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Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has had enough of the great stonewaller himself, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.

In a letter today to Johnson, Waxman threatens to hold Johnson in contempt for failing to comply with congressional subpoenas requesting information on two recent controversial decisions by Johnson that overruled EPA's professional staff: his refusal to grant California a waiver to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and his refusal to fully raise ozone standards.

Waxman, the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a similar letter threatening contempt to White House official Susan Dudley, in the Office of Management and Budget, for the White House's refusal to comply with a related subpoena.

You have neither complied with these subpoenas by their returnable date nor asserted any privilege to justify withholding documents from the Committee. In light of your actions, I am writing to inform you that the Committee will meet on June 20 to consider a resolution citing you for contempt of Congress. I strongly urge you to comply with the duly issued subpoenas.


The full text of the letters are here (pdf) and here (pdf).

More from Sharon Weinberger over at Wired regarding former Rep. Curt Weldon's ties to Russia.

We learned earlier this week that Weldon's under investigation in what is "an element of a broader U.S. Justice Department probe into what officials suspect are efforts by Russian-backed firms to gain influence or gather information in Washington."

Now Weinberger, who co-wrote a book about nuclear weapons, found this nugget in her notes. In 2006, Weldon told her that he met with Sergey Chemezov, a former KGB officer and then the head of Rosoboronexport, which handles Russian weapons exports.

"Chemezov offers--it's an amazing offer with Putin's support... there are countries in the Middle East that are approaching Russia to buy replacement weapons and spare parts. Chemezov is here to say, "We want to work with America to either establish either a joint company, or even an American company that would act as a front for weapons these nations want to buy. So American would not think we're going behind their back."


Weldon thought it was a great idea.

Weeks after FEMA attempted to confiscate the rest of their trailers used by victims of Hurricane Katrina, a CNN investigation found around $85 million in goods meant for those misplaced victims sat in warehouses for two years before being sent to other federal and state agencies. (CNN)

Lawyers for Texas death row inmate Charles Hood are claiming the judge and the prosecutor in Hood's 1990 double-murder trial were having an affair. The possible relationship was a violation of fair trial rights, and Hood should not be put to death, the legal team states. (New York Times)

Mark Brener, an operator of Emperors Club VIP escort service, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit prostitution crimes and money laundering, but did not agree to fully cooperate with investigators in related cases. It is unclear how Brener's lack of cooperation will affect the case of one of the club's customers, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. (Reuters)

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If the special-rate Countrywide loan that led to Jim Johnson's resignation from Barack Obama's VP screening team was shady, then there's a few other Washington insiders who may have some explaining to do.

A new article from Portfolio rattles off a list of top Washington officials, current and former, who also received discounted loans because they were personally approved by Countywide Financial's top exec Angelo Mozilo.

Senators Christopher Dodd, Democrat from Connecticut and chairman of the Banking Committee, and Kent Conrad, Democrat from North Dakota, chairman of the Budget Committee and a member of the Finance Committee, refinanced properties through Countrywide's "V.I.P." program in 2003 and 2004, according to company documents and emails and a former employee familiar with the loans.

Other participants in the V.I.P. program included former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, and former U.N. ambassador and assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke. Jackson was deputy H.U.D. secretary in the Bush administration when he received the loans in 2003. Shalala, who received two loans in 2002, had by then left the Clinton administration for her current position as president of the University of Miami. She is scheduled to receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom on June 19.


The loans translate into money saved. For example, in Dodd's case, Portfolio calculates that "the lower rates save the senator about $58,000 on his Washington residence over the life of the loan, and $17,000 on the Connecticut home."

In the case of Conrad, he saved about $10,700 on a loan he took out for his $1.07 million home in Bethany Beach, Del. He also took out a loan on an investment property when he refinanced an eight-unit building he owns with his brothers in Bismarck, ND. That violated Countrywide's normal rules about only providing those loans for buildings of four units or fewer. However, "in an April 23, 2004, email, Mozilo encouraged an employee to 'make an exception due to the fact that the borrower is a senator.'"

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The other day we told you about the Russian not-for-profit group that was giving undisclosed payments to the wife of former Rep. Curt Weldon's chief of staff.

Weldon, a Pennsylvania Republican who lost his reelection bid in 2006, had sought federal grants for International Exchange Group, which was run by a Russian with ties to the Kremlin. IEG was involved in "promoting U.S.-Russia business exchange, including nonproliferation issues."

IEG popped up again this week. Over at Wired Sharon Weinberger, who recently co-wrote a book about nuclear weapons, pointed out another connection the group had to the U.S. government.

IEG signed a deal with the U.S. military's Missile Defense Agency back in 2004 promising to provide "Russian radar data" for use with the U.S. missile defense's early warning system.

From Wired:

But the entire structure of IEG was suspect, and smacked of conflict of interest: why should the U.S. government have to pay an openly Kremlin-linked nonprofit in order to ensure government cooperation?


It didn't pass the smell test with upper-level decision makers at the Pentagon, who halted the 2004 deal at the last minute.

Weldon's connection here is unclear. But he has promoted the Russian group and he's also a longtime supporter for the Defense Missile Agency.

Weldon has been under federal investigation for a couple of years concerning his actions on behalf of a natural-gas company, Itera International Energy LLC, which has longstanding connections to alleged Russian organized-crime figures. Weldon just dumped his last $80,000 in campaign money into his legal defense fund.

And the Wall Street Journal reported this week, the probe of Weldon may be "a broader U.S. Justice Department probe into what officials suspect are efforts by Russian-backed firms to gain influence or gather information in Washington."

Now it's official. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voted this morning to formalize the draft report that detailed convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's influence peddling at the White House.

From the AP:

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay have rights under the Constitution to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts.

The justices handed the Bush administration its third setback at the high court since 2004 over its treatment of prisoners who are being held indefinitely and without charges at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. The vote was 5-4, with the court's liberal justices in the majority.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, said, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times."


Late Update: The court did not say that the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay should be released.

It did, however, say that they can take their individual cases -- or petitions of habeas corpus -- into federal court.

Plain, old federal court. So you can expect to see a sudden, steady stream of accused terrorists in orange jumpsuits appearing alongside drug dealers and kiddie-porn downloaders.

The ruling could resurrect many detainee lawsuits that federal judges put on hold pending the outcome of the high court case. The decision sent judges, law clerks and court administrators scrambling to read Kennedy's 70-page opinion and figure out how to proceed. Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth said he would call a special meeting of federal judges to address how to handle the cases.


Is this the end of secret prisons?

In another case of the CIA plucking a citizen from a foreign country based on suspicion, officials from Italy, Germany, Spain and Switzerland all cooperated in the effort to kidnap Egyptian cleric and terrorism suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr from a Milan street in 2003. Nasr was released from an Egyptian prison in 2007, claiming he was tortured while there. (Associated Press)

Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have introduced legislation that would tighten laws on lobbyists that work for foreign-owned companies, requiring lobbying operations to disclose more aspects of those relationships than current law demands. The proposed review of foreign influence on American lobbying comes during an election season in which Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has come under scrutiny for employing several individuals on his campaign staff that have track records of foreign lobbying. (New York Times)

A senior British intelligence agent left top secret documents containing information on al Qaeda on a train, officials said Wednesday. The file was retrieved and given to the BBC. This comes after the loss of a laptop containing data on 600,000 recruits by Britain's Ministry of Defence, prompting critics to hurl charges of lax security at Prime Minister Gordon Brown. (Reuters)

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Does liking porn disqualify a judge from hearing a porn case?

Maybe so, in the case of Judge Alex Kozinski, the chief judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Kozinski -- who is just one rung below the U.S. Supreme Court -- yesterday delayed the obscenity trial he was presiding over of Hollywood adult filmmaker Ira Isaacs, whose work includes scenes of bestiality and defecation. (Although Kozinski is an appeals court judge, he was sitting as the trial judge in this case.)

The Los Angles Times found the judge had a Web site with some pretty freakish scenes of his own, which he was sharing with friends and family.

Among the images on the site were a photo of naked women on all fours painted to look like cows and a video of a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal. He defended some of the adult content as "funny" but conceded that other postings were inappropriate.

Kozinski, 57, said that he thought the site was for his private storage and that he was not aware the images could be seen by the public, although he also said he had shared some material on the site with friends.


When a reporter from the Times asked the judge about the images, "the judge said he didn't think any of the material on his site would qualify as obscene."

"Is it prurient? I don't know what to tell you," he said. "I think it's odd and interesting. It's part of life."


He has since taken the site down.

Kozinski, appointed by President Regean in 1985, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court. He is considered a judicial conservative on most issues.

When it comes to matters of porn and computer privacy, Kozinski is no hypocrite.

In September 2001, Kozinski was a fierce opponent of any effort by Washington bureaucrats to monitor his computer, prompting Leonidas Ralph Mecham, the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, to remark to the New York Times that "Kozinski had shown 'great interest in keeping pornography available to judges,' especially of what Mr. Mecham called 'the more homosexual and exotic varieties.'"

Judge Kozinski said Mr. Mecham's comment about ''homosexual'' Web sites appeared to refer to an incident in 1998 when one of his law clerks downloaded a Web site for a San Francisco gay bookstore and the Administrative Office complained. ''I don't think we need bureaucrats in Washington looking over our shoulders for this kind of thing,'' Judge Kozinski said.


The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco has a long tradition of being the country's most liberal. It's backed medical marijuana and struck the words "Under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance.

So the feds are not only looking into former Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY), but also his ex-wife?

That's sure how it looks, since they subpoenaed files about Sweeney and the fundraising firm run by his wife, Gayle Ford Sweeney - who was married to the upstate New York Republican until shortly after he left office in 2006.

As speculation mounts that John Sweeney is the latest target in Jack Abramoff's lobbying ring, the New York Times noted that Abramoff investigators have found a pattern of money funneled to Congressional spouses.

Take Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA). The FBI raided his house last year and he's opting not to run for reelection. Doolittle's wife, Julie, was running a one-person company that got large payments from campaign funds and PACs run by Doolittle. In addition, Abramoff's firm paid Doolittle's wife, Julie, $67,600 to plan an event that was ultimately canceled.

Or look at Tom Delay, the former Rep. from Texas. His wife was running a group called the Delay Foundation for Kids. It's donors? Well, whaddya know. They were a diverse set of special interest who appeared to be seeking favors from Tom Delay.

Sweeney's wife was campaign and fundraising consultant who got a cut of the money raised for her husband.

She was also taking a salary from Sweeney's friend and lobbyist Bill Powers's firm. And she left Sweeney just a few months after voters kicked him out of office.

We'll be interested in hear what the feds find in all that paperwork.

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