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As we just noted, Murray Waas is reporting that William Timmons, the head of John McCain's transition team, was involved in a lobbying effort on behalf of Saddam Hussein's government in the early 1990s.

At TPMmuckraker, we've acquired a copy of the court documents from the 2006 trial of Tongsun Park, one of the lobbyists involved, on which Waas' report was in part based.

And they shed some crucial light on a key point about Timmons' involvement in the scheme.

As Waas notes:

Timmons previously told investigators that he did not know that either Vincent or Park were acting as unregistered agents of Iraq. He also insisted that he did not fully understand just how closely the two men were tied to Saddam's regime while they collaborated.

But testimony and records made public during Park's criminal trial, as well as other information uncovered during a United Nations investigation, suggest just the opposite.
For instance, court records examined by TPMmuckraker show that Samir Vincent, the other lobbyist involved in the scheme, testified at Park's trial about a trip he took to Iraq during which he met with Saddam personally, and listened as the Iraqi dictator expressed his desire to have sanctions lifted and normal relations with the U.S. restored.

The prosecutor then asked Vincent: "When you returned to the U.S., did you tell anyone about your visit with Saddam Hussein?"

Vincent replied: "I told Bill Timmons and Tongsun Park."

Prosecutor: "Why did you tell Bill Timmons about your visit with Saddam?"

Vincent: "To let him know that we were talking to the leader of Iraq, and in essence we have access, and assure him that any messages we were relaying between Iraqi (sic) and Tariq Aziz [a top Saddam aide] and anyone else, it was being transmitted to the president, Saddam Hussein, in Iraq."

Late Update: As we should have noted, this exchange appears in Waas' report.

Oversight Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) came together today to criticize the White House for their use of executive privilege in the Valerie Plame leak scandal.

The two lawmakers called Bush's refusal to disclose the report of the FBI interview with Vice President Cheney "legally unprecedented" and "inappropriate." The committee seeks the document in order to establish the White House's role in the leak of Plame's name to the media.

From The Hill:

"The president's assertion of executive privilege over this document was legally unprecedented and an inappropriate use of executive privilege" Waxman, the panel's chair, and Davis, the ranking Republican, said in a joint report.

Although both lawmakers agree that the president's action was "inappropriate," they disagree over whether Bush had the right to invoke executive privilege. Waxman rejects the validity of the assertion while Davis supports the privilege.

Waxman has been attempting to get access to the document since December 2007, and the committee issued a subpoena for it on June 24th 2008.

The Justice Department declared it would "not provide or make available any reports of interviews with the president or the vice president from the leak investigation" in response to the subpoena.

Wiliam Timmons, the veteran Washington lobbyist tapped to lead John McCain's transition team was involved in an effort on behalf of Saddam Hussein's government to ease international sanctions against Iraq, according to a report by Murray Waas in The Huffington Post.

The two lobbyists with whom Timmons teamed in the early 90s, Samir Vincent and Tongsun Park, both either pleaded guilty to, or were convicted of, charges that they had acted as unregistered agents of Saddam's government.

Park has a long history of involvement with covert schemes to influence international events. In 1976, he was charged with attempting to bribe members of Congress to win their support for keeping U.S. troops in Vietnam.

This isn't the first time that Timmons has had his name in the news for the wrong reasons since being announced as McCain's transition chief. Last month, Bloomberg reported that he had lobbied on behalf of Freddie Mac, a company that McCain has blamed for helping to cause the current financial crisis.

Timmons' Washington lobby firm, Timmons and Co., founded in the 1970's, helped develop the model on which today's lobbying culture is based.

There's further evidence that the investigation into Trooper-Gate being conducted by the state Personnel Board could have real teeth.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that the probe has broadened to include other ethics complaints against Sarah Palin, and actions by other state employees.

That's according to the investigator hired by the board, Timothy Petumenos, who conveyed the information in two recent letters sent to an Anchorage attorney who had threated a lawsuit over Palin's effort to waive confidentiality in the matter.

Petumenos, a Democrat with a reputation for aggressive prosecutions, plans to sit down with the governor, who is cooperating with his investigation, next week.

It's not clear which other ethics complaints about the governor Petumenos is now looking into, but two have been previously reported. One relates somewhat to Trooper-Gate: the state troopers' union alleges that state officials illegally examined the personnel file of Mike Wooten, seeking damaging information on him. Wooten's feud with the Palin family was at the center of Trooper-Gate.

In addition, a good-government activist has alleged that Palin circumvented state hiring practices in giving a job to a supporter.

Petumenos has also requested a copy of the Branchflower report, released Friday.

Many observers have questioned the ability of the personnel board to come to independent conclusions on Trooper-Gate, largely because its three members are appointed by the governor, and it conducts its deliberations largely in secret.

It's unclear when Petumenos' investigation will wrap up, but the ADN also reports that the personnel board has meetings scheduled for Oct. 20 and Nov. 3. Adds the paper: "The agendas for those meetings mention confidential ethics matters to be handled in executive session."

Separately, ADN reports that Walt Monegan, the former public safety commissioner whose firing by Palin is at the heart of Trooper-Gate, has asked the personnel board to hold a hearing, then issue public findings, on whether he was a "rogue" employee and demonstrated "insubordination", as the Palin camp has publicly alleged in an effort to discredit him.

Palin has given several apparently contradictory explanations for why she fired Monegan. Branchflower's report concluded that Monegan's reluctance to fire Wooten was a contributing factor in his own dismissal.

Given the news that James Tobin has been indicted for making false statements to the FBI in connection with their investigation into the GOP plot to jam Democratic phones on Election Day 2002, it's worth stepping back a bit to recap how we got to this point.

In 2002, Republican John Sununu and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen were in a tight race for an open Senate seat. On Election Day, over 800 computerized hang-up calls jammed phone lines set up by the Democratic party and the Manchester firefighters' union for get-out-the-vote activities on behalf of Shaheen and other Democratic candidates. Sununu won the race by about 20,00 votes.

At the time, Tobin was the regional director, overseeing New Hampshire, for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

In 2004, Charles McGee, the head of the New Hampshire GOP at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with the scheme. Allen Raymond, a Republican consultant whose firm was hired by McGee to carry out the plan, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Both have served jail time for their roles in the affair.

As for Tobin, his legal proceedings have been more complicated. He was convicted of putting McGee and Raymond in touch, and sentenced to jail time. But he never served time -- the conviction was overturned on appeal in March 2007, with a court ruling that the government had not shown that Tobin intended to harass. It remanded the case to a U.S. District Court in Concord, where a judge acquitted Tobin in February of this year, saying his ruling had been "constrained" by the appeals court ruling. In March, the government appealed that decision. That appeal was making its way through the courts when last week's indictment for making false statements was filed.

From the start, there has been evidence tying senior White House and Republican party figures to the case. The Republican National Committee has admitted to paying Tobin's legal bills during that case, totaling nearly $3 million.*

And phone records released in the case show that Tobin made two dozen calls to the office of then-White House political director Ken Mehlman within a three-day period around Election Day 2002. Mehlman has said none of the calls involved the phone-jamming incident.

* This paragraph has been edited from a previous version.

House Democratic leader Chis van Hollen knew of Rep. Tim Mahoney's affair, and spoke with him about it as recently as last month, reports.

Van Hollen, who is also chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, spoke through a press aide from the committee.

"After a rumor recently surfaced on a blog about Mr. Mahoney's affair, the Chairman spoke briefly once with Mr. Mahoney about his responsibility as an elected official to act appropriately and urged him to come clean with his constituents if there was any truth to the rumor," DCCC spokesoman Jennifer Crider said.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, whose comment was included in the article, stated through a spokesperson that he had confronted Mahoney about the affair in early 2007.

Former Republican operative James Tobin has been indicted for making false statements to the FBI in connection with the bureau's investigation of a phone-jamming scheme in New Hampshire in 2002, according to court filings examined by TPMmuckraker.

Details to follow...

Update: Here's the indictment. It contains two counts, both related to making false statements to the FBI during its investigation into the New Hampshire GOP's effort to jam the phones of the Democratic Party on Election Day 2002.

It charges, in part:

"Tobin stated that when he first called Allen Raymond to discuss the phone-jamming scheme, Raymond and Charles McGee had already spoken with each other about the plans. In fact, as Tobin well knew, Tobin spoke with Raymond before Raymond was contacted by McGee, and Tobin requested that Raymond assist McGee with the plan."

McGee, the former executive director of the New Hampshire GOP, and Raymond, a GOP consultant, both were convicted and served jail time in connection with the scheme.

But Tobin's own 2005 conviction relating to the scheme was thrown out on appeal in 2007*.

Dane Butswinkas of the Washington law firm Williams and Connolly, who is representing Tobin, declined to comment when reached by TPMmuckraker. The Republican National Committee has in the past paid for Williams and Connolly's defense of Tobin.

And phone records released in Tobin's 2005 trial show that he made two dozen calls to the office of Ken Mehlman, then the White House's political director, within a three-day period around Election Day 2002. Mehlman has said none of the calls involved the phone-jamming incident.

According to a court document, each count is a felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

*This sentence has been corrected from an earlier version.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) was accused earlier in his federal corruption trial of throwing his wife under the bus. ("When it comes to things in and around the teepee, the wife controls," his lawyer told the jury to explain his client's ignorance of VECO's billing.) Yesterday, lawyers wrangled over the prosecutors' demand for more of her documents. We'll hear from the lucky lady herself later in the week. (AP)

Tight races seem to attract lawsuits. The latest example comes from Washington, where two former Democratic justices have subpoenaed GOP gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, in a suit against the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), which spends heavily on GOP candidates. The justices, who are supporters of Democratic governor Christine Gregoire, want to prove that BIAW coordinated illegally with Rossi's campaign in planning spending on his behalf. Rossi, who lost his 2004 bid to Gregoire by 133 votes, and is in a tight re-match with her with this year, says the suit is intended to keep him off the campaign trail. Mailed ballots must be in on Friday, the same day he's been called in to testify. (AP)

A California paper has obtained documents relating to the purchase by top McCain contributor Donald R. Diamond, an Arizona businessman and D.C. lobbyist, of part of a former Army base, valued at $7.2 million, while McCain served on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Turns out Diamond shelled out $250,000 and walked away two years later with $18 million. The story follows up on an earlier New York Times report, which suggested that McCain's willingness to smooth the way for well-connected constituents didn't disappear after the Keating Five scandal. The 80-year-old Diamond explained to the Times that he wanted a return on his investment: ""I want my money back, for Christ's sake. Do you know how many cocktail parties I have to go to?""(Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Read More →

Rep. Tim Mahoney held a press conference this morning, apologizing for the embarassment his actions have caused his family and denying he violated his oath of office or any laws.

"I would have come forward earlier but making sure my family is ok is far more important than any political career," Mahoney said, accompanied by his wife. "I have not violated my oath of office, nor have I violated any laws, and I consider this to be a private matter."

Mahoney also re-emphasized his request for a House Ethics Committee investigation and his belief that he will be cleared of any wrongdoing.

"I think the people of my District know that I am a fighter," he said. "I am not going to allow this story coming out 20 days before an election to change my resolve to serve the people of the 16th Congressional District."

Full text of press release after the jump.

Read More →

In a filing today with the U.S. District Court, Sen. Ted Stevens' defense team listed four witnesses that it may call today. Among them, Orrin Hatch, Martha Stewart and the seven term senator himself.

Senator Stevens hereby gives notice of the witnesses he intends to call on the fourth day of his case-in-chief, and the exhibits that he may seek to introduce during testimony.
1. Orrin Hatch
    Exhibits: None
2. Donna DeVarona
    Exhibits: None
3. Martha A. Stewart
    Exhibits: None
4. Theodore F. Stevens

It's not an absolute certainty, but it's worth letting you, our readers, know that Uncle Ted may soon be taking the stand.

It's a good thing.

Late update: It looks like we can expect the 84 year-old senator to take the stand tomorrow. According to Reuters, Stevens is scheduled to testify Wednesday. Today in court, he told the judge he was aware that he's not required to testify in his own defense.