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A judge may rule today on the effort by five Alaska Republican lawmakers to stop the Trooper-Gate investigation, reports the Anchorage Daily News.

The lawmakers, who are being aided by a conservative law firm affiliated with James Dobson's Focus on the Family, filed suit in mid September, arguing that the probe has been "tainted" by partisan politics. In a court filing, reports the ADN, a lawyer for the legislators overseeing the investigation asserted that the GOP lawmakers are "engaged in one of the most bizarre challenges to Alaska's separation of powers doctrine in the history of the state."

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Peter Michalski may also rule on the effort by state Attorney General Talis Colberg, a Palin appointee, to have subpoenas issued to witnesses by the investigative committee thrown out. Several top Palin aides, as well as Todd Palin, have refused to comply with the subpoenas and face possible jail time.

Steve Branchflower, the independent investigator hired by the legislature, is still expected to release his report -- which will center on allegations that Palin fired Walt Monegan, the state's former public safety commissioner, because he was unwilling to fire a trooper with whom the Palin family was embroiled in a bitter dispute -- around October 11th. Palin had initially welcomed the investigation, saying she had nothing to hide. But since being picked as John McCain's running mate, she has refused to cooperate.

We'll keep you posted on word from Alaska...

The 26 year friendship of indicted Sen. Ted Stevens and former VECO CEO Bill Allen has been on display while Allen testifies as the prosecution's key witness in the sitting senator's trial.

Allen described his annual fishing trips (pictured at left) and visits with the senator, where they would walk and smoke cigars and drink wine "now and then."

"We really liked each other, you know?" Allen reminisced, yesterday. "Ted really worked hard. Ted loved Alaska and I loved Alaska."

Besides recounting his history with Stevens in his testimony Tuesday, Allen spent much of the afternoon detailing a transaction where he traded a new Land Rover for Stevens' 1964 Mustang convertible. The Land Rover was worth approximately $44,000 while Stevens' Mustang -- including a $5000 payment to Allen -- was worth a little over $32,000.

In their decades of friendship, Allen gave Stevens over $250,000 worth of gifts -- everything from grills to home renovations -- gifts that Stevens failed to include on his Senate disclosure forms. Stevens claims that he was unaware of all of the work that Allen was doing on his home, and that he never asked Allen for free work or favors.

This morning, the prosecution submitted thank-you notes from Stevens to Allen, in an attempt to prove that Stevens knew that he was receiving favors from Allen.

"You continue to amaze me, the way you can keep so many balls in the air at one time," Stevens wrote in an August 2000 note, the AP reports. "It was great to see you at the Bogart movie and I thank you for all that you are doing on the house."

Allen's testimony was cut short this afternoon when the judge recessed early to accommodate a juror's schedule. The trial will resume tomorrow with the prosecution expected to wrap up its case before Friday.

Now that the dust has settled on the U.S. attorney firings report, released Monday morning by the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General, we thought it was worth taking some time to lay out what it tells us.

Almost since the scandal broke early last year, there have been clear signs that the plan to fire U.S. attorneys as a means of advancing the Bush administration's political goals was being driven by the White House. That impression has been strengthened as top current and former White House officials, including Karl Rove and Harriet Miers, have consistently stonewalled efforts to look into the matter.

The OIG investigation was no exception. As the report notes, Miers, Rove and several other Whte House officials refused to talk to investigators, and the White House wouldn't provide internal emails or documents relating to the firings. Perhaps the most crucial of the documents denied to OIG was a memo, written in March 2007, which contained the results of an internal White House investigation into the firings, conducted by associate White House counsel Michael Scudder. Scudder had interviewed top DOJ and White House officials, including Rove, and had compiled a timeline that "appeared to contain information we had not obtained elsewhere in our investigation," according to the OIG report.

Still, a close examination of the report makes clear that, although on a day-to-day basis the plan was put into effect by mid-level DOJ political appointees -- enabled by a shocking lack of oversight from top department officials, principally former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales -- the impetus for the move came straight from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Many of the individual pieces of information have been previously reported, as DOJ provided emails and internal documents to Congress for its 2007 investigation. But the OIG report provides a far clearer sense of the longer-term trajectory of the plan, and the consistent interest in it from Miers and Rove, than we've yet been offered.

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In the almost two years that TPMmuckraker has been covering the scandal over the removal of the U.S. attorneys, there have been many questions raised over the reasons behind the firings. On Monday, the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General's report answered some of those, but raised others. While it concluded that only three of the firings were carried out for political reasons or to interfere with active prosecutions, it could not gather sufficient evidence to conclude the rest of the firings were politically based. Regardless, the report strongly condemned the DOJs overall mishandling of the firings, calling the process "fundamentally flawed . . unsystematic and arbitrary."

As we wrote earlier this week, the report reveals that Todd Graves, David Iglesias and Bud Cummins were fired for reasons of politics, not performance.

The report lays out the investigations into each of the remaining U.S. attorney firings, but repeatedly states that its analysis and investigation were "hindered" due to many witnesses' "lack of recall"; the refusal of many witnesses to cooperate with the investigation or give testimony; and the administration's stonewalling in disclosing documents. Citing these obstacles, the report hedges its findings, requesting a prosecutor to continue the investigation with the power to compel testimony.

In the case of Margaret Chiara, the former Western Michigan U.S. attorney, the report could find no evidence that the rumors that Chiara was in a lesbian relationship with one of her subordinates were behind her removal.

Chiara has stated publicly that she believes the rumors -- which she called "false and malicious" in a statement yesterday from her attorney -- were the reason for the loss of her position.

Carol Lam, the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of California, was believed to have been asked to resign over her prosecution of former Executive Director of the CIA, Dusty Foggo and Brent Wilkes, a defense contractor who bribed former Republican Rep. Duke Cunningham and Foggo. But the report "found no evidence" to support those claims, stating that "the investigation and prosecution of Cunningham and Foggo were aggressively pursued by career prosecutors in Lam's office, both during and after her tenure."

Instead, the report supports the Department's previous claims that Lam was removed because of her poor statistics on gun and immigration prosecution statistics -- but blames the DOJ for poor handling of her removal.

In the case of Daniel Bogden of Nevada, little was known about his removal, except that he had not been diligent in prosecution of obscenity cases. The report found the claim to be behind Bogden's removal, but added some color to the removal. Interestingly, the report found that the complaints of Bodgen's dalliance in obscenity prosecutions were made by Brent Ward, the head of the DOJ Obscenity Prosecution Task Force -- who was friends with Attorney General Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson's brother and had direct conversations with Sampson regularly.

When questioned by the DOJ, Sampson stated he "did not recall whether those complaints played a role in the decision to remove Bogden," a response the report found "particularly suspect, given his role in the removal process."

In Arizona, Paul Charlton's termination was believed to be connected to his investigation of Republican Rep. Rick Renzi, but the report states that it could find no evidence to support that claim. Charlton had previously clashed with Main Justice on a decision he made to not seek the death penalty on a case involving a murder that transpired during a drug deal. Charlton believed it was this death penalty case as well as his policy of tape recording interrogations that led to his removal -- theories the IG report confirmed as the primary reasons for his dismissal.

Lastly, there is Seattle's John McKay who was believed to have been fired over his failure to prosecute voter fraud related to the 2004 Washington governor's election.

McKay famously received a call from Ed Cassidy, chief of staff to Washington Rep. Richard Hastings (R) asking about his prosecution, to which McKay responded, "Ed, I'm sure you're not about to start talking to me about the future direction of this case," after which Cassidy quickly ended the call.

Hastings claimed ignorance and told investigators that "he could not remember telling Cassidy to call McKay. . . or whether Cassidy had told him he had done so."

The report also mentions a meeting in Washington between McKay and White House Counsel Harriet Miers in which Miers reportedly asked McKay "why Republicans in the state of Washington were angry with him."

The report concludes that the "evidence suggests" that the primary reason for McKay's removal was an argument with Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty over an information sharing program -- not because of failure to prosecute voter fraud as McKay conjectured.

The OIG report, though nearly 400 pages long, is far from comprehensive. The investigation lacked the power to compel testimony or documents outside of the Justice Department and were consequently limited in their investigation. As a result, the report is forced to reserve judgment on whether many of the firings were inappropriately political, though it recommends that a prosecutor be appointed to look into whether crimes were committed.

Nora Dannehy, appointed on Monday by Attorney General Michael Mukasey will take up that mantle. It remains to be seen if that will be enough to ferret the truth out of unwilling witnesses and departments.

New details provided by the IG report released yesterday, gives definition to former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves' termination and paints a clear case for a politicized firing orchestrated by the office of Missouri Sen. Kit Bond (R).

Graves was the last U.S. attorney to be counted among those fired through the work of Kyle Sampson, chief of staff to Alberto Gonzales and Michael Battle, director of the Executive Office of the United States Attorney. His case differed from the others in many ways -- he was fired in January 2006, almost 11 months earlier than the other removed attorneys, and the circumstances around his dismissal were unclear.

But according to the report, Graves' removal was a result of multiple calls and emails from Bonds' legal counsel Jack Bartling, to members of White House Counsel -- who "kicked over" the complaints to the Justice Department.

Bond's problems with Graves' began in late fall of 2004. Bond's office had been having problems with another Missouri Congressman -- Rep. Sam Graves (R), U.S. Attorney Graves' brother. Between October and December 2004, a staffer from Bond's office reportedly called former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves to ask for his help in convincing his brother to fire his chief of staff. When Graves refused to intervene, the staffer told him "they could no longer protect [his] job," and hung up, according to the report.

Shortly after, in February 2005, Bartling began placing calls to the White House Counsel's office about Graves, pushing for a replacement. By the fall of 2005, the complaints had been passed to the Justice Department. In December, Bartling reached out again to Michael Elston, chief of staff to the deputy attorney general, who had interviewed Bartling when he had been applying for a position in that department.

In a call shortly before Graves' firing, Bartling asked Elston to, "'keep his ear to the ground' to ensure that the Senator's role in requesting White House action on Graves was not being disseminated within the Department," and make sure that Bonds name was never linked to Graves' ouster, the report states.

A little over a month later, Battle called Graves on January 24, 2006 to ask Graves for his resignation, acting on instructions from White House Liason Monica Goodling and using a speech similar to the one he would use with the other fired U.S. attorneys less than 11 months later.

While the IG report states that its investigation was significantly hindered by a number of witnesses refusal to cooperate and/or recall events, including that of Sampson, Goodling, members of the White House Counsel staff and Sen. Bond, it clearly states that they found Graves' firing to be directly a result of Bond's requests.

Acting on the report's findings, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed an ethics complaint this afternoon against Bond, stating that Sen. Bond and his staff violated Senate rules prohibiting "improper conduct which may reflect upon the Senate."

Former VECO CEO Bill Allen, whose work on Ted Stevens' home is at the center of the senator's ongoing trial, is set to testify for the prosecution this afternoon.

Allen, who pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska state lawmakers, has been the jewel in the FBIs crown, providing testimony in trials against many of the legislators he once paid for votes.

Stevens' attorneys have worked hard to try to disqualify Allen's testimony, demanding medical records for Allen and accusing him of receiving $40 million for his cooperation with the government.

Allen is expected to testify to the $250,000 worth of gifts and services he and VECO provided to Stevens, which included home renovations, a car, a new grill and interior furnishings.

A judge has combined two suits which question the Alaska State legislature's"Troopergate" investigation. The new suit compiles that of five Republican lawmakers, who claim the independent investigation oversteps the Legislature's jurisdiction with a similar filing by the Attorney General. Vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is charged with abuse of powers in her firing of Walt Monegan, a former public safety commissioner who is said to have resisted pressure to lay off a state trooper, formerly married to Palin's sister. The first hearing is scheduled for Thursday. (Anchorage Daily News)

ProPublica publishes the affadavit of Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, the military prosecutor who resigned from his post in Guantanamo last week. In the document, Vandeveld, the fourth prosecutor to resign from Guantanamo, presents evidence that would support the defense's claim that their client was a child soldier. The trial concerns a teenager charged with throwing a grenade that injured two Americans and their translator. (ProPublica)

The judge trying Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) for corruption scolded the prosecution yesterday, threatening sanctions after the government sent home a key witness. Stevens, who is charged with concealing $250,000 in gifts, had asked the judge to declare a mistrial over the weekend. (New York Times)

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The fact that a prosecutor has been named to continue the investigation into the firing of nine U.S. attorneys doesn't seem to faze former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who issued a statement yesterday expressing relief that the process was over.

"My family and I are glad to have the investigation of my conduct in this matter behind us, and we look forward to moving on to new challenges," Gonzales said in a statement yesterday.

But the investigation, led by the Department of Justice's Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility might be far from "behind" Gonzales. Yesterday, Attorney General Michael Mukasey named Nora Dannehy, a Connecticut interim U.S. attorney, as a prosecutor in the firings. At the IG report's behest, Dannehy will continue the investigation and work of the OIG and OPR offices, but with the power to compel testimony.

Nevertheless, Gonzales and his attorney, George J. Terwilliger III seem to be operating in a cloud of denial.

The investigation "is clearly over as to him," Terwilliger is quoted as saying in the New York Times. "The inspector general after 18 months of investigation has basically concluded that the facts and circumstances regarding Judge Gonzales's activity do not include any unlawful conduct."

The IG report released today provides new details on the White House's involvement in the firings of U.S. attorneys, especially the administration's involvement in the firing of U.S. Attorney David Iglesias.

Prior to Iglesias' removal on Dec. 7, 2006, New Mexico GOP Sen. Pete Domenici had already made multiple complaints to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about Iglesias. In addition, Mickey Barnett, a former GOP New Mexico state senator and a prominent lawyer, had met in Washington with DOJ White House Liason Monica Goodling to discuss his problems with Iglesias' handling of voter fraud cases.

But emails disclosed in the recently released IG report between Barnett, Domenici and White House political operative Karl Rove reveal that the complaints against Iglesias went beyond talks with the Justice Department, and that the White House was aware and involved in the removal of Iglesias from his post as U.S. attorney.

According to today's report, on October 2, 2006, Barnett e-mailed Karl Rove an article from a local paper expressing frustrations with the apparently stalled investigation into bribery of Democratic state Sen. Manny Aragon (NM).

In the email, Barnett blamed Iglesias' office for delaying the case against the Democratic lawmaker, something he had spoken to Goodling, Rove and Domenici about before, according to conversations detailed in the report. Specifically, Barnett and Rove had previously discussed "kick[ing Iglesias]. . . upstairs" as a way to get rid of him.

The October 2 email from Barnett to Rove again mentions the possibility of a "promotion" for Iglesias, and their face to face discussion of it the weekend before at a Republican fundraiser in New Mexico.

From page 173 of the report:

Karl, This article confirms what I mentioned Saturday. An FBI agent told me more than six months ago that their investigation was done and been turned over to the US Attorney a long time ago. He said agents were totally frustrated with some even trying to get out of New Mexico. I can put you or anyone you designate with lawyers knowledgeable about the US Atty office - including lawyers in the office - that will show how poorly it is being run. Scott Jennings was kind enough to set up an appointment at the Justice Department several months ago where Pat Rogers and I laid all this out. I hope Justice can now be persuaded to send out some cracker jack prosecutor and perhaps promote Iglesias to a Justice department position. We still await the results of the task force Iglesias convened about this time two years ago on the clear Acorn fraudulent voter registrations. We were told it would look to [sic] "political" to indict anyone that close to the election. Then we never heard anything else
.

Just a few weeks after Barnett's email, Domenici's chief of staff Steve Bell emailed Rove on Nov. 7, 2006, the day of mid-term Congressional elections complaining about ballot problems in a New Mexico precinct. Bell closed the email with the statement, "We worry about the USA here."

Rove responded just 32 minutes later stating, "I'd have the Senator call the Attorney General about this."

Exactly one month later, Iglesias was fired.

While the House is consumed by the failure to pass the bailout bill, several senators on the Judiciary Committee have had a chance to respond to the DOJ report on the U.S. attorney firings, released this morning. Here's a rundown on what some of them have said:

Judiciary chair Pat Leahy (D-VT) said in a statement: "This report might have told us even more if the investigation had not been impeded by the Bush administration's refusal to cooperate and provide documents and witnesses, just as they remain in contempt of Congress for failing to cooperate with the Judiciary Committee's investigation," Leahy said. "In this debacle as in others, the Bush administration's self-serving secrecy has shrouded many of their most controversial policies -- from torture, to investigating the causes of 9/11, to wiretapping."

Leahy also said he intended to look into former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' testimony to Congress about the firings, for evidence of possible perjury. And he warned that if President Bush chose to pardon anyone ultimately convicted of a crime in connection with the firings, such a move would be seen by the nation as an admission of wrongdoing.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the ranking minority member on the committee told reporters that there's no indication that the White House is planning such pardons, but said he'd be quick to push back if it did.

At a press conference, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a former U.S. attorney himself, questioned the effectiveness of the investigation to be led by federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy. He said that it's unclear whether Dannehy will have the power to subpoena White House officials, and whether her probe would focus narrowly on the question of whether a crime was committed by Gonzales and his deputies, rather than being able to look at a possible cover-up by the administration. Whitehouse asserted: "There is a cover-up, and it continues."

Whitehouse also singled out Mukasey for blame, noting that the DOJ's own Office of Legal Counsel has not cooperated with the report. "If he's willing to accept a White House cover-up, if he's willing to accept the inspector general being hindered, then we, I think, should have further questions of the attorney general," Whitehouse said. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) , who received an anonymous tip in January 2007 that led to the investigation, wrote in a press release: "The Inspector General report released today confirms our worst fears, and makes it clear that this was a scandal that went to the highest levels of the Department of the Justice, and that the role of the White House was in fact prominent."

TPMLivewire