TPM News

ABC News reports that Sen. Hollis French will announce later today his intention to move up by three weeks the results of the Trooper-Gate investigation he's overseeing, which had been scheduled to wrap up October 31. French accused the McCain-Palin campaign of using stall tactics to prevent the results from being released by October 31.

CNN caught up earlier today with Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten, the former brother-in-law of Sarah Palin, who is at the center of Trooper-Gate.

Wooten doesn't appear to have spoken publicly since his name became the focus of the investigation involving the firing of Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, who claimed he was terminated by Palin after he refused to fire Wooten.

Wooten has been embroiled in a bitter dispute with the Palin family since a messy 2005 divorce from Palin's sister Molly McCann. In 2005, complaints were filed against Wooten to the state troopers which resulted in an internal investigation of Wooten. Thirteen charges were investigated and four were ultimately found to have merit. Those included charges that he tasered his 11 year-old stepson, shot a moose out of season, drove drunk in his trooper car and threatened to "put a bullet in [the] f***ing brain" of Palin's father.

Wooten received a 10-day suspension from the force as a result of the findings, which was shortened to 5 days after advocacy from the troopers union.

Yesterday, the troopers union filed an ethics complaint against Palin for improperly accessing Wooten's personnel record. In her defense Palin states that she received information on Wooten from the divorce proceedings, which Wooten had made public by signing a waiver.

The Bush administration has been conducting extensive espionage on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, as well as others in his staff and government, according to a new book by Bob Woodward entitled The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008. One source claims that "We know everything [Maliki] says". Woodward's book, scheduled to be published on Monday, details the "groundbreaking" covert operations behind recent U.S. efforts in Iraq. (Washington Post)

The same KBR and Halliburton executive who recently pleaded guilty to bribing officials in Nigeria has secured questionable contracts all over the world, according to Justice Department documents. Albert Stanley had a central role in securing multi-billion dollar construction contracts in Malaysia, Egypt and Yemen, which included $10 to $15 million "success fees" given to an unnamed consultant, who allegedly gave kickbacks to Stanley. (Wall Street Journal)

Another senior official of the Service Employees International Union has stepped aside, and two additional staffers have been fired over charges of retaliation against employees in connection to the widening scandal over the union's misuse of funds. It is alleged that SEIU employees who had refused to sign a letter showing support for Los Angeles area SEIU president Tyrone Freeman had been transfered, and had their cell phone service suspended, and that one such employee was fired. SEIU president Andy Stern told the Los Angeles Times that retaliation against employees was "deeply offensive to our core values as a union" and that the union will move "immediately and aggressively" to punish those responsible. (Los Angeles Times)

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Jack Abramoff was sentenced today to four years in prison. But that sentence means Abramoff won't spend any additional time in jail than he was already serving.

As Reuters explains:

Abramoff is already serving a nearly six-year term on unrelated charges and the new sentence will be served at the same time, meaning he will not spend any extra time behind bars once his original sentence ends in 2012.

Abramoff continued his performance of contrition before the judge today, telling her: "I've fallen into an abyss, and I don't quite know how to get out."

Judge Ellen Huvelle could have sentenced Abramoff to up to 11 years, but reportedly gave Abramoff a more lenient sentence on account of his cooperation in the FBI's influence-peddling investigation.

Sarah Palin could be facing another investigation in relation to Trooper-Gate.

NBC News reports that the police officer's union of Alaska has filed an ethics complaint on behalf of Mike Wooten, the trooper who was embroiled in a dispute with the Palin family, and who the governor is alleged to have attempted to have fired.

According to NBC News:

The complaint alleges that the governor or her staff may have have improperly disclosed information from Wooten's personnel records. The complaint alleges "criminal penalties may apply."

The union argues that recordings of a phone conversation involving Palin-aide Frank Bailey -- released last month as part of the Attorney General's own Trooper-Gate probe -- suggested that Wooten's records were accessed improperly.

In response, the McCain-Palin campaign told NBC News that the files were not protected, and that Wooten himself had signed a waiver allowing a divorce lawyer to gain access to his personnel records. They added that Todd Palin, the governor's husband, was the source of information for Bailey, and that the information came from Wooten's divorce proceedings.

In other words, the McCain campaign is saying that Todd Palin gathered damaging information on Mike Wooten by looking through his divorce proceedings, then passed it on to an aide to the governor, who later used it to try to have Wooten fired. That may or may not be legal, but it doesn't exactly sound like the kind of ethical, reformist approach to government that Governor Palin claims to stand for.

After lenient sentence recommendations from the prosecution, and pleading letters to the Judge, disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has finally received his sentence: 4 years.

From the AP:

A federal judge has sentenced disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff to four years in prison. The judge could have sentenced Abramoff to 11 years, but he gave him credit for helping the FBI investigate influence-peddling scandal.

Late Update: Because Abramoff was already serving a six-year sentence on unrelated charges, today's sentencing, which will be served concurrently with the earlier one, means he won't be doing any extra time.

In June, an appeals court granted Jack Abramoff crony David Safavian a new trial.

Safavian, the former chief of staff for the General Services Administration, was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison for lying to investigators about his relationship with Abramoff, but the sentence was put on hold while the appeal played out.

Today, he was given a new trial date, set for December.

From the Washington Post:

Former White House aide David H. Safavian, whose lying and obstruction convictions connected to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal were tossed out by a three-judge panel in June, will go back to court in December for a new trial, according to court documents.

It looks like Sarah Palin's legal strategy in the Trooper-Gate investigation may not hold much water.

In a complaint filed this week with the state Attorney General, Palin's lawyer argued that only the state personnel board -- whose three members are appointed by the governor -- has jurisdiction over ethics complaints. The lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, asserted that unless the legislature's investigation were called off and the matter handed over to the personnel board, Palin would not be made available for her deposition.

But an expert we spoke to shot down that argument. John Havelock, a former Alaska Attorney General, told TPMmuckraker: "The investigative power of the legislature is plenary." In other words, the Alaska legislature can investigate whatever it likes. Said Havelock of Van Flein's argument "It's not likely to be persuasive to a court." That opinion was echoed by several other Alaska lawyers that TPMmuckraker spoke to.

Havelock, a Democrat, added that the legislature could voluntarily choose to hand over the investigation. But is has shown no sign of making that choice. Hollis French, the Anchorage Democrat who heads the bipartisan committee overseeing the probe, responded to Van Flein's filing by telling the Anchorage Daily News that the investigation would go ahead as planned.

It's likely, of course, that Van Flein's argument isn't designed to ultimately hold up on the merits, but rather to drag out the investigation. That impression was re-inforced yesterday when a lawyer for ex-Palin aide Frank Bailey abruptly cancelled Bailey's scheduled deposition. The lawyer today cited uncertainty over the jurisdictional issue as a reason for the cancellation.

It looks like the figure at the center of the Trooper-Gate probe thinks Sarah Palin hasn't been entirely honest about her involvement in the matter.

Walt Monegan, the former Alaska public safety commissioner, told ABC News today: "I think there are some questions now that, coming to light about how transparent and how honest she wants to be," Monegan said.

Monegan also said, as he has before, that he believes he was fired because of his reluctance to fire Mike Wooten, a state trooper who was embroiled in a bitter dispute with Palin's family.

Palin has been caught out in falsehoods on Trooper-Gate at least twice before. She originally said that her administration didn't exert pressure on Monegan to fire Wooten, but had to backtrack after evidence emerged that contradicted that stance.

She also has claimed that she discussed Wooten with Monegan only in the context of the safety of her family. But yesterday, the Washington Post published emails from Palin to Monegan in which she expressed frustration that Wooten was still employed.

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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