TPM News

TPM alum Justin Rood reports:

A proposal to keep seriously wounded vets from falling through the cracks of the bureaucracy was shelved in 2005 when Jim Nicholson took over as the secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department, according to the former VA employee who was responsible for tracking war casualties.

As a result, seriously wounded veterans continued to face long delays for health care and benefit payments after being discharged from the military, says former VA program manager Paul Sullivan....

Sullivan said he was told the cost of the system -- less than $1 million to build and requiring a handful of staff to maintain -- was prohibitive.

$1 million.

From Roll Call's Heard on the HIll column (sub. req.):

The lawyer representing the alleged madam of a prostitution ring that operated in D.C. for 13 years says it’s a “mathematical certainty” his client’s not-so-little black book includes some of Roll Call’s readers, i.e., power players in and around Congress.

Attorney Montgomery Blair Sibley, who is representing accused madam Jeane Palfrey, tells HOH Palfrey hasn’t told him if the client list includes lawmakers. “But it’s a pretty good bet,” Sibley said.

Palfrey, who denies her “adult fantasy firm” was illegal, has only generated a few thousand dollars from donations to her Web site,, Sibley said, so she still is considering selling records of her decade-plus operation to pay her legal bills, which likely will run well into six figures.

Palfrey is expected to be arraigned Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“The quality of the escorts would attract a high-quality clientele,” Sibley said, explaining his certainty that the list includes droppable-in-Washington names. Other factors pointing to lobbyists, lawmakers and other bigwigs? “The cost and the location of the meetings — they were always in upscale hotels or in upscale parts of D.C., Maryland and Virginia.”

Naughty boldfacers on the list have plenty to be nervous about. Sibley said he isn’t sure when his client will decide what to do with her records. But for now, selling them “seems to be her only option,” he said.

As we reported before, Palfrey's lawyer told us that the madam herself "will cooperate with whoever acquires the information to supplement it with other information at her disposal."

What a small world. Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) has nabbed Lee Blalack, best known as Duke Cunningham's lawyer, to represent him in the Senate ethics investigation, The Washington Post reports.

And they note the obvious irony:

Blalack, a partner in O'Melveny & Myers LLP's Washington office, is an experienced defense lawyer. As attorney for Cunningham, who is serving a sentence of more than eight years, Blalack dealt with one of the federal prosecutors who was later ousted, Carol S. Lam of San Diego.

When former United States attorney John McKay made a bid in 2006 to be a federal judge, he didn't get the job. Why? Well, part of the vetting process, it seems, involved quizzing him about why he didn't pursue allegations of voter fraud by Democrats in the 2004 gubernatorial election.

The Seattle Times has more on who in the White House asked McKay about that:

He said Tuesday that during interviews with Harriet Miers, former White House counsel, and William Kelley, deputy counsel, he was asked to explain "criticism that I mishandled the 2004 governor's election."

Since McClatchy reported that Miers wasn't the one who popped the question to McKay, it seems that William Kelley was.

So who complained to the White House?

McKay told The Seattle Times that reporters "should ask Congressman [Doc] Hastings (R-WA) if he contacted the White House in connection with my application to be district judge or contacted the justice department."

Well, they did, and Hastings' chief of staff denied it up and down: "Neither I nor any member of my staff — past or present — ever contacted anyone at the White House or the Department of Justice about whether John McKay should be removed as U.S. attorney or whether he was qualified to be a federal judge."

Read More →

One of the more damning pieces of testimony yesterday came from Bud Cummins, who received a call from a Justice Department official on February 20th wtih a clear message: if the fired proscutors continued speaking out, then the department would be forced to hit back and dish dirt on them.

Now that official, Michael Elston, the chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, has sent a letter to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to give his side of the story (you can read his letter here). In it, Elston claims that he's "shocked and baffled" at Cummins' interpretation of the call: "I do not understand how anything that I said to him in our last conversation in mid-February could be construed as a threat of any kind."

Let's review what happened. In a February 19th article in The Washington Post, Cummins was quoted on the firings:

"They're [the Justice Department] entitled to make these changes for any reason or no reason or even for an idiotic reason,... But if they are trying to suggest that people have inferior performance to hide whatever their true agenda is, that is wrong. They should retract those statements."

Read More →

Libby Declared Guilty in Perjury Trial "I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted on Tuesday of lying to a grand jury and to F.B.I. agents investigating the leak of the identity of a C.I.A. operative in the summer of 2003 amid a fierce public dispute over the war in Iraq." (The New York Times) Speaking to the press after the verdict, juror Denis Collins said that there was a "tremendous amount of sympathy" for Libby, adding that the decision was based solidly on the evidence and that "opinion had very little to do with it." (The Los Angeles Times)

Read More →

Josh flagged this last night, but McClatchy has a fuller account of former USA John McKay's remarks:

In an interview, McKay said his handling of the 2004 Washington governor's race came back to haunt him when he was interviewed about a federal judgeship by then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers and others in her office.

McKay said he was asked in the late summer or early fall of 2006 to explain the criticism of how he'd "mishandled" the governor's race investigation. McKay didn't reveal who asked the question, but he said it wasn't Miers.

McKay didn't get the nomination.

As McKay testified yesterday, he didn't pursue an investigation of alleged voter fraud by Democrats because there was "no evidence."

Yet another tutorial in how not to do damage control.

Yesterday, former U.S. Attorney for Seattle John McKay testified that he'd been contacted by Rep. Doc Hastings' (R-WA) chief of staff a few weeks after the November 2004 gubernatorial election, in which the Democrat had won by a scant couple hundred votes after multiple recounts. Republicans had alleged voter fraud. McKay testified that Cassidy called him on "behalf of the Congressman" to inquire about the status of any investigation into the alleged fraud.

McKay, immediately on guard, responded (sub. req.) with public accounts of the investigation's status, and then before Cassidy pressed further, told Cassidy that he was "certain" that Cassidy was not asking him to "reveal information" about the status of a probe or “lobby me on one.” Cassidy, McKay testified, agreed that no, sir, he was not doing that, and then the call ended.

So what does Cassidy, who now works for Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), have to say about it? Here's his statement:

“My conversation with John McKay was a routine effort to determine whether allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 gubernatorial election were, or were not, being investigated by federal authorities... As the top aide to the chairman of the House Ethics Committee, I understood the permissible limits on any such conversation. Mr. McKay understood and respected those boundaries as well. I am pleased that Mr. McKay recalls both our agreement to respect these boundaries and my subsequent decision to end the conversation promptly.”

"Routine effort?" That makes it sound as if Cassidy makes it a habit to call up federal prosecutors and ask whether their office is investigating Democrats, doesn't it? As CREW has detailed in their requests for investigations of Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM), it's against the rules of both houses for members to inquire about the status of a particular investigation. Why? It's obvious: because that's an indirect way of applying pressure to a prosecutor to get a move on.

Maybe that's why Rep. Hastings took the opposite tack in his statement:

“Ed Cassidy’s call and the conversation that took place were entirely appropriate... It was a simple inquiry and nothing more — and it was the only call to any federal official from my office on this subject either during or after the recount ordeal.”

So either it was "routine" or it was the "only" call anybody from Hastings' office ever made like this. Which is it?

Earlier, we noted that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) had referenced a letter she'd received from the Justice Department essentially vouching for U.S. Attorney Carol Lam's approach in prosecuting border cases.

You can read the letter here. It's dated August 23, 2006. Little more than three months later, Lam was fired -- according to the administration, because of her office's poor performance prosecuting border cases.

A new statement out from Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM):

In his testimony today, Mr. Iglesias confirmed that our conversation was brief and that my words did not threaten him, nor did I direct him to take any course of action. While I recall, as I stated previously, that I asked Mr. Iglesias about timing of the investigation, neither I nor those who overheard my side of the brief conversation recall my mentioning the November election to him.

When I was first asked, in response to a chorus of questions, about whether I pressured or threatened Mr. Iglesias, I responded that I did not know what he was talking about. Today he testified that he “felt violated.” I still do not know what he is talking about. In his own testimony, Mr. Iglesias confirmed that nothing I actually said was threatening or directive. I did not pressure him. I asked him a timing question. He responded. I concluded the conversation.

You can watch Iglesias' testimony about Domenici's call here.