TPM News

The New York Times gives the rundown on the search for White House counsel Harriet Myers' successor:

Republicans said Friday in interviews that the White House was now, in essence, seeking a politically savvy outsider with ties throughout the capital and in Congress who might be called upon to become something of a public figure in potentially high-profile fights.

“They need somebody who can sit down face-to-face with an ornery committee chairman and work out a conflict over an oversight request,” said Bradford A. Berenson, a former associate counsel for Mr. Bush during his first term. “The job will require a certain minimum level of stature and a minimum level of political experience.”

Several Republicans, including some former administration officials, said the new White House counsel would also need the stature to counterbalance David S. Addington, the powerful chief of staff of Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr. Addington has tended to argue against cooperating with Congressional requests for classified information, a position that may require some softening, or at least more diplomacy, in the 110th Congress.

The White House is, in some respects, seeking a figure who is the mirror opposite of Ms. Miers, who has not shown a high level of comfort being a public figure....

This search is in tandem, of course, with the White House's wider effort to beef up their legal ranks in preparation for the coming investigations.

Justin reported back in November that Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), who's been under federal investigation since April of last year, was headed to chair the panel that controls the purse strings for the Justice Department.

Well, the new Speaker doesn't see a problem with that. In fact, she took a bizarrely blasé stance on the issue when talking to a West Virginia news station:

Less than 24 hours after taking over as House speaker, Pelosi took NEWS9 cameras on a tour of the Capitol. There, she said she will still allow Mollohan to hold his powerful position which oversees the budget of the Justice Department -- the very people investigating his financial dealings.

"Quite frankly, I think the Justice Department is looking into every member of Congress. I always say to everybody, 'You're now going to get a free review of your family tree -- past, present and future, imagined and otherwise,'" Pelosi said.


From The Hill:

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has created a new subcommittee that will tackle decisions made by the Bush administration regarding which government records should be made available to the public.

Well, he's got a lot of un-disappearing to do. Via Tapped.

What do you do when there are public records showing the details of visits by a corrupt lobbyist and his associates? If you're the Bush White House, you do what you do best: make them disappear!

From the AP:

The White House and the Secret Service quietly signed an agreement last spring in the midst of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal declaring that records identifying visitors to the White House complex are not subject to public disclosure....

The five-page document dated May 17 declares that all entry and exit data on White House visitors belongs to the White House as presidential records rather than to the Secret Service as agency records. Therefore, the agreement states, the material is not subject to public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

In the past, Secret Service logs have revealed the comings and goings of various White House visitors, including Monica Lewinsky and Clinton campaign donor Denise Rich, the wife of fugitive financier Marc Rich, who received a pardon in the closing hours of the Clinton administration.

The memo last spring was signed by the White House and Secret Service the day after a Washington-based group asked a federal judge to impose sanctions on the Secret Service in a dispute over White House visitor logs for Abramoff.

We've snagged a copy of the memo for you to read here.

The basic thrust is this: despite the fact that the Secret Service makes and keeps the visitor records, they're not really Secret Service records (even though they'd been treated that way in the past), they're White House records, and thus not subject to FOIA. Got that?

That's one more addition to our great disappearing info list. We're up to 29!

We were just watching Sen. Joe Lieberman's (D-CT) talk at the American Enterprise Institute, when our collective jaw dropped as he set off on a death-defying string of historical analogies. It seems that his ability to survey our times with Churchillian clarity short-circuited:

Here's the transcript as I could best transcribe it:

There are people who have spoken of this moment in history as if it were the 30’s, and there are some parallels, I fear, there. People say the war in Iraq is comparable to the Spanish Civil War, and the war in Iraq, to the larger war against Islamist terrorism, comparable to the Spanish Civil War, to the Second World War, the late 30’s and the failure to grasp the growing threat of fascism in Europe until it was almost too late. The painful irony of this moment in our history, is that while in some senses it is comparable to the 1930’s, it’s also already 1942. Because Pearl Harbor [9/11], in this war, has already happened.

From CNN:

On the same day that the 110th Democratic-led Congress convenes with a plan to immediately pass lobbyist and ethics reforms, the Congressional Black Caucus Thursday gave a standing ovation to Rep. William Jefferson, the Louisiana Democrat who faces an FBI probe into bribery allegations.

"The haters... and negative nabobs...the people who spoke against him couldn't prevail against the people who spoke for him," Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, master of ceremonies for the CBC's celebratory event, said Thursday morning.

Ten months into his sentence, ex-Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) is getting some new digs:

Imprisoned former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham will soon have a new address ---- a work camp just outside Tucson, Ariz.

The camp is 410 miles from San Diego, a six-hour drive that will allow the former Republican lawmaker's friends and family members to more easily visit him as he serves an eight-year sentence for taking more than $2.4 million in bribes.

Meanwhile, the investigation presses on, as prosecutors continue to examine whether the defense contractors who bribed Cunningham had similar success with others:

Federal prosecutors in San Diego have subpoenaed documents from three House committees as part of an investigation into special-interest earmarks in spending bills.

The demand ratchets up an investigation by the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego into contracts awarded by the Defense Department and other agencies. The probe stems from the bribery case against Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe), who pleaded guilty and resigned in 2005.

The scope of the investigation is unclear, although the request for documents is considered unusually broad....

The subpoenas went to the armed services, appropriations and intelligence committees, whose Republican chairmen reported the subpoenas to outgoing House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) in letters dated two weeks ago....

The subpoenas are an escalation of a nine-month tug-of-war between the Justice Department and House Republicans. Prosecutors had asked the committees to turn over the information voluntarily.

Here's Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) on Hardball last night. Does anybody else find this to be a stunning admission from the Republicans' #2 in the Senate?

The transcript:

Matthews: I think [Vice President] Cheney had his thumb on the scale, do you agree? That they were pushing this war so hard, they were working to look at any evidence that backed the war and ignore any evidence that didn’t back the war.

Lott: They were pushing the evidence that justified going to the war, a lot of us, Republicans and Democrats, were concerned about what we were told, and we bought the packet.

Attention Corrupt Bastards, the loophole is closing:

A group of House Democrats wants to change a state law that they say allows politicians to sell their votes in exchange for campaign donations.

That's right: It's not already a crime under state law, according to Anchorage Reps Les Gara and Harry Crawford, who filed a bill to close what they call a legal-bribery loophole.

Prosecutors Unveil Ney's Bribery Price List "As the U.S. House of Representatives prepares to vote on an ethics reform package partly inspired by the misdeeds of former Ohio GOP Rep. Bob Ney, federal prosecutors filed new documents in court that detail exactly how lobbyists paid Ney for political favors.

"'Defendant Ney accepted thousands of dollars worth of benefits in a scheme that spanned two continents, lasted almost four and one-half years, implicated numerous separate transactions and involved numerous acts of deceit and concealment,' the legal filing said.

"What was Ney’s price for placing an Oct. 26, 2000 statement in the Congressional Record on behalf of lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s SunCruz casino boat operation? The new documents say it was a $10,000 contribution to the National Republican Campaign Committee that SunCruz made less than a week later.

"What did it cost for Ney to insert language in the Help America Vote Act that would have helped a Texas Indian tribe represented by Abramoff to reopen a closed casino? Abramoff instructed the tribe to make political donations to Ney that totalled $32,000.

"The documents were filed as part of negotiations over the sentence Ney should receive after pleading guilty to felony charges of conspiracy and making false statements. Ney’s defense lawyers say the former congressman from Heath exercised control over fewer than five participants during the criminal acts he committed, but prosecutors filed the documents Wednesday to show that Ney was a “manager/supervisor” of criminal activities who oversaw more than five people.

"Ney’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 19. Prosecutors have recommended that he serve 27 months in prison." (Plain Dealer, Legal Times)

Read More →