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No surprise here. From The Washington Post:

Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey refused yesterday to refer two new House contempt citations to a federal grand jury, saying the White House aides involved in the case cannot be prosecuted because they were following legal advice from the Justice Department.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Mukasey said the refusal by White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten and former presidential counsel Harriet E. Miers to comply with congressional subpoenas "did not constitute a crime."


So now it's on to court, where we'll have the novel situation of the House Judiciary Committee suing the White House.

Yeah, maybe that wasn't such a good idea after all.

From The New York Times:

A federal judge on Friday withdrew his earlier order disabling a Web site that allows the anonymous posting of documents to discourage unethical behavior in governments and corporations....

In reversing himself at a hearing here on Friday, Judge White acknowledged that the bank’s request posed serious First Amendment questions and might constitute unjustified prior restraint. He also appeared visibly frustrated that technology might have outrun the law and that, as a result, the court might not be able to rein in information once it had been disclosed online.

“We live in an age,” Judge White said, “when people can do some good things and people can do some terrible things without accountability necessarily in a court of law.”


And voila, WikiLeaks.org lives again. (Not that WikiLeaks, with a number of mirror sites, was ever really dead.) Apparently WikiLeaks never did get counsel, but the ACLU, EFF, and a variety of journalistic organizations stepped into the breach.

The Times piece gives the distinct impression that the judge had no idea what he was getting into when he granted Julius Baer's request to block access to WikiLeaks.org.

Well, it all came crashing down rather quickly for Tim Goeglein.

Early Friday morning, blogger Nancy Nall published her post "Copycat." By Friday evening, Goeglein had resigned. And The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, announced that their internal investigation of Goeglein's columns had revealed that of the 38 columns Goeglein had published over the last eight years, plagiarized passages were discovered in 20.

Somewhat puzzlingly, the paper says that Goeglein was never paid for his "unsolicited, guest" columns, which he's been publishing for some twenty years. So I guess his plagiarism was its own reward.

Hats off to Tim, though. The paper's list of plagiarized sources shows that he often drew from articles in the major papers. So it's quite impressive that he managed to get away with it for this long.

From Justin over at ABC:

"We were just made aware about Tim's column and his actions this morning," said White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore. "Obviously this is not acceptable." Lawrimore would not comment on whether the president would ask Goeglein to resign, saying the White House was still "looking into the details."


As we noted in an update below, commenters over at blogger Nancy Nall's site have been dredging up example after example of Goeglein's instances of plagiarism. Judging by a selection of his columns, Goeglein's trouble stems from his preeningly erudite writing style, a style he was evidently unable to sustain on his own.

On the Senate floor today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) offered a 30-day extension to the Protect America Act, the administration's surveillance bill that expired two weeks ago.

Given that the President and Republicans have been making speeches and running ads claiming that the nation is at risk because Democrats let the law lapse, you might say it's a reasonable proposition. Just yesterday, the President said that it's "important" for the American people to "understand that no renewal of the ... the Protect America Act is dangerous for the security of the country."

As Reid put it on the Senate floor this morning:

As we move forward [with negotiations between the Senate and House surveillance bills], there is no reason not to extend the Protect America Act to ensure that there are no gaps in our intelligence gathering capabilities. Even Admiral McConnell, the Director of national Intelligence, has testified that such an extension would be valuable. But the President threatens to veto an extension, and our Republican colleagues continue, inexplicably, to oppose it.


But no. When Reid offered the measure as a unanimous consent measure, the Republicans objected.

It's no mystery why. The Republicans and the administration want all the political pressure they can bring to bear on Dems who oppose retroactive immunity.

After two years of deliberations -- and against the unanimous recommendation of his staff -- EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson decided to prevent California from instituting strict greenhouse gas emission rules.

When he issued the decision, it came in the form of a two-page letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Such decisions are usually delivered in the form of a lengthy, formal paper. Critics of Johnson's decision (i.e. Democrats, environmental groups, and attorneys general from several states) have pointed to that as evidence that Johnson issued the decision hastily, arbitrarily, and without technical or legal backup.

Well, today, two months after that two-page letter, the EPA finally submitted the paperwork. The basic reasoning remains the same. The thrust behind the 48-page document is that California's request does not meet the "compelling and extraordinary conditions" necessary for a waiver to be granted since global warming is a problem not unique to California -- an argument that his staff directly rejected, as agency memos have shown.

This filing allows the lawsuit filed by California and 17 other states to finally get going. EPA memos also show that staff warned Johnson that the EPA would lose such a lawsuit -- but Johnson, much to the satisfaction of the auto industry and the White House -- went ahead and denied the waiver anyway.

Johnson has already been grilled twice about his decision, and he's got at least a couple more rounds in the ring to look forward to. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, will hold a hearing March 5th. And House sleuth Henry Waxman (D-CA) will most likely invite Johnson to get grilled at some point in the future once his oversight committee finishes interviewing EPA staffers and collecting evidence.

Ironic that a man with a name so close to "Google" should be caught plagiarizing?

Special Assistant to the President Timothy Goeglein works in the White House's Office of Public Liaison, where he's tasked with serving as the "pipeline" to the president for the administration's "most conservative supporters," as New York Times and Washington Post profiles put it. Goeglein worked under Karl Rove up until Rove's departure. He also writes a regular editorial column for The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.

And as blogger Nancy Nall discovered (via google), yesterday's column, a philosophical ramble on the purpose and nature of education, contains entire passages from a 1998 article in The Dartmouth Review by Jeffrey Hart, a former speechwriter for Richard Nixon. Nowhere in the piece does Goeglein cite Hart. It's about as open and shut of a case of plagiarism as you're ever likely to find (see below).

We've placed calls to the News-Sentinel and the White House seeking comment, and we'll let you know what we hear.

Update: Goeglein fesses up. From The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

“It is true,” Tim Goeglein wrote to The Journal Gazette in an e-mail. “I am entirely at fault. It was wrong of me. There are no excuses.”

He said he wrote to the author of the essay, Jeffrey Hart “to apologize, and do so categorically and without exception.”


Update: The News-Sentinel's editor has also declared that the paper will be investigating Goeglein's past columns to find other examples of plagiarism. Something tells me that he might find other examples. A lot more.

Here's one of the three passages that Nall identified as having been lifted directly from Hart's piece:

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Ever since the expiration of the Protect America Act, President Bush has been arguing that Congress should pass the Senate's version of surveillance legislation, which includes immunity for telecommunications companies who may have participated in the administration's warrantless wiretapping program. In yesterday's press conference Bush talked about surveillance once again; the Associated Press has checked his statements against the facts. (AP)

Chemical industry lobbyists of the American Chemistry Council managed to remove an award-winning toxicologist, Deborah Rice, from an the Environmental Protection Agency research panel studying the dangers of a flame retardant commonly used in electronic equipment. The lobbyists claim that Rice is biased and EPA officials cite the "perception of a potential conflict of interest." Meanwhile, a review of seven EPA panels organized last year reveals that "17 panelists are employed or funded by the chemical industry or had made public statements that the chemicals they were reviewing were safe." (LA Times)

A year after the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency had unlawfully refused to "decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change" and must begin to regulate carbon dioxide, the EPA has still failed to act. The EPA has stated that "the agency does not have a specific timeline for responding to the remand" but that it is "taking very seriously our responsibility to develop an effective, comprehensive strategy." (Think Progress)

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More than 10 months of the Bush Administration remain, and the government is already limping toward the finish line.

You know about the crippled Federal Election Commission, the government's campaign finance watchdog that has been crippled for two months now. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) certainly doesn't need reminding of the situation.

But that's not all. As the Politico reports, negotiations between the Senate leadership and the White House are at such an impasse over nominees that the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Council of Economic Advisers, the National Labor Relations Board, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission are all crippled.

Update: A TPM Reader reminds us that the SEC is also crippled: it currently has three Republican commissioners and no Democrats.

Now, of course, the White House points the finger at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Reid points it right back.

But it's funny how people get suspicious of a stridently pro-business administration when it lets half a dozen regulatory bodies go dark. From the Politico:

“It’s the worst last year of a two-term presidency since we created a two-term presidency,” said Paul Light, an expert on federal nominations at New York University. “It’s a real tribute to the problems of the Bush administration that [Bush’s] eighth year is even worse than Clinton’s.”...

Light said that Bush’s ambivalence toward government regulation plays a role in the stalemate. “If the Consumer Product Safety Commission is not able to promulgate rules, is that a bad thing for an anti-regulatory administration? Probably not,” he said. “If you’re in an anti-regulatory mood, having a regulatory commission unable to regulate is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if it’s going to regulate against industry.”


So who's to blame? In a lengthy letter to the White House yesterday, Reid laid out his rebuffed offers for compromises on nominees, offers to confirm as many as 80 Republican nominations in exchange for confirmation of eight Democratic slots on various federal boards and agencies.

But the fight over the FEC can serve as a fitting test case. Democrats object to the nomination of Hans von Spakovsky to be a commissioner, because of his vote suppression bona fides and role in politicizing the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Spakovsky, who originally got on the FEC via a Bush recess appointment (which has expired), is one of four pending nominees -- two Dems, two GOPers.

Democrats, particularly Sens. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) vowed to block any vote on the commissioners as a block, i.e. a vote that would consider the commissioners all together. Democrats finally offered in December to hold a simple majority vote on Spakovsky separately. If he got 51 votes, he would go through and the fight would be over. Republicans refused, still insisting that it was all or nothing.

And that's where things stand today. The White House so far refuses to nominate anyone else -- at the same time complaining that its nominees are entitled to an "up-or-down vote," which is precisely what the Democrats have offered here.

Meanwhile, if no compromise is reached, we can look forward to a very, very interesting election.

Update: Another TPM Reader writes in to add:

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Actually, it's nothing at all:

The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct voted today to form an investigative subcommittee to probe whether indicted Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) has violated the chamber's Code of Official Conduct....

Based on recent precedent, it is likely the panel will defer most further proceedings out of deference to the Justice Department's prosecution of Renzi, who is scheduled to be arraigned in Tuscon March 6th.


Just another sign that with the House ethics committee playing possum, the FBI has been forced to take up the slack.

Meanwhile, prospects for reform aren't looking too bright.

Update: CREW's Melanie Sloan has a bright idea: "The trick would be for the Ethics Committee to spearhead an investigation of a member alleged to have engaged in misconduct before the Justice Department gets involved."

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