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The White House is working with New Mexico's home-state GOP senator to pick its next U.S. attorney for that state, and is expected to submit their candidate for Senate approval, instead of unilaterally appointing him to an indefinite "interim" term.

"Yes," Matt Letourneau, a spokesman for New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici (R), told me when I asked him if his boss expected the White House to follow the official nomination process. "In our case there will not be an interim U.S. Attorney." He confirmed that the White House had asked Domenici to provide a list of names to consider for the position.

What's more, he said he expected the White House to follow Domenici's advice in selecting his state's next top prosecutor, instead of their own favorite. "They will nominate one of the four" candidates Domenici submitted, Letourneau said. "They didn't guarantee us, but we have no reason to think they won't."

It's a tenet of American justice that you have the right to face your accuser. But for several years, L. Paul Bremer -- the Bush administration's first point man in Iraq -- has avoided precisely that.

That may change in a couple weeks, in a hearing before the House Government Reform Committee, led by its new Democratic chairman Henry Waxman (CA).

During his time as head of the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority, Bremer was stalked by the United States' top fraud-buster in Iraq, Stuart Bowen, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. The two were like the cartoon Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote: Bowen -- Mr. Coyote -- would come after Bremer with ever more devastating reports of fraud, mismanagement, abuse and utter chaos within Bremer's operations; yet Bremer had a road-runner-like ability to escape every time. Indeed, he walked away with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Department of Defense award for Distinguished Public Service, and even the Nixon Library's "Victory of Freedom Award."

Both men have testified before Congress, but never at the same hearing, a fact confirmed for me by Bowen's press aide, Christine Belisle. That could soon change: Waxman has "invited" the two men to testify at a Feb. 6 hearing on a lingering issue from Bremer's tenure: how nearly $9 billion in reconstruction funds went missing -- or in audit-speak, was "disbursed. . . without accountability."

Bowen's spokeswoman assures me the inspector general will testify at Waxman's hearing. Mr. Bremer? Are you ready for your close-up?

Update: We've tried to reach Bremer through his speaking agent. If we hear anything we'll let you know.

There are hints that suggest the Bush administration might not fill all its forcibly-vacated U.S. Attorney slots by bypassing the traditional congressional approval process.

The unusual appointment of an unqualified Republican partisan to an Arkansas U.S. Attorney post has been held up by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and others to justify their concern over the administration's recent ousting of several top federal prosecutors.

Just look at the case of Tim Griffin, they say -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made the former Republican National Committee oppo research chief the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and Congress -- which normally must confirm such appointments -- won't do a damn thing about it.

But in at least one other case, there may be an indication that the White House could submit its nominee to congressional scrutiny.

For the soon-to-be-vacant U.S. Attorney posts in New Mexico the state's GOP senator has suggested replacements. In Griffin's case, the Arkansas delegation played no role in his selection.

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With a federal judge's order to serve 30 months in a minimum security prison, former Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) has received the longest sentence to date in the Jack Abramoff scandal.

He doesn't face much competition -- yet. Only one other figure has been sent to do time, former White House official David Safavian. He was sentenced to 18 months for four counts relating to obstructing the Abramoff investigation. (He's currently living at home, pending appeals.) Roger Stillwell, a former Interior Department official, was recently sentenced to 24 months' probation for accepting illegal gifts from Abramoff.



Of course, Ney won't hold the record for long. When Abramoff and his key co-consipirators are sentenced, they will likely receive several years apiece. Their sentencings have been delayed because they have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

When he's told them everything, prosecutors are expected to recommend a sentence of between 9 1/2 and 11 years for the disgraced GOP superlobbyist himself. Abramoff business partner and confidante Michael Scanlon faces five years in prison and millions in fines once he tells all; former lobbyist (and onetime Ney chief of staff) Neil Volz could also face five years, though he'll likely get far less. Tony Rudy, another former Abramoff associate, will likely face a sentence of two to two-and-a-half years, depending on his cooperation.

A judge has just sentenced Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) to 30 months. Prosecutors had recommended a 29 month sentence.

According to Fox News, the judge is sending him to a federal prison in Morgantown, West Virginia.

More soon.

Update: From the AP:

When he is released, the judge said, Ney will serve another two years on probation and pay a $6,000 fine. She also ordered him into a prison alcohol rehabilitation program for treatment of a drinking problem he has acknowledged in recent months.

The sentence was harsher than recommended by prosecutors or Ney's lawyers, Huvelle said, because Ney had violated the trust place on him as a public official. "Both your constituents and the public trusted you to represent them honestly," she said.

Last week, the Chinese sent a missile up into orbit and obliterated an old satellite of theirs, creating a speeding debris cloud that will threaten other satellites for years.

Why'd they do that? As The New York Times reports, the Bush administration has been working on a "a powerful ground-based laser weapon that would be used against enemy satellites." And they don't want to give it up:

In late August, President Bush authorized a new national space policy that ignored calls for a global prohibition on such tests. The policy said the United States would “preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space” and “dissuade or deter others from either impeding those rights or developing capabilities intended to do so.” It declared the United States would “deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests.”

The Chinese test “could be a shot across the bow,” said Theresa Hitchens, director of the Center for Defense Information, a private group in Washington that tracks military programs. “For several years, the Russians and Chinese have been trying to push a treaty to ban space weapons. The concept of exhibiting a hard-power capability to bring somebody to the negotiating table is a classic cold war technique.”


Ah, it's like 1986 all over again.

Times are bad for Brent Wilkes, one of the two defense contractors ex-Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) fingered for bribery in his plea deal.

According to a notice in a local paper in Poway, California, his mortgage company is putting his 99,000 square-foot corporate headquarters on the chopping block to collect unpaid debt. If Wilkes doesn't pay up, the property will be sold February 1st.

Wilkes was once a millionaire -- based on his success convincing Cunningham and other lawmakers to obtain federal funds for his many companies. But his business dried up after Cunningham pled guilty. He reportedly owes hundreds of thousands in property taxes, though somehow, he's found the money to pay a big-time criminal defense lawyer. So, anybody in the market for a corporate palace (shown at right, during happier times)? If nothing else, it's a building with history. Ah, the fundraisers. Ah, the raids.

Ed. Note: Thanks to TPMm Reader CC for the tip.

Journalist Ellen Ratner, writing on Rep. Bob Ney's (R-OH) behalf to the judge who will sentence him, reports on her conversations with the "many" lawmakers who "would like to support former Congressman Ney, but because of the political climate in Washington, they dare not."

One jewel in particular (read the full letter here):

One of the members I spoke with told me how much then-Congressmen Ney had cared, and how other members of Congress had done far worse things. That member told me that those members are getting off with fines and so forth, but Congressman Ney did not act in lockstep. His voting in congress angered the powers that be in the majority, and he is paying for it unfairly. [Her emphasis]


Hard to know where to start here. But I'll settle with the image of Ney stuffing his pockets with gambling chips in a London casino, a bribe from a Syrian businessman known as "The Fat Man."

From the AP:

The Pentagon has drafted a manual for upcoming detainee trials that would allow suspected terrorists to be convicted on hearsay evidence and coerced testimony and imprisoned or put to death.

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