TPM News

It's Official: Caroline Ends Senate Bid Caroline Kennedy released a short statement declaring that she was ending her bid to be appointed to Hillary Clinton's former Senate seat: "I informed Governor Paterson today that for personal reasons I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate."

Obama's Schedule For Today Here are President Obama's morning events: A closed-door meeting with economic advisers at 9:40-9:55 a.m. ET; a 10:00-10:15 a.m. ET closed meeting with senior staff; a 10:30-11:35 a.m. ET meeting with retired military officers, with pooled press. Then in the afternoon: A closed meeting with Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, National Security Adviser James Jones and Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, from 1:50-2:30 p.m. ET; and then he and Hillary will speak to State Department employees, from 2:40-3:00 p.m., with pooled press.

Today: Obama Expected To Order Gitmo Closure The New York Times reports that President Obama is expected to issue his executive orders today to close the CIA's network of secret prisons and to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. The orders will require an immediate review of the 245 detainees at Gitmo, though the whole process of closing the camp will take place over a year's time.

Former Gitmo Prisoner: The Prison Will Still Hurt America A former Guantanamo inmate told CNN that the legacy of Gitmo will continue to damage the United States even if President Obama successfully shuts it down. "Guantanamo Bay is the most notorious prison on earth," said Moazzam Begg, a British citizen who was captured in Afghanistan and later freed in 2005, without ever having been prosecuted.

Obama Staffers Discover Primitive White House The Washington Post reports that the new White House staffers, who were used to a campaign driven by technology, are now discovering a White House setup with old technology and legal prohibitions on the use of Facebook, outside e-mail accounts, instant messaging and other modes of communications. "It is kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari," said spokesman Bill Burton.

Obama Stimulus Could Be Boon For K Street The Hill reports that lobbying firms are cautiously optimistic that business will pick up from corporate America, even in the difficult economy, due to the impact of President Obama's stimulus proposals. "Big decisions are going to be made, and corporate America is aware of it," said Smith Davis, a partner at lobbying firm Akin Gump.

LAT: "Hope" Poster Apparently Swiped From Photo The Lose Angeles Times reports that the iconic "Hope" poster of Obama appears to have been copied from an Associated Press photo of Obama from 2006. Perhaps worse, the possibility exists that at the moment the photo was taken, Obama was listening to a very grisly speech about the genocide in Darfur.

So is Caroline Kennedy in or out for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat?

Earlier tonight it was reported that Caroline Kennedy had withdrawn her bid to be appointed by Gov. David Paterson, first from the New York Post, then picked up again by the New York Times.

Then NBC News reported that a Kennedy family source told them that Caroline has not withdrawn -- that there was a "miscommunication" between herself and Gov. David Paterson's office. But they've since then revised their report to say she's really out.

And now check out this hilarious AP news alert, time stamped at 10:38 p.m. ET:

Source: Caroline Kennedy remains in contest to fill Hillary Clinton's NY Senate seat. (Corrects APNewsAlert with source saying Kennedy had withdrawn.)

Just when we thought she was out...she pulls herself back in.

The Obama White House announced Wednesday evening that the president re-performed the oath of office after yesterday's hiccup -- not because they felt he had to, but just to be on the safe side:

The following is a statement from White House Counsel Greg Craig.

"We believe that the oath of office was administered effectively and that the President was sworn in appropriately yesterday. But the oath appears in the Constitution itself. And out of an abundance of caution, because there was one word out of sequence, Chief Justice Roberts administered the oath a second time."

The pool report says that Roberts asked Obama if he was ready, to which the new chief executive replied: "I am, and we're going to do it very slowly."

Unfortunately, it would likely have been a violation of the separation of powers for Obama to have ordered Roberts to write, "I will not bungle the presidential oath," 100 times.

A GOP release on the Lily Ledbetter bill, which would allow women crucial time to sue for alleged pay discrimination, just hit my inbox. And it begins:

Senate Republicans will hold a press conference tomorrow, Thursday, January 22, at 11:30 a.m., in [location redacted] to discuss the Democrats' trial lawyer bailout bill ...

Nice to see that Republicans have found new enemies.

Over at TPM, Josh and David have been mulling the significance of the executive order, issued today by President Obama, concerning the Presidential Records Act. Could it apply retroactively to previous administrations, making it easier to pry loose records that the Bush White House has fought to keep secret?

According to Anne Weismann, a lawyer for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the tentative answer is yes.

As David notes, the order says:

Going forward, anytime the American people want to know something that I or a former President wants to withhold, we will have to consult with the Attorney General and the White House Counsel, whose business it is to ensure compliance with the rule of law.

As a result, Weismann told TPMmuckraker, the order could affect any case in which the White House has claimed executive privilege over presidential (or, to be clear, vice presidential) records. Most important, it would subject those claims to review by the Justice Department. "It does have the potential to impact ongoing litigation," she said. Weismann specifically cited the ongoing legal fight between the House Judiciary committee and the Bush White House, over documents relating to the US Attorney firings. Among other documents, Congress has been seeking a key memo written by a White House counsel, which might shed light on White House involvement in the firings.

Weismann told TPMmuckraker that that the order likely would not affect a lawsuit she had been working on, on behalf of CREW, which sought to compel Dick Cheney's office to hand over all his records to the National Archives. On Monday a judge declined to order Cheney to do so. Weismann said that case turned on an interpretation of the Presidential Records Act itself, rather than on a claim of executive privilege.

Still, it certainly seems possible that on his first full day in office, the new president has dealt significant a blow to the Bush administration's efforts to permanently keep information from the public. But a lot more questions than answers remain, and we've got calls out to some experts in executive privilege who might be able to shed further light on what Obama's order does and doesn't do.

I wondered last week why the $825 billion House stimulus bill gave the short end of the stick to mass transit, despite vows from President Obama and other Dems to wean the country off its obsession with gas-guzzling car travel. After all, the House bill contains only $10 billion for transit compared with $30 billion for road-building -- a $20 billion-plus cut from the infrastructure stimulus proposal put forth last month by Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House transportation panel.

It looks like Oberstar himself shed some more light on the question two days ago, while Washington was in the thick of inauguration fever. In a speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Oberstar explained why ground-breaking infrastructure projects got sliced: to make room for tax cuts. Here's how he put it:

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Oral arguments ended a short while ago on Al Franken's motion to dismiss Norm Coleman's lawsuit contesting the Minnesota Senate race, with Franken lawyer David Burman arguing to the special three-judge panel that they do not have the constitutional authority to deal with most of Coleman's claims -- they instead would belong to the Senate -- while Coleman's lawyer James Langdon predictably said the court does have the authority.

Burman lambasted the Coleman team for the general non-specificity of their arguments, saying it created too many openings. "If you allow them to go off on this fishing expedition will they find something? Probably," Burman said, explaining that an election involving 2.9 million ballots is bound to contain a few new quirks somewhere, even after the long process we've already seen. "At some point, Minnesota has to say it has done the best job human beings can reasonably do."

The most fascinating part, though, was Langdon's statement the Coleman campaign has examined the remaining 11,000 rejected absentee ballot envelopes, and they now believe 4,500-5,000 should be included -- up from their previous number of 654.

"No one knows what's in them," said Langdon. "No one's opened them."

At this point, though, we should really treat with great skepticism any claim that a selective sample of ballots, no matter how large or small, is unknown in terms of the content. As we've learned, the campaigns have had many opportunities to either know for certain what is in a ballot, or at least get an idea of the probabilities, without ever having to open a single envelope.

Sen. John Cornyn's (R-TX) decision today to force a week-long delay in Eric Holder's Judiciary Committee confirmation vote has opened an unexpected fissure in the GOP. On the one side are Republicans who want Holder to echo President Obama's promise to "move forward" -- widely interpreted as a hint that Bush-era officials and operatives would not be prosecuted for the torture of detainees -- and on the other side is, well, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

During today's Senate vote to confirm Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, I talked to both senators. And Graham, a former attorney in the JAG Corps, has a more even-handed view of the torture-prosecutions dilemma than Cornyn's. When we spoke this afternoon, Graham echoed Judiciary panel chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-VT) judgment that Holder should not be expected to unilaterally rule out all prosecutions related to torturous interrogations.

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Republicans on the Senate Judiciary committee are delaying for up to a week a vote on Eric Holder's nomination to be Attorney General, with some saying they want more time to consider his record on torture.

John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, told Politico:

Part of my concern relates to his statements at the hearing with regard to torture and what his intentions are toward our intelligence personnel who were operating in good faith based on their understanding of what the law was.

Holder declared last week at the hearing that "water-boarding is torture."

It seems plausible that Cornyn's and other GOPers' concern might relate not just to intel personnel who carried out torture, but also to high-ranking Bush administration officials who ordered or approved it.

In a statement, committee chair Pat Leahy expressed his displeasure:
I am extremely disappointed, but they have that right, and this historic - historic - nomination is held over.

When we learned that David Iglesias -- one of the US Attorneys purged by the Bush administration for political reasons -- is going to be prosecuting Guantanamo detainees as a member of the Navy JAG corps, it struck us that he appeared to have been on the job for a little while. That would suggest he was tapped for the assignment by the Bushies -- which would be ironic given his past.

Turns out that's not exactly the case. Iglesias told TPMmuckraker that he had responded to an email sent out by the Navy JAG corps, looking for prosecutors for the assignment. His application was eventually approved, he said, by that office and by the Office of Military Commissions, which is run by Susan Crawford -- the retired general who last week told the Washington Post unequivocally that we tortured Mohammed al- Qahtani, a Gitmo detainee.

In other words, it appears that it was the uniformed military, rather than the civilian DOD, that brought Iglesias on board.

As for the value of his new work, Iglesias said: "It's important for people to have confidence in what's going on, in light of all the problems the office has had over the years" -- which have included allegations of rigged prosecutions.

And he called the new leadership under Defense Secretary Bob Gates "fantastic," adding "they get it."