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Effect of Ney's Guilt Could Weigh Heavily "Rep. Bob Ney's admission of guilt comes at a terrible time for Republicans, both in Ohio and nationally. . . .

"For the first time in months, GOP strategists had been enjoying a spate of good news and were starting to believe that the upcoming congressional elections may not be the disaster they were all dreading. But now, Ney bursts back into the news with sordid tales of taking thousands of dollars in poker chips from a Syrian businessman while accepting untold free trips, fancy meals and golf junkets from corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

"Just when they need it most, Democrats – courtesy of Ney – have been given a great opportunity to change the subject from national security back to Republican corruption." (Copley News Service)

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According to this email (from the National Journal's Richard Cohen, via Hotline on Call), Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) had the strength to admit to entire furlongs of corrupt activities last week, but now can't find enough energy to pack up his office:

"Be aware that there is considerable anxiety among House Republicans about what Bob Ney does next. To cut to the chase, they all want him to resign NOW. And, from what I hear, he has not responded accordingly. Republicans know that it’s bad news for them if he remains as a member of the House into next week.

"I am told by a reliable House GOP source that Hastert and Boehner already have told Ney that he has to go, but that he hasn’t taken the hint. It’s unclear if/how Ney’s rehab fits into this, at least in his mind. My sense is:

1) If he hasn’t formally submitted his resignation letter to Hastert by Tuesday morning when the House next meets, the Dems will go ballistic; and

2) I wouldn’t be surprised if the House then would move to expel him on a bipartisan basis, possibly as quickly as next week. That’s essentially what happened in the House when our friend Traficant refused to resign (on the eve of the 2002 election) after he was convicted in federal court….Traficant actually spoke in the House chamber during that debate. I can’t imagine that Ney would do that. But, who knows?"

Rage, Bob, against the dying of the light?

The second-in-command to an admitted briber of Duke Cunningham is facing a federal inquiry for possibly improper campaign contributions, according to a new report.

Retired three-star general James King, top deputy to Duke briber Mitchell Wade, is being investigated by the Federal Election Commission for $12,000 in what appear to be "straw" campaign donations to congressional campaigns, U.S. News and World Report says.

The potentially illegal contributions -- all made to lawmakers representing districts of strategic importance to King's company -- were first reported by TPMmuckraker.

King is now chief of Athena Innovative Solutions, renamed from MZM Inc. when Wade pleaded guilty and sold the company. For a time, King worked as a top aide to Michael V. Hayden, then chief of the National Security Agency, on contract from MZM. Hayden is now director of the CIA.

The U.S. News piece is lengthy, and adds even more color to the established portrait of Mitchell Wade as corrupt, megalomaniacal, vengeful and petty. It also has some good details on King, too. For instance, the magazine reports that one of King's favorite aphorisms is, 'There are no lies; the truth keeps changing.'

"After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans," the Washington Post reports today -- "restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers.

"But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O'Beirne's office in the Pentagon."

What happened to applicants in that office?

O'Beirne's staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade.

The New York Times brings more details to light of the meeting between the Pentagon general counsel, William J. Haynes II, and top military lawyers:

[A]t the meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Haynes sought to enlist the lawyers on the administration’s side by asking whether any would object to signing a letter lending their support to aspects of the White House proposal over which they had voiced little concern.

The lawyers agreed, but only after hours of negotiating over specific words, so that they would not appear to be wholly endorsing the plan.

What followed was a scuffle that left at least some of the military lawyers embittered and stoked old tensions at the Pentagon between civilian leaders and uniformed military officers, who under Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld have often found themselves privately at odds.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, tells a slightly different story:

Officials who attended the meeting in question, in the office of Pentagon general counsel William J. Haynes II on Wednesday, said there was no pressure on the military lawyers to produce the letter, describing a robust discussion about how to word its contents. The lawyers initially drafted a letter saying they "support" the two sections but later settled on saying they "do not object" to them.

The White House is spending the weekend trying to figure out how to save its political fortunes, and possibly its legacy.

Last week, in a move widely perceived as a last-minute political gambit, the Bush administration tried to force two proposals through Congress which would radically expand its powers when spying on, interrogating and prosecuting terrorism suspects. The trick? To garner enough 'nay' votes from Democrats that Americans would be reminded, on the eve of the midterm elections, of how soft the party is on national security issues.

But the plan quickly met with turmoil within the Republican party.

In the House, GOP leaders succeeded in squelching -- for now -- Rep. Heather Wilson's (R-NM) more moderate proposal to address the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program, which they had once backed. In the Senate, Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has not yet made up his mind on how to handle the open rebellion of three senators in the Armed Services Committee, who advanced a detainee treatment bill that's counter to White House wishes.

The result: a nettle of fights no Republican wanted to have over how to resolve serious differences within their party. And all just weeks before an election which could shove the GOP into dreaded minority status in one or both chambers of Congress.

For once, the Democrats aren't complaining about getting shut out of a debate over national security issues. "Look at the lineup for the morning talk shows this Sunday," one Democratic staffer told me happily this afternoon. "It's all Republicans!"

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It hasn't gotten much attention, but Bob Ney's guilty plea released today contained dirt on at least one other politician.

In the document, Ney fessed up to lobbying Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), then a Bush cabinet official, on behalf of an Abramoff client. The official's department later acted favorably toward Abramoff's client, according to news accounts.

Ney admitted to arranging a January, 2003 meeting with Mel Martinez, then Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, to "[advance] the interests of Abramoff's Native American Indian Tribal clients."

Ney told Martinez that his "number one priority as the newly installed Chairman of the Housing Subcommittee was Native American Indian Tribal housing," according to the plea.

Martinez has said he can't recall the meeting.

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We've been following the growing concern among senior senators that the White House pressured top military lawyers to weaken their opposition to the administration's torture policy.

Now, Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) are asking for an investigation.

Text of the letter after the jump.

Update: Here's an image of the letter.

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So Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) pled guilty. But is he cooperating?

I talked to Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor who now runs the D.C.-based watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Ney's getting a pretty light sentence, she said -- but what's more, he's hardly giving anything up: There's no line in the plea agreement stating Ney would snitch to prosecutors on anyone but himself, unlike the earlier pleas of Jack Abramoff and others.

"It doesn't look like he's providing any cooperation," she said. "I don't think he could. I don't think he knows something."

Ney faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for the crimes he admitted. In return, prosecutors have agreed to recommend a sentence of 27 months.

"Bob Ney got off pretty easy," Sloan said. "He's getting a very light sentence. He could have gotten a lot more time."

But Sloan said she wasn't shocked Ney likely won't pull a long stretch in the pokey. "Considering that Duke Cunningham only ended up with 8 years, I'm not surprised. I don't think that what Ney did was as bad as Duke Cunningham – but in general I don’t think these guys get the punishment that they should."

Pointing out the many bribes Ney has admitted taking, Sloan suggested that Ney's slim sentence of two years might even "provide incentive for others to behave badly."

But what about the other misdeeds Ney confessed? Others have been implicated (though not yet indicted) for some of the same nefarious activities. They'd best watch out, Sloan said. In particular, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), whose staff, like Ney's, accepted free tickets from Abramoff, and who also has been reported as frequenting Abramoff's restaurant Signatures, "has a lot to worry about."

"The Jack Abramoff story is far from over," she said. "This is going to be going on for awhile."

According to lawyers for Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), who has admitted to a slew of corrupt activities while in office, the congressman has already entered an alcohol rehabilitation facility. Via the Hotline, a statement from Mark H. Tuohey III and William E. Lawler III:

Congressman Ney accepts responsibility for his actions, and we hope that the treatment he has begun will enable him and his family to face the future in a healthy and productive way.