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The former chief executive of security contractor KBR has pleaded guilty to charges of bribing foreign officials. Albert Stanley paid Nigerian officials $182 million and in return, received contracts to build a $6 billion liquefied natural gas complex. Stanley faces a prison term of up to 7 years, and the SEC is considering an additional civil action against the firm. KBR is a former subsidiary of Hallburton. (New York Times)

Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is close to making a plea deal that would resolve months of uncertainty about the indicted mayor's future. Prosecutors expect Kilpatrick will make a guilty plea this morning. Kilpatrick has been indicted on eight felonies, including perjury. If Kilpatrick is convicted of any one of these felonies, then he will automatically be expelled from his office. (AP)

Federal judge Samuel Kent pleaded not guilty today to two counts of abusive sexual conduct and one count of aggravated attempted sexual abuse. The judge is accused of attempting to force a deputy court clerk to have oral sex, among other incidents of sexual coercion. Kent called the charges "flagrant" and "scurrilous" and promised "a horde of witnesses" in his defense. (AP)

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As we get ready for the big Sarah Palin speech tonight, it's worth taking a moment to step back from the charges of negligent vetting and media sexism, to focus on what really should be the heart of the issue.

The McCain campaign has presented Palin as a squeaky-clean reformer, who took on corruption in Alaska, and will help to bring a new brand of politics to Washington. But a flurry of reports over the last few days significantly undercut that image.

To be sure, Palin's claims to be a reformer aren't toally without merit. Before becoming governor, she went after the state GOP chair, Randy Ruedrich, for doing work for the party on public time and working closely with a company he was supposed to be regulating. She also filed a formal complaint against Attorney General Gregg Renkes for having investments in an energy company that stood to benefit from a state trade deal. Both Ruedrich and Renkes ultimately resigned their posts, and Ruedrich paid a $12,000 fine.

But let's look at the other side of the ledger. Both as mayor of Wasilla and as governor, Palin has aggressively sought federal earmarks, and has a friendlier relationship with indicted GOP senator Ted Stevens than one would expect for a good-government crusader. She has fired employees who she sees as disloyal. And, in a move reminiscent of the Bush-Cheney White House, she has stonewalled legitimate efforts by the legislature to uncover the truth in the Trooper-Gate affair.

Here's a sampling of reports that complicate Palin's reformist credentials:

  • Last year, Palin requested more earmarks per person than any other state -- including some that were criticized by McCain himself.

  • Even as mayor of Wasilla, Palin's pursuit of earmarks was aggressive. She oversaw the hiring of a Washington lobbyist -- who, as we reported yesterday, had ties to Jack Abramoff -- to go after federal pork.

  • And though Palin touted her opposition to the "Bridge to Nowhere" just last week in her debut speech, she initially supported the project during her run for governor. It was only after the bridge became notorious as an example of pork barrel spending that she changed her position.

  • In her run for governor, Palin was endorsed by now-indicted Sen. Ted Stevens. Video of the endorsement has been removed from her government website, but the two appeared together just two months ago at a press conference on energy. The friendly relationship between the embattled senator, who is accused of lying about gifts he recieved from an oil contractor, and the supposedly maverick governor is at odds with Palin's claim to dismantling the "old boys club" of Alaska government.

  • As Wasilla mayor, Palin reportedly fired the police chief and attempted to fire the librarian, because she did not feel that she had their "full support in [her] efforts to govern the city of Wasilla." Former city officials allege that the attempts to remove the librarian were a result of her her refusal to censor books at Palin's request.

  • Palin has been at the center of the Trooper-Gate scandal that alleges misuse of her gubernatorial power. The affair erupted in July when Palin fired the Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. Monegan later claimed his firing was a result of his refusal to fire Palin's former brother-in-law and trooper Mike Wooten. Palin denied that she, her husband or her staff ever pressured Monegan, a statement she later had to retract when recorded phone calls revealed one of her aides, Frank Bailey, had called a troopers office pushing for Wooten's removal.

  • Tonight, the Washington Post published emails from Palin to Monegan in which she appeared to complain that Wooten was still employed, apparently undercutting her claim that she discussed Wooten with Monegan only in the context of the security of her family.

  • As a result of the Trooper-Gate allegations, an independent investigator has been appointed by the state legislature. In recent days, Palin has appeared to stonewall the probe. Her lawyer argued in a complaint filed last night that she wold not be made available for her deposition unless the probe were handed over to the state personnel board, whose members are appointed by the governor. Bailey, who had been suspended by Palin with pay for his actions, today backed out of his deposition.

  • In a separate civil suit related to Wooten, Palin has claimed executive privilege on over a thousand emails between her and her staff, including Bailey.

Don't look now, but on the night of the biggest speech of her life, Sarah Palin's story on Trooper-Gate may be in the process of falling apart.

The Washington Post has obtained emails sent by Palin to then-Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, which show Palin complaining about the fact that trooper Jim Wooten -- who was embroiled in a family dispute with the Palins -- was still employed. The emails don't explicitly show Palin pressuring Monegan to fire Wooten -- but they do appear to undercut Palin's claim said that she only ever discussed Wooten with Monegan in the context of security concerns for her family.

Here's the Post's description of the key emails:

"This trooper is still out on the street, in fact he's been promoted," said the Feb. 7, 2007, e-mail sent from Palin's personal Yahoo account and written to give Monegan permission to speak on a violent-crime bill before the state legislature.

"It was a joke, the whole year long 'investigation' of him," the e-mail said. "This is the same trooper who's out there today telling people the new administration is going to destroy the trooper organization, and that he'd 'never work for that b****', Palin'.)

This isn't the first time that events have appeared to contradict Palin's story about her role in Trooper-Gate. Palin at first claimed that her administration did not put pressure on Monegan to fire Wooten. But after a phone recording surfaced in mid-August of Palin aide Frank Bailey raising the issue of Wooten's employment with a trooper official, she was forced to acknowledge her office's involvement, though she has continued to deny her personal role.

On the eve of his most recent sentencing tomorrow, infamous former lobbyist Jack Abramoff did his best to explain his scurrilous past actions to the court. In a letter to Federal Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, Abramoff described himself as "not a bad man . . . although to read all the news articles one would think I was Osama Bin Laden."

Last week, the prosecution asked for lenient sentencing for Abramoff on account of his cooperation with prosecution.

From Abramoff's letter:

. . . And almost every day of the two years I have been in jail, I have spent time thinking and worrying about how I might tell you and convince you that I understand my acts and have been doing all I can to make up for them.

. . . I am not a bad man (although to read all the news articles one would think I was Osama Bin Laden), but I didmany bad things. I lied to clients, even while working to get them the results they expected. I cheated my law firm and took advantage of public officials.

. . . If I ever can earn more than a mere living again, I will be paying back those I have harmed for the rest of my life.

Well he can always fall back on teaching.

As if we needed another sign that Sarah Palin has decided to stonewall the Trooper-Gate investigation, ABC News reports this afternoon that lawyers for her aide Frank Bailey have cancelled Bailey's scheduled deposition in the investigation .

Bailey is central to the case. In phone recordings released last month as part of a parallel probe by the state Attorney General, Bailey suggested that Palin and her husband wanted trooper Mike Wooten -- who has been embroiled in a messy family dispute with the Palins -- removed from his job.

"The Palins can't figure out why nothing's going on," Bailey told a trooper official. "I mean he's declared bankruptcy, his finances are a complete disaster, he's bought a new truck. All kinds of crazy stuff. He doesn't represent the department well. The community knows it, but no action is being taken."

This is by no means the first instance of foot-dragging on the legislature's investigation from Palin's camp since she was announced last week as John McCain's running mate. In a complaint filed last night to the Alaska Attorney General, Palin's lawyer suggested that Palin would not be made available for her deposition unless the investigation was taken out of the hands of the legislature and handed over to the state personnel board, who's three members are appointed by the governor. Sen. Hollis French, the Anchorage Democrat overseeing the probe, has said that he is willing to issue subpoenas if necessary.

We noted yesterday that the Justice Department Office of the Inspector General issued a report on the found that former Attorney Gen. Alberto Gonzales had mishandled classified documents during his time in office -- and that the DOJ had decided not to press charges.

But that doesn't seem to be half as bad as what CQ Politics' Jeff Stein dug up -- fact checking Gonzales' testimony to investigators with . . . well, the report's own stipulated facts.

From CQ Politics' SpyTalk:

But the IG report shows that Gonzales did more than "mishandle" his notes, which included operational details on what he himself, somewhat ironically, called -- after it had leaked -- "one of the most highly protected [programs] in the United States ... a very, very secretive, protected program," and correspondence between congressional Intelligence Committee leaders and CIA chief Gen. Michael Hayden.

In a statement that doesn't pass the laugh test, Gonzales told IG investigators he didn't know the documents were secret.

Gonzales said that he was unaware of the classification level and compartmented nature of the NSA program he referenced in the notes. Gonzales also stated he did not recall thinking that the notes themselves were classified.

But the IG found the smoking gun -- in Gonzales's hand, no less.

The envelope containing documents related to the NSA surveillance program bore the handwritten markings, "TOP SECRET - EYES ONLY - ARG" [the attorney general's initials] followed by an abbreviation for the SCI codeword for the program.

Inside the envelope, moreover, were "documents relating to a detainee interrogation program," which were all classified with cover sheets and markings in the top and bottom margins, as Top Secret/Sensitive Classified Information.

As part of a wide-ranging probe of corruption in Alaska politics, the FBI secretly taped over 100 phone calls involving indicted GOP senator Ted Stevens.

The revelations were contained in court filings made last night by Stevens' attorneys. Some of the FBI's recordings of phone conversations had already been made public during the corruption trials of other Alaska politicians, but the number of calls involving Stevens had not previously been known.

Stevens faces charges that he lied about gifts worth more than $250,000, including renovations to his home, that he received from Bill Allen, an oil contractor.

Stevens' attorneys appear likely to argue that the calls should not be admitted into evidence. They write in the filing that only conversations relating to people or topics named in a warrant can legally be recorded by the FBI, and Stevens was not named as a target. The FBI did not tap Stevens' phone, but did tap the phones of several contractors in the case.

McClatchy notes another strategy being pursued by the defense:

His lawyers also continued to press their case for throwing out the indictment based on the speech-or-debate clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars government prosecutors from using speeches and legislation introduced by members of Congress as evidence. Prosecutors said that evidence protected by legislative immunity granted by the Constitution was not shown to the grand jury that ultimately indicted Stevens.

Jury selection for the trial begins September 22, and the trial itself starts two days later. Stevens is also facing a tough re-election fight against Anchorage mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat.

Tom DeLay may be able to escape prosecution for money laundering, on the grounds that the Texas money laundering statute does not apply to checks, according to Republican justices in Texas. A panel of judges voted along party lines not to rehear a decision that would exempt checks from the definition of "funds" in the money laundering law. DeLay's attorneys believe that this will force prosecutors to dismiss charges against DeLay. (Houston Chronicle)

Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers demanded an explanation for why the Justice Department failed to pursue charges against former Attorney Gen. Alberto Gonzales following yesterday's release of an inspector general report concluding that Gonzales mishandled classified information. According to Conyers, the report clearly indicates that Gonzales violated department rules. (House Judiciary Committee)

A second U.S. after-battle investigation continues to contradict reports by Afghan officials, human rights groups, and the United Nations that large numbers of civilians were killed in a recent U.S. airstrike. The new U.S. investigation claims that between 30 and 35 Taliban militants were killed in the attack, along with seven civilians. The U.N. previously found "convincing evidence" that up to 90 civilians were killed. (AP)

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In the latest sign that Sarah Palin's promised cooperation with the Trooper-Gate investigation is failing to materialize, her lawyer is now demanding that the entire case be taken out of the hands of the independent prosecutor hired by Alaska lawmakers, and given over to a state personnel board -- whose three members were appointed by the governor herself.

In an unusual "ethics disclosure" filed last night, along with related documents, to the state Attorney General, Palin's lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, asked the personnel board to look into the firing of Walt Monegan, the former public safety commissioner at the center of the case. Van Flein also asked the legislature to drop its own investigation, contending that only the personnel board has jurisdiction over ethics. And he suggested that if the legislature didn't agree to hand the matter over to the personnel board, Palin would not be made available for a deposition.

Sen. Hollis French, the Anchorage Democrat in charge of the legislature's investigation, immediately told the Anchorage Daily News that the probe would go ahead as planned. French has said before that he is willing to issue subpoenas if necessary.

"We're going to proceed. If they want to proceed, that's perfectly within their right but it doesn't diminish our right to do so," he said.

The case concerns allegations that Palin improperly pressured Monegan to fire a state trooper who was embroiled in a family dispute with the Palin family, then fired Monegan when he refused to axe Wooten.

Van Flein, whose fee is being paid for by the state of Alaska, also used last night's complaint -- released the night before Palin is to speak as John McCain's vice presidential nominee at the Republican National Convention -- to put out information intended to paint the trooper, Jim Wooten, in a negative light, as well as to undercut Monegan's claims that the governor pressured him to fire Wooten.

In the words of the ADN, the complaint contends that:

"Monegan never told the governor or Todd Palin that Wooten had been disciplined over complaints brought by the family that included tasering his stepson, illegally shooting a moose and telling others that Heath would 'eat a f***ing lead bullet' if he helped his daughter get an attorney for the divorce."


"Recently, Wooten's supervisor intervened when he wouldn't return the children after a visit, the complaint says. Wooten warned his ex-wife he was going to get her and Palin, the complaint says. 'There is evidence suggesting that Wooten was following the governor,' it says."

Retracting past statements, the chair of the secessionist Alaska Independence Party told TPMmuckraker that they were mistaken in stating that Sarah Palin was once a member of their party -- but that her husband Todd, was.

"We searched for it everywhere, but we couldn't find anything to back up what we had been told by our source," Lynette Clark, chairman of the fringe third-party AIP told TPMmuckraker. "We made a mistake, but Todd definitely was a member of the party. We know that for sure."

Earlier today, TPMmuckraker posted that Todd was a member of the AIP party from 1995 to 2002.