TPM News

Today, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) gave more detail on his resolution to begin an impeachment inquiry into the Attorney General (see the resolution here).

The resolution would require the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether the Attorney General committed high crimes or misdemeanors. Inslee explained during a press conference today: "we are pursuing an investigation prior to filing for the actual articles of impeachment… frankly, it affords the Attorney General due process, something he did not afford his [U.S. attorneys] when they were fired." Specifically, the investigation will focus on the firing of U.S. Attorneys, the abuse of FISA courts and subsequent covering up of those abuses, and the perjury allegations from his Congressional testimonies.

Here's how it would work. The first battle, of course, would be convincing the House leadership to bring the resolution to a vote. Then the resolution would be voted on by the entire House. If approved by a majority, the House Judiciary Committee would then investigate whether impeachment would be appropriate. That committee would then report its findings to the House, which would vote on whether to approve articles of impeachment. Then, if the vote succeeds, the case heads over to the Senate for trial.

Read More →

From Dick Cheney's interview tonight with Larry King:

Q In that regard, The New York Times -- which, as you said, is not your favorite -- reports it was you who dispatched Gonzales and Andy Card to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital in 2004 to push Ashcroft to certify the President's intelligence-gathering program. Was it you?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't recall -- first of all, I haven't seen the story. And I don't recall that I gave instructions to that effect.

Q That would be something you would recall.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I would think so. But certainly I was involved because I was a big advocate of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, and had been responsible and working with General Hayden and George Tenet to get it to the President for approval. By the time this occurred, it had already been approved about 12 times by the Department of Justice. There was nothing new about it.

Q So you didn't send them to get permission.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't recall that I was the one who sent them to the hospital.

Nearly five months after former U.S. Attorney for New Mexico David Iglesias publicly testified to Congress that he was pressured by Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) to bring indictments against a prominent state Democrat before the 2006 election, the House ethics committee is shuddering to life. Sort of.

Iglesias will be interviewed by House ethics Chairwoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) and ranking member Doc Hastings (R-WA) today*, according to The Albuquerque Tribune. But this isn't yet an investigation, the paper cautions -- just an interview which might lead to an investigation. Given that a committee investigation is a rare occurrence (far rarer, of course, than a criminal investigation of a member), watchdogs aren't getting their hopes up. Says CREW's Melanie Sloan, "I haven't seen anything to indicate they're going to do anything serious here."

And there's another reason for pessimism.* Hastings himself has been implicated in similar behavior, via his then-chief of staff. Former U.S. Attorney for John McKay testified in March that Hastings' right-hand aide called him to inquire whether he'd be pursuing allegations of Democratic voter fraud in the 2004 election.

Truthout first reported Iglesias' upcoming appearance Monday.

*Update: Hastings has recused himself and will be replaced by Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL). Also, the interview is tomorrow, not today.

A Senate clerk for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) has testified before a grand jury about the remodeling of the senator's home overseen by Veco, the AP reports.

The Commerce Committee clerk, Barbara Flanders, who assisted Stevens with his personal financial records, also handed over documents related to the senator's finances and testified to what she knew about how the murky home remodeling project bills were paid.

Flanders is not the first Capital Hill staffer to be brought in to the investigation. Some of Stevens' former aides have already been questioned by the FBI.

Stevens has arftully claimed he paid every bill he received for the work done on his house. But the contractor on the job has described a suspicious payment process. The contractor, Augie Paone, said he would submit invoices to Veco (the major oil services company up in Alaska) and then would receive payment from Stevens. Paone also said the checks were all coming from a special account set up for the job.

The AP also confirms that Interior Department investigators have joined in the investigation, probing a series of earmarks Stevens obtained: "The Interior Department's inspector general and the Commerce Department have also joined the case to investigate Stevens' connections with a Seward, Alaska, marine science organization that operates the Alaska SeaLife Center."

President Bush has confidence in his Attorney General. But only one in four Americans who follow Gonzales' exploits these days would agree, according to a recent poll by SurveyUSA. The survey, which was limited to individuals who say they've followed recent news about the Justice Department, found that 58% of those polled have no confidence in Gonzales.

And if Sen. Specter (R-PA) is still on the fence about where to go next, he might consider this: 70% percent of those polled –including 49% of Republicans- think that Congress is right to investigate Gonzales.

Meanwhile, A new Rasmussen survey of likely voters found that 41% of Americans think Gonzales should resign. That number has been holding steady for the last few surveys, with 43% and 39% answering the same way in April and March, respectively.

Here's a little more information on that mysterious letter from the administration expected by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA).

After a classified briefing on the NSA's wiretapping program yesterday, Specter said that he expected a letter on the subject by noon today -- the letter, supposedly, would help explain the attorney general's questionable testimony on the program. Specter, however, indicated nothing as to what he expected the letter to say.

In today's White House press briefing, Tony Snow provided precious little information. He only said that the letter, which will come from the Justice Department, is still forthcoming, probably in the next several hours. He would say nothing about the letter's contents except that it will answer a number of questions that Specter had about Gonzales' testimony.

So we continue to wait.

Update: Transcript below.

Read More →

It's official: the FBI is looking into more than Sen. Ted Stevens' Veco-overseen remodeling project. Roll Call reports that the FBI and the Department of Interior are also looking into a series of earmarks for one of Stevens' pet projects.

The project, the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seaward, Alaska, has received some $50 million in federal money since 1998. One of Stevens' former aides, Trevor McCabe, was paid $558,000 of that money for an adjacent piece of land. Federal investigators want to know more about the arrangement.

It wasn't the only time that federal money found its way to McCabe's pocket. McCabe is also tied to the federal investigation of Stevens' son, former state Senate President Ben Stevens. The FBI raided the younger Stevens' offices last year, gathering documents related to his time on an Alaska board that handed out millions in federal grants to the seafood industry. While Stevens was on the board, he partnered with McCabe in a consulting company that took fees from the companies that received the federal money. The older Stevens saw to it that the board was stocked with federal funds.

If the three-pronged federal investigation into Stevens run by the IRS, FBI and Interior Department doesn't impress you, Roll Call mentions that the raid of a US senator's home is a historical moment in Congressional corruption: "Stevens appears to be the only member of the Senate to have ever had his residence raided by the FBI."

Another D.C. watchdog, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has joined the call for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) to relinquish his committee seats, this time focusing on Stevens' seat on the committee that funds the Justice Department. Says CREW director Melanie Sloan:

"Senators should follow the lead of their House colleagues and require anyone whose property has been searched in connection with a criminal probe to relinquish his plum committee post. Senator Stevens, who sits on the subcommittee responsible for funding the Justice Department, which is conducting a probe into his potentially criminal activities, should immediately resign his position on the Appropriations committee."

A similar situation occurred in the House earlier this year, where Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), who's been under federal investigation since last April, did not step down from his chairmanship of the panel that oversees the Justice Department's budget. Mollohan, however, recused himself from Department matters. That recusal has been called into question, however. Roll Call reported (sub. req.) yesterday that Mollohan nevertheless voted against an amendment last week that would have increased the FBI's budget by $6 million.

Below is the letter the nonpartisan D.C. watchdog Taxpayers for Common Sense sent to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) this morning asking that Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) get the temporary boot from his committee seats.

Read More →

Did Alberto Gonzales lie? Or were his "narrowly crafted answers, while legalistic,... technically correct"?

Yesterday, Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, gave an 80-minute briefing to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and a few other senators about the NSA wiretapping program and its history, the first he's ever received, reports The Washington Post.

It's unclear whether Specter, who aggressively questioned Gonzales during last week's hearing, was convinced by what he heard. But he's said that he expects a letter from the administration at around noon today on the subject, which will be addressed to both Specter and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and released to the press. We'll bring it to you as soon as it's available.

As The Hill reports, "Tuesday’s letter may hold the key to Gonzales’s future. Specter has so far refrained from joining Democrats’ effort to unseat the attorney general and held off on judging the current flap."

Note: It's really not clear from Specter's statement what this letter is about -- whether noon is an ultimatum set by him, or whether it will serve as the public explanation from the administration for Gonzales' testimony. We'll just have to wait and see.