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Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) told the Associated Press that the ongoing federal probe into his dealings with oil services company Veco could have ramifications at the polls:

"The worst thing about this investigation is that it does change your life in terms of employment potential," Stevens said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It doesn't matter what anyone says, it does shake you up. If this is still hanging around a year from November, it could cause me some trouble."


Stevens also commented on his home remodeling project overseen by Veco that's reportedly of interest to investigators:

"I'm working to get this concept out of my mind that someone is trying to make something illegal out of all this, That's what's really disturbing."


While Stevens was in Washington, Veco executives made sure his house was safely ratcheted off the ground and a new first story slipped in.

This weekend the annual Kenai River Classic brought together members of Congress, like Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), and heads of major defense companies to help raise $1 million for Alaska salmon habitat preservation.

The 200 or so participants (who each contributed at least $4,000) were shown a good time. They fished the Kenai River for giant king salmon where a hospitality boat handed out bloody marys and cigars and they wined and dined along the riverfront. The Anchorage Daily News has two great photos you can see here.

The annual event has gone on for 14 years, drawing major corporations as donors, including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing and the heavily-investigated BAE Systems.

But some locals have piped up about the invitational, saying it does more harm than good. This year, the Kenai Area Fisherman's Coalition took out an opposition ad in the print edition of the local paper to complain about the environmental and community damage caused by the event. You can see the print ad here. The group, which includes 10 fish biologists, calls the message of the fundraiser disingenuous, arguing that the money ends up promoting non-sustainable growth along the river, ultimately hurting the habitat. The alliance is also rallying against the murky politicking taking place.

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The White House hasn't been in much of a waiving mood lately, but it's worth a shot.

In a letter today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) asked President Bush to waive executive privilege for any aides who might testify before the committee this Wednesday about Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence. As Conyers notes, "When President Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich stirred its own controversy back in 2001, former President Clinton took the forthright step of waiving Executive Privilege and permitting some of his closest aides to testify about the facts of the matter." Conyers wants the same deal for his hearing this Wednesday.

The full letter is below.

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Last week, the judge presiding over Scooter Libby's case said he was confused: the president's commutation of Libby's sentence had eliminated the jail time, but left in place the two-year period of supervised release that was to follow incarceration. By law, supervised release follows a prison sentence .It wasn't immediately clear how to deal with that, so the judge asked the two parties to weigh in on how they thought this should be resolved. There have been whispers that Libby might not even have to serve his two years of probation as a result of the discrepancy.

Today, White House counsel Fred Fielding wrote Patrick Fitzgerald in an effort to clear this up. When the president said "supervised release," he meant it, no matter if that clashes with the law. The president's commutation power would "unmistakably govern," Fielding wrote. You can read the letter here.

So here's yet another instance of shadiness to add to the BAE bribery scandal.

Up until December, the British Government's Serious Fraud Office had a wide-ranging corruption investigation open into alleged kickbacks paid by defense giant BAE Systems to prominent Saudi officials -- including, allegedly, Prince Bandar, the ex-ambassador to the U.S. -- in order to secure a multi-billion arms deal. Suddenly, then-PM Tony Blair announced an abrupt end to the SFO inquiry, citing unspecified national security concerns. And while the inquiry ended, the stain on BAE's reputation by the probe was enough to push the Justice Department into opening its own corruption investigation of the company ahead of its scheduled purchase of a U.S. armor manufacturer.

But it may be that Blair wasn't so worried about the probe's effect on British national security. It turns out BAE is negotiating a whole new arms sale to the Saudis -- something very lucrative for the British government. The deal would send 60 Hawk trainer jets to Saudia Arabia and establish a multi-year partnership between the Royal Air Force and its Saudi counterpart for training pilots worth "billions of pounds."

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OK, so the White House and Congress are locked in a pitched battle over the testimony of key aides. But that doesn't mean Democrats have to be mean about it.

Some highlights from White House counsel Fred Fielding's letter to the House and Senate judiciary committees this morning:

Let me begin by conveying a note of concern over your letter's tone and apparent direction in dealing with a situation of this gravity. We are troubled to read the letter 's charge that the President's "assertion of Executive Privilege belies any good faith attempt to determine where privilege truly does and does not apply." Although we each speak on behalf of different branches of government, and perhaps for that reason cannot help having different perspectives on the matter, it is hoped you will agree, upon further reflection, that it is incorrect to say that the President's assertion of Executive Privilege was performed without "good faith."...

One final observation underscores the preordained futility of any White House compliance with this demand. When your letter states that your Committees ''will take the necessary steps to rule on [the President 's] privilege claims and appropriately enforce our subpoenas" and that the Committees will enforce their subpoenas "[wjhether or not [they] have the benefit of the information" (emphasis added), only one conclusion is evident: the Committees have already prejudged the question, regardless of the production of any privilege log. In such circumstances, we will not be undertaking such a project, even as a further accommodation."


Fielding gravely concludes: "And I likewise convey the President's request that further interbranch relations in this matter be distinguished by respect for the constitutional principles of both institutions and marked by a presumption of goodwill on all sides."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) replies:
"We are extremely disappointed with the White House letter. While we remain willing to negotiate with the White House, they adhere to their unacceptable all-or-nothing position, and now will not even seek to properly justify their privilege claims. Contrary to what the White House may believe, it is the Congress and the Courts that will decide whether an invocation of Executive Privilege is valid, not the White House unilaterally."


Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is more to the point (and, well, a little mean):
“I have to wonder if the White House’s refusal to provide a detailed basis for this executive privilege claim has more to do with its inability to craft an effective one."

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) shared his thoughts on his job as a member of Congress with the Anchorage Daily News:

"When you are chairman of a committee, you represent the whole nation; you don't represent one district, which is in my case is one state," Young said. "Earmarks are good for the country and good for the people you represent.

"That is the role of a congressman. If you can't get money for your district, you shouldn't be in Congress," he said.


And when you're tired of rolling pork home, send it to Florida.

The White House makes it official.

You can read Fred Fielding's letter here.

From the AP:

President Bush invoked executive privilege Monday to deny requests by Congress for testimony from two former aides in connection with the firings of federal prosecutors.

The White House, however, did offer again to make former counsel Harriet Miers and one-time political director Sara Taylor available for private, off-the-record interviews.

In a letter to the heads of the House and Senate Judiciary panels, White House counsel Fred Fielding insisted that Bush was acting in good faith and refused lawmakers' demand that the president explain the basis for invoking the privilege.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said on CNN's "Late Edition" that he may call Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to testify about his prosecution of Scooter Libby. (Bloomberg)

The benchmarks set forth in January by President Bush for the Iraqi government are becoming a problem for the Bush administration, as al-Maliki’s government appears to make little progress in reaching these goals. Instead, the administration is preparing an interim report due next week that will highlight “alternative” achievements. (Washington Post)

Approximately one-quarter of of the leadership positions at the Department of Homeland Security are unfilled, causing concern about the coverage of an agency staffed with providing counter-terrorism measures. (Washington Post)

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A 25-year veteran of the Justice Department writes in The Denver Post today to remind everybody what it's all about:

As a longtime attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, I can honestly say that I have never been as ashamed of the department and government that I serve as I am at this time.

The public record now plainly demonstrates that both the DOJ and the government as a whole have been thoroughly politicized in a manner that is inappropriate, unethical and indeed unlawful. The unconscionable commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's sentence, the misuse of warrantless investigative powers under the Patriot Act and the deplorable treatment of U.S. attorneys all point to an unmistakable pattern of abuse.

In the course of its tenure since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has turned the entire government (and the DOJ in particular) into a veritable Augean stable on issues such as civil rights, civil liberties, international law and basic human rights, as well as criminal prosecution and federal employment and contracting practices. It has systematically undermined the rule of law in the name of fighting terrorism, and it has sought to insulate its actions from legislative or judicial scrutiny and accountability by invoking national security at every turn, engaging in persistent fearmongering, routinely impugning the integrity and/or patriotism of its critics, and protecting its own lawbreakers. This is neither normal government conduct nor "politics as usual," but a national disgrace of a magnitude unseen since the days of Watergate - which, in fact, I believe it eclipses.


There's a reason you don't typically hear from lawyers who are still with the Department. And that's because if there's one thing at which this administration has proven itself reliable, it's their their consistency in attacking critics. John Koppel, the author of the op-ed, is mindful:

I realize that this constitutionally protected statement subjects me to a substantial risk of unlawful reprisal from extremely ruthless people who have repeatedly taken such action in the past. But I am confident that I am speaking on behalf of countless thousands of honorable public servants, at Justice and elsewhere, who take their responsibilities seriously and share these views. And some things must be said, whatever the risk.

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