TPM News

Despite growing pressure to leave the region, Bush's daughters insist upon staying in Argentina. Where did they learn that kind of stubbornness?

Reports ABC's Blotter:

Amid a growing barrage of front-page headlines, U.S. embassy officials "strongly suggested" President Bush's twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara Bush, cut short their trip to Buenos Aires because of security issues, U.S. diplomatic and security sources tell ABC News.

Withdraw in the face of mounting security problems? A ludicrous notion.

Last week ABC reported that Barbara had her purse stolen. Even worse, their shenanigans are creating headlines in the country. One tabloid featured a story about the two running naked, Borat-style, down the hallway of their hotel, according to ABC.

Security problems continue, according to the network:

Thursday night, an ABC News producer was able to walk into their hotel unchecked and engage Barbara Bush in conversation while she checked her e-mail on a computer in the lobby. Jenna sat talking with friends on a sofa nearby. No Secret Service agents were anywhere to be seen in the lobby, according to ABC News' Joe Goldman.

But no, Barbara and Jenna aren't cut-and-runners. "Sources tell ABC News the twins plan to stick to their original itinerary and stay in Buenos Aires until Thursday." That's the spirit.

In a little less than two weeks, we'll learn if the growing cloud of corruption allegations surrounding Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) will motivate his constituents to end his career before the Justice Department gets its shot to do the same.

On Saturday, December 9th, Jefferson's fate will be decided by a runoff election in which he faces Democratic state Rep. Karen Carter. Will voters be content to wait around for Jefferson's promised "honorable explanation" for why federal agents found $90,000 cash in his freezer?

No polls seem to be available, only a wide expectation that the race will be close. Jefferson led Carter 30%-22% in the general election, where there were a host of other Dem challengers.

To make matters even more interesting, the muck hasn't stopped coming on Jefferson, despite the fact that the DoJ's mammoth bribery investigation has gotten tied up in the courts over the FBI's raid of Jefferson's congressional office.

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Rumors are flying that Katherine "Pink Sugar" Harris may try to re-take her House seat in 2008, Roll Call's "Heard on the Hill" column reports (sub. req.).

Harris gave up the seat, which represents Florida's 13th District, in order to mount her disastrous Senate bid. That district is now the scene of a hotly contested election. Republicans say their candidate, Vern Buchanan, won the seat by a few hundred votes; Democrats charge voting machine glitches illegally prevented thousands of Democratic votes from being counted.

Needless to say, Buchanan would need to lose this fight so Harris could run in '08. And the federal investigation into Harris would need to conclude without indictment. So for now, us rakers can only wait. .. and hope.

In 1980s, Defense Nominee Pushed to Bomb Nicaragua "Robert M. Gates, President Bush's nominee to lead the Pentagon, advocated a bombing campaign against Nicaragua in 1984 in order to 'bring down' the leftist government, according to a declassified memo released by a nonprofit research group. . . .

"In the memo, Gates, who was deputy director of the CIA, argued that the Soviet Union was turning Nicaragua into an armed camp and that the country could become a second Cuba. The rise of the communist-leaning Sandinista government threatened the stability of Central America, Gates asserted.

"Gates' memo echoed the view of many foreign policy hard-liners at the time; however, the feared communist takeover of the region never materialized. . . .

"'It sounds like Donald Rumsfeld,' said National Security Archive Director Thomas S. Blanton. 'It shows the same kind of arrogance and hubris that got us into Iraq.'" (LATimes)

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Is the Duke Cunningham scandal about to re-emerge in the public eye?

Accused Cunningham briber Brent Wilkes has hired celebrity defense lawyer Mark Geragos, the North County (Calif.) Times reported yesterday. The move may hint that Wilkes expects an indictment -- and a cascade of media attention -- to come down soon.

Duke accused Wilkes, who ran Poway, Calif.-based defense/intelligence contracting company ADCS, Inc., of funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to the congressman's pocket in exchange for secret government contracts.

Reports the North County Times:

Geragos, whose former clients include pop star Michael Jackson, former first brother Roger Clinton and former Congressman Gary Condit, said Wednesday that he recently began representing Poway businessman Brent Wilkes. . . .

It was unclear last week exactly what role Geragos will play on Wilkes' legal team.

Asked if he would be defending Wilkes in the event he is indicted, Geragos would only say that he is prepared to help the man in any way he can.

"I met Brent and certainly was impressed by him and also the situation he finds himself in," Geragos said. "He could use my help."

Wilkes is already represented by Washington, D.C. lawyer Nancy Luque, who represented Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.

The U.S. military official who ran Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison until 2004 told a Spanish paper she'd seen a document signed by outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld which authorized harsh treatment of detainees, Reuters reports. The memo doesn't appear to have covered the most shocking forms of abuse that have been revealed -- attack dogs, forced nudity, faked electrocutions:

Former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told Spain's El Pais newspaper she had seen a letter apparently signed by Rumsfeld which allowed civilian contractors to use techniques such as sleep deprivation during interrogation.

Karpinski, who ran the prison until early 2004, said she saw a memorandum signed by Rumsfeld detailing the use of harsh interrogation methods.

"The handwritten signature was above his printed name and in the same handwriting in the margin was written: "Make sure this is accomplished"," she told Saturday's El Pais.

"The methods consisted of making prisoners stand for long periods, sleep deprivation ... playing music at full volume, having to sit in uncomfortably ... Rumsfeld authorized these specific techniques."

The Geneva Convention says prisoners of war should suffer "no physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion" to secure information.

Senate Democrats Revive Demand for Classified Data "Seeking information about detention of terrorism suspects, abuse of detainees and government secrecy, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are reviving dozens of demands for classified documents that until now have been rebuffed or ignored by the Justice Department and other agencies....

"[Senate Judiciary Committee Soon-to-be Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT)], who has said little about his plans for the committee, expressed hope for greater cooperation from the Bush administration, which he described as having been 'obsessively secretive.' His aides have identified more than 65 requests he has made to the Justice Department or other agencies in recent years that have been rejected or permitted to languish without reply....

"Now that they are about to control Congress, what...Democrats regard as a record of unresponsiveness has energized their renewal of longstanding requests for information about some of the administration’s most hidden and fiercely debated operations. In addition, other such requests by committee members deal with subjects like voter fraud, immigration and background inquiries on Supreme Court nominees....

"With Democrats in control, it will be harder for executive branch agencies to sidestep requests for documents. Behind each request will be the possibility of Democrats’ voting to issue subpoenas that would compel documents or testimony, although Senate aides said they hoped to avoid conflict." (NY Times)

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Here's an extra serving of hypocrisy for your Thanksgiving dinner.

I think we're all familiar with the big, flashy show that the White House puts on every year when the president pardons his Thanksgiving turkey. In a forced public display of American "mercy," the administration trots out a big fat bird in front of a bunch of cameras, the president makes some funny remarks about democracy and Thanksgiving, and then the bird -- this is key -- doesn't get its head chopped off.


Think again. Last year, the president pardoned not one but two turkeys on Nov. 22. The next day he was served turkey as part of his Thanksgiving meal, according to White House documents obtained by TPMmuckraker.

That's right: the menu for the Bush Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 23, 2005, lists "Herbed Stuffed Roasted Free Range Turkey" as its main course.

So maybe "Marshmallow" and "Yam" -- the pardoned turkeys -- didn't get the axe. But some poor bastards did. Is that what we're calling mercy these days? The guilty go free (I assume they were guilty, or else why would they need pardoning), while innocent victims pay the price for their crimes?

It's not clear how long presidents have been pulling this morbid presidential ploy; the Bush White House's Web site appears to have been scrubbed of previous years' Thanksgiving menus. But it's probably safe to assume that it predates the Bush 43 years. I wouldn't be surprised if the two-faced tradition has been a dark shadow lurking behind presidential turkey pardonings since Harry Truman began the practice nearly 60 years ago.

If this is how they treat the turkeys when the country's distracted, one can only imagine what they're doing to the vegetables.

"Stay away from Kevin Gordon. He's hot. He is using your name in Hialeah."

If they consider the issue at all, Americans probably expect the person in charge of overseeing their nation's spies to be smart, insightful and thorough -- but above all else, he or she must be able to keep a secret. As the debate builds over who will next lead the House intelligence committee, at least one conservative publication has asked whether the Democrats' presumptive pick, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), has whispered secrets that ruined federal investigations.

When the House impeached federal judge Alcee Hastings in 1989, 16 of the 17 counts had to do with a bribery allegation dating to 1981, as we detailed yesterday. But one count was different, the National Review's Byron York noted a few days ago, and it cuts to the very core of whether Hastings is suitable to chair the House intelligence committee.

It was an accusation that in 1985, he leaked secret government information that ruined three FBI probes.

The House voted to impeach Hastings on that count, known as "Article XVI," but the Senate unanimously voted to acquit, blasting the House prosecutors for using "weak" evidence, leaving "gaping holes" in their proof and "fail[ing]. . . to identify any credible motive" for Hastings to leak the information.

What happened? Did Hastings leak a secret? Or was the case as weak as the senators said?

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As we've noted, the debate over Nancy Pelosi's likely candidate for House intelligence chairman, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), centers on corruption allegations dating back to 1981 -- allegations which Hastings has fought tooth and nail.

This Monday, Hastings sent a five-page letter out to all House Democrats detailing why the charges against him are false. In it, he rails against journalists and pundits who've covered the allegations against him as ill-informed and too keen to attribute the House's impeachment and Senate's conviction of him as proof enough. Above all, he points to the fact that he was acquitted of wrongdoing in a criminal trial, which he believes has been downplayed. "In a jury trial, the evidence is the only consideration," Hastings writes. "In an impeachment, politics is central."

Full text below the fold...

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