter of whether the vice presidency resides in the executive branch:

Due to conflicting statements from your department, the status of your review in this matter is unclear. More than six months have passed since (ISOO Director J. William) Leonard's letter to you, and the Information Security Oversight Office has received no response to its inquiry. ... Last week, however, a spokesperson in the Department of Justice stated that this matter is under review in the department.

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And so it continues:

California GOP Rep. John Doolittle's former legislative director said Wednesday he was recently contacted by federal investigators in their probe of Doolittle's ties to jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Pete Evich, Doolittle's legislative director from 1998 to 2002 and now a lobbyist, told The Associated Press that he plans to talk to the Justice Department.

From the AP:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales met with federal prosecutors here Wednesday, where he caused an uproar by firing U.S. Attorney John McKay last December.

He also met with relatives of longtime Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales, who was shot to death at his Seattle home in October 2001. The murder remains unsolved, and Gonzales' now-former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, suggested in a congressional interview that the reason McKay was targeted for firing might have been that he was too aggressive in asking for additional resources to investigate the crime.

"Bringing those involved in his killing to justice is of the utmost importance to the (Justice) Department," Gonzales said in a statement issued Wednesday morning. "Together, we will work as long and hard as it takes to solve this crime and prosecute those responsible."

Gonzales has testified that he was not aware of DOJ officials using the Wales case as a reason to fire McKay, whose former office remains recused from the investigation. McKay has suggested that Sampson made up that explanation to disguise what might have been the real reason for McKay's firing: His decision not to bring election fraud charges in the extremely close 2004 governor's election in Washington state, won by Democrat Chris Gregoire after two recounts.

Ex-Gov. Don Siegelman (D-AL) is again questioning the motives and impartiality of the prosecutors who want to put him away for 30 years. And the prosecutors keep giving him good reason to.

Siegelman's sentencing hearing, which has extended into its second day today, has provoked his latest assertions.

His lawyers have also raised objections to prosecutors supporting their call for an extraordinarily tough sentence by using evidence connected to charges on which Siegelman was acquitted. Siegelman was charged with 32 counts, but acquitted of 25. According to the New York Times, Siegelman's lawyers have had it:

“The government is asking that he be penalized for every single thing he was charged with, whether he was acquitted or not,” said Susan James, a Siegelman lawyer. “The government drastically lost the case,” she said. “We strongly object to the court considering acquitted conduct.”

This is not the first time Siegelman has called his prosecution biased. He has long maintained that the investigation was based on a Republican vendetta. He's pointed to an affidavit signed by Republican lawyer Dana Jill Simpson to support his claim.

As we've detailed before, Simpson says she heard Bill Canary, a state GOP operative, say Karl Rove had promised to get the Justice Department on Siegelman. Canary also allegedly said he'd get his "girls" on Siegelman, referring to two of the US attorneys in the state.

One of those US attorneys is Canary's wife. After launching an investigation, she was forced to recuse herself from the case after objections from Siegelman's lawyers. The head prosecutor on Siegelman's case now, Acting US Attorney Louis V. Franklin, has claimed he has had complete independence from Canary. He even goes so far as to say he was solely responsible for Siegelman's case.

But there is reason to think he protests too much.

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The CIA's declassification of its "family jewels" -- decades-old files on scandals past -- may have attracted a ton of attention, but the Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon subpoenaed the Bush administration's family jewels: information on the origin and execution of President Bush's warrantless surveillance program. Circle July 18 on your calendars -- that's the compliance deadline. If it's not met, the committee will seek explanatory testimony from White House chief of staff Josh Bolton, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Cheney chief of staff David Addington, and National Security Counsel executive director V. Philip Lago.

The committee wants a ton of material: all documents from September 11, 2001 on the program's legality; the administration's filings to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court; deals reached between the administration and "telecommunications companies, internet service providers, equipment manufacturers, or data processors" on potential liability to these companies for complying with the program; everything from the now-famous Comey episode; and more. If the administration wants to assert privilege over any of the subpoenaed material or testimony, it must specify the basis of that assertion "in sufficient detail to ascertain the validity of the claim," rather than relying on blanket claims of congressional impertinence.

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The trigger is pulled. Breaking news from the AP:

The Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's office Wednesday for documents relating to President Bush's warrant-free eavesdropping program.Also named in subpoenas signed by committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., were the Justice Department and the National Security Council.

The committee wants documents that might shed light on internal squabbles within the administration over the legality of the program, said a congressional official speaking on condition of anonymity because the subpoenas had not been made public.

Leahy's committee authorized the subpoenas previously as part of its sweeping investigation into how much influence the White House exerts over the Justice Department and its chief, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Get ready for a huge court fight. The White House has already indicated it will challenge the subpoenas on the grounds that the executive branch has a right to receive confidential advice.

At an acrimonious hearing underway of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on the surge, retired Major General John Batiste, a former division commander in Iraq turned critic of the war, got on the administration's case for recently attributing most violence in Iraq to al-Qaeda. The audio gets a little screwy, but bear with us:

I also believe we cannot attribute all the violence in Iraq to al-Qaeda. There's a tendency now to lump it all together, and call it al-Qaeda. We have to be very careful with that. This is a very complex region. al-Qaeda is certainly a component. But there's larger components. al-Qaeda is a worldwide organization. It recognizes no national boundaries. And it's in areas where we ought to be focused.

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The latest development in ex-Rep. Tom DeLay's (R-TX) looooong, winding legal road: DeLay successfully argued to have a conspiracy charge dropped against him -- but he's still on the hook for money laundering charges. Today a state appeals court upheld an earlier district court ruling, the AP reports. To give you a sense of how fast they move down there in Texas, it took a whole year for the appeals court to deliver its ruling.

DeLay was indicted in September of 2005 by Austin District Attorney Ronnie Earle -- since then, both camps have been battling over the charges. A trial date has still not been set.

The charges here deal with accusations that DeLay helped funnel corporate political contributions (illegal in Texas) through his political committees to state candidates. DeLay is also reportedly under federal investigation for his ties to Jack Abramoff, but he has not been charged.

Apparently that letter from David Addingtion to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) yesterday really did constitute a wholesale retreat from the "fourth branch" argument. No more will you hear Cheney's lawyers claim that the vice president isn't in the executive branch, reports Mike Allen at The Politico:

The White House has no plans to reassert the argument there is any vice presidential distinction from the executive branch, the officials said.

Two senior Republican officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the rationale had been the view of the vice president’s lawyers, not Cheney himself.

But as Addington made clear in his letter this morning (by a transparently weak argument), that doesn't mean that the vice president will submit to review by the National Archives' Information Security Oversight Office. So the game's still on. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) is still planning a vote late today or tomorrow on cutting off the VP's office $4.8 million in executive-branch funding. We'll keep you updated as that approaches.

Those salmon never stood a chance.

As The Washington Post reports this morning in part four of the paper's series on Vice President Cheney, when the fate of some endangered salmon threatened Republican electoral prospects in Oregon, Cheney sprang into action. Farmers wanted water from the Klamath River basin diverted for irrigation, but federal biologists said that two species of fish were at stake. From the Post:

Bush and Cheney couldn't afford to anger thousands of solidly Republican farmers and ranchers during the midterm elections and beyond. The case also was rapidly becoming a test for conservatives nationwide of the administration's commitment to fixing what they saw as an imbalance between conservation and economics.

And as the Post details, Cheney reached deep into the Interior Department to make sure that the issue was dealt with.

But Karl Rove also weighed in -- in his own way. Just in case the vice president's heavy hand wasn't enough, Rove made sure that Department officials far and wide knew where the administration stood on the issue by way of one of his now famous PowerPoint presentations.

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