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That's from Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D-NY) opening statement at the hearing, as he made a point of saying that the Senate Judiciary Committee's fight is not with Sara Taylor, but "with the White House," which, he said, had issued a "gag order" in the form of an assertion of executive privilege.

Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-PA) said that he hoped that the committee would not seek to cite Taylor with contempt for refusing to answer questions that the president claimed was protected by privilege.

Sara Taylor, until recently Karl Rove's former aide at the White House, will begin her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a matter of minutes.

You can see Taylor's opening statement here. In it, she says that she intends "to follow the President's instruction" and not testify about conversations she had at the White House about the U.S. attorney firings. However, there may still be certain questions she can answer:

"While I may be unable to answer certain questions today, I will answer those questions if the courts rule that this committee's need for the information outweighs the president's assertion of executive privilege...

I look forward to answering those questions not covered by the President's assertion of executive privilege."


We'll bring you updates as the hearing (which will probably be relatively short) continues.

Update: For those wanting to watch, the hearing is on C-Span3 and streaming from the committee's website.

The FBI is looking to clean up its act after repeated allegations that the agency abused its newfound Patriot Act powers. Instead of the agency illegally holding information about American citizens, the FBI wants to pay private firms to hold it for them. Additionally, the FBI is now using its data-mining software to sort through records on identity theft, real estate transactions, car accidents, etc. to profile Americans as potential terrorists. Sen. Leahy has already expressed that such a database is “ripe for abuse”. (ABC’s The Blotter, USA TODAY)

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) is keeping his options open. A spokesman for Calvert said the lawmaker will not rule out selling his illegally procured land back to the company that originally sold him the land. A grand jury concluded that water and sewer company Jurupa Community Services District violated California law when it sold four acres of public land to Calvert and investment partners before offering it first to public agencies. (The Hill)

Louisiana senator and marriage advocate David Vitter (R) has been keeping a low profile since yesterday’s announcement that he was once a patron of the D.C. Madam. But now the “Canal Street Madam” is rising to defend him, claiming that the Senator occasioned her New Orleans brothel and was nothing but a gentleman. (The Hill, Times-Picayune)

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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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