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Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), your prayers have been answered! The D.C. Madam's attorney tells the AP that he will not be calling her most famous former client as a witness.

Of course, Vitter's attorney made it as clear as he could that Vitter would not be a helpful witness for the former madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey. Palfrey's defense is that she was running a legitimate "fantasy sex" operation from her laundry room in California. Vitter's attorney said his client would plead the Fifth if called; not a helpful spectacle for the madam's case.

If Vitter and his escort didn't restrain themselves to fantasy, they weren't alone. The prosecution has called more than a dozen of Palfrey's former escorts to testify, and it hasn't been pretty. From The Washington Post:

The jurors have watched a procession of scared, mortified ex-prostitutes (13 so far) reluctantly take the witness stand, forced to reveal their secret former lives in intermittently graphic detail -- a past each clearly hoped was buried forever. Most testified that they grew weary of the business in less than a year and quit.

At $250 for 60 minutes or so, these weren't high-priced call girls, it turns out. They didn't measure up in appearance to the elites in the business. As the women tell it, Palfrey's niche was a middle-of-the-road, largely suburban clientele -- a long way up from the streetwalker trade, but well south of Emperors Club VIP, the four-figure-per-hour call girl outfit that last month proved the undoing of former New York governor Eliot Spitzer....

[T]he trial has been just a long, sad parade of former prostitutes, some in wigs provided by the government, a feeble disguise, a few dabbing tears on the witness stand.


The Post offers some snippets of testimony to convey the tone of things:

Prosecutor: "Of those 80 appointments, approximately how many times did you have sex?"

Ex-call girl: "Seventy-nine. . . . All except the gentleman who was a quadriplegic."


and:

Defense attorney: "Ma'am, you ultimately decided that this wasn't for you, right? . . . I believe you were tired of lying to your boyfriend, correct?"

Ex-call girl: "Yes."

Defense attorney: "And you're not particularly happy to be here, are you, ma'am?"

Ex-call girl: "Who would be?"


Amen to that, eh, Sen. Vitter?

For days, Bruce Barclay's political career hung in the balance. The Republican commissioner of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, had been accused of rape -- by a man, no less -- and the police were bearing down. Barclay's lawyer issued a strong denial ("This accusation of rape is ludicrous It will be defended forever and is wrong."). But it was clear things were looking pretty dicey. Until... vindication! Well, sort of.

On March 31st, police, investigating the allegation of rape by the 20-year old Marshall McCurdy, obtained a warrant to search Barclay's home. They didn't find evidence of rape. But they did find videotapes of hundreds of sexual encounters with men that Barclay had filmed on high-tech surveillance cameras. The cameras were hidden inside AM/FM radios, motion detectors and intercom speaker systems, among other places. There was also one at his business office.

None of the subjects were aware they were being filmed and no permission had been obtained, Barclay admitted. According to a second warrant issued on April 9th, Barclay also admitted to hiring prostitutes on a weekly basis from the now-defunct website harrisburgfratboys.com.

On April 10th, the rape charges were dropped. One of the videos found during the search showed Barclay and McCurdy engaging in apparently consensual sex. As his lawyer put it:

"It is clear in my client's private life he has made an error of judgment. What is striking is this very same lack of judgment exonerates him from a rape allegation that wasn't going anywhere."


Sadly, his vindication was his undoing. Barclay was forced to resign.

And legally, Barclay's not quite out of the woods yet-- he's still facing possible charges for privacy violations and promoting prostitution. McCurdy, however, has been charged with making false reports to law enforcement authorities and unsworn falsifications to authorities. He's up for a possible 3-year prison stint and $7,500 in fines.

ABC finally got a hold of President Bush to respond to its story that top administration officials, as members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, had signed off on "enhanced interrogation" techniques in 2002 that included waterboarding. And Bush doesn't understand what the big deal is:

"Well, we started to connect the dots, in order to protect the American people." Bush told ABC New s White House correspondent Martha Raddatz. "And, yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved."...

Bush said the ABC report about the Principals' involvement was not so "startling."


The AP reported yesterday that the administration officials involved in the meetings "took care to insulate President Bush" from the decisions made during them.

House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI) on today's story:

I am deeply troubled by reports of FBI agents contacting former jurors who failed to convict Dr. Wecht. Whether reckless or intended, it is simply common sense that such contacts can have a chilling effect on future juries in this and other cases. When added to the troubling conduct of this prosecution, there is the appearance of a win at all costs mentality. The committee continues to investigate this matter.

It would be quite a party.

Earlier this week, House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI) invited John Yoo to testify before the committee on May 6th about the infamous legal memos on torture that he issued while with the Department of Justice. If Yoo did not want to appear, Conyers wrote, then the panel would subpoena him.

Now Conyers, following up on the reports in the last couple of weeks about the role of top administration officials in authorizing the use of "enhanced interrogation" techniques including waterboarding, has invited a slew of current and former officials to testify at the hearing. Among those invited are former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former CIA Director George Tenet, former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, Chief of Staff to the Vice President David Addington, and former Assistant Attorney General Daniel Levin, who headed up the Office of Legal Counsel for a brief time.

Says Conyers: “New and troubling allegations suggest that the decisions on torture came from the highest levels of government. These reports, if true, represent a stain on our democracy. The American people deserve to hear directly from those involved.”

Of course, you can be sure that this White House, the most ardent defender of executive privilege in our lifetime, would never, ever allow Addington, the great prophet of executive privilege, to testify under any circumstances. And it also seems unlikely that any members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee (Tenet and Ashcroft) will testify about content of those meetings. But it's worth a shot.

John Yoo is a professor of law at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law. He's never been a particularly popular faculty member there, but the recent release of his March, 2003 Justice Department memo, in which he advised that military interrogators could torture detainees as long as their only motivation wasn't sadism, has made him considerably less popular. Earlier this week, the National Lawyers Guild called for Berkeley to fire Yoo.

In a statement posted on the school's website today, the school's dean Christopher Edley, Jr. offers a statement "as dean, but speaking only for myself" for why he does not think that Yoo should be fired.

His argument largely comes down to this:

As critical as I am of his analyses, no argument about what he did or didn't facilitate, or about his special obligations as an attorney, makes his conduct morally equivalent to that of his nominal clients, Secretary Rumsfeld, et al., or comparable to the conduct of interrogators distant in time, rank and place. Yes, it does matter that Yoo was an adviser, but President Bush and his national security appointees were the deciders.


Because of "the complex, ineffable boundary between policymaking and law-declaring," Edley writes, too many questions remain to pass judgment on Yoo beyond finding his legal reasoning flawed:

I believe the crucial questions in view of our university mission are these: Was there clear professional misconduct—that is, some breach of the professional ethics applicable to a government attorney—material to Professor Yoo’s academic position? Did the writing of the memoranda, and his related conduct, violate a criminal or comparable statute?

Absent very substantial evidence on these questions, no university worthy of distinction should even contemplate dismissing a faculty member. That standard has not been met.

The latest from Pittsburgh, where the U.S. attorneys' office continues to drop jaws with its handling of the case. From The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Two jurors said Thursday they were unnerved by FBI requests for home visits to explain why they deadlocked in the federal public corruption trial of former Allegheny County coroner Cyril H. Wecht.

Experts said the practice of using FBI agents to contact and interview jurors in their homes after mistrials was unusual, but the U.S. Attorney's Office in Pittsburgh characterized it as "commonplace."

"I thought it was kind of intimidating," the jury foreman said about the FBI phone call.

Said another juror, "I found it kind of unusual."


A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's Office in Pittsburgh tells the paper that prosecutors just wanted to chat about the case with the jurors, a "commonplace" practice. The FBI agents were simply setting up the appointments. It is true that it's commonplace for lawyers from both sides to speak to jurors after a trial to get feedback. But there are two important distinctions here.

First, prosecutors didn't seek to poll or speak to jurors before making their determination as to whether to retry the case. If they had, the jurors would have said that most of them were ready to vote to acquit. "That seemed to us to be vindictive," Dick Thornburgh, the former attorney general under President George H.W. Bush and a lawyer for Wecht, told me. "It's how [the prosecutors] have behaved the whole case." The jury foreman has even said that the prosecution seemed "politically driven." (See our rundowns of the case here and here.)

And second, using the FBI to contact jurors is far from commonplace (Jerry McDevitt, another of Wecht's attorneys, told me that the agent who'd contacted the jurors was not even the agent who had worked on the Wecht case). Thornburgh told me that it was "unprecedented" in his experience. A former federal prosecutor told the Tribune-Review that it was unusual. And a veteran defense attorney from the Pittsburgh area told the paper that he'd never heard of such a thing. And there's a reason:

"If I'm a prospective juror in the second trial, and I'm hearing stories that if I don't agree with the government that I might get calls from the FBI, that could have a very, very deleterious impact," [the attorney] said. "I would think that's very bothersome to have that happen."

Last month, the judge handling the House's suit against Harriet Miers and White House chief of staff Josh Bolten set a schedule that will culminate in a June hearing, when both sides will get to argue. Up until then, both sides will be submitting written arguments pleading their side of the case.

First up were lawyers for the House, who wrote, "Not since the days of Watergate have the Congress and the federal courts been confronted with such an expansive view of executive privilege as the one asserted by the current presidential administration and the individual Defendants in this case." You can read the entire 45-page motion here.

House lawyers, following through on the contempt citations from the House Judiciary Committee, are trying to convince the judge to rule with them on certain narrower questions of executive privilege in an attempt to actually get hear from Harriet Miers and see some White House documents relevant to the U.S. attorney firings sometime this year.

Yesterday we detailed Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer's ties to the Northern Mariana Islands, Jack Abramoff's prize client, and particularly the islands' governor, Benigno Fitial.

The Denver Post followed up and put the question to Schaffer as to why he'd been so loyal to a little island territory thousands of miles away. The answer? Quit asking. From the Post:

Schaffer campaign manager Dick Wadhams declined Thursday to discuss his candidate's role in island politics. "The Denver Post continues its character assassination of Bob Schaffer," he said.

When Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud Qosi, a Sudanese detainee at Guantanamo Bay, was arraigned Thursday he refused to accept legal representation and informed the military court that he would boycott future proceedings. In a "rambling statement" he told the judge, "I leave in your hands the camel and its load for you to do whatever you wish." (LA Times)

An advisory panel of scientists has slammed the Environmental Protection Agency's Administrator Stephen Johnson for ignoring its advice and implementing air quality standards that fail to protect public health. When Johnson lowered the allowable ozone levels that are considered healthy (from 80 parts per billion to 75 parts per billion) 345 counties nationwide were deemed to be in "violation of the federal air quality standards for ozone, commonly known as smog." (AP)

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates apologized to Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) after Gates told Levin he must be confused for believing that the Pentagon was still involved in the physical reconstruction business in Iraq. Levin had received a letter from the Pentagon discussing an allocation of $600 million in reconstruction aid, yet Gates mistakenly told Levin that the money must have been for something else. After receiving a note from an aide that confirmed Levin's understanding, Gates admitted that “[T]here are actually things that go on that I don’t know about." (Politico's "The Crypt")

And in the same line of questioning with Sen. Levin and the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gates said he doesn't hold out hope for getting troop levels in Iraq down to 100,000 by 2009, despite the past prospects he's had on the subject. (ThinkProgress)

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