TPM News

The deliberations in the trial of Sen. Ted Stevens have been suspended for Friday after a juror had a family emergency, the AP reports.

Jurors will be excused from deliberations today and possibly Monday, so that Juror No. 4 can travel home to attend to the death of her father in California.

Today would be the third day of deliberations for the jury, which has already experienced a number of issues. On Wednesday, jurors asked to be excused early after things became "stressful." Yesterday, the foreman wrote a note to the judge requesting the removal of a juror who had become 'rude, disrespectful and unreasonable" and had "violent outbursts."

Minority voters in New Mexico report to TPMmuckraker that a private investigator working with Republican party lawyer Pat Rogers has appeared in person at the homes of their family members, intimidating and confusing them about their right to vote in the general election.

Earlier this week, we reported that Rogers -- a lawyer and state committeeman for the GOP, who in previous elections worked closely with the party in pressuring New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to pursue bogus voter fraud cases -- is involved with a new effort to gin up concerns about the issue. Last week the state party falsely claimed that 28 people had voted fraudulently in a local Democratic primary race in June. Rogers, described in an Associated Press report on the allegations as "an attorney who advises the state GOP," told the news wire that the party planned to turn the suspect forms over to law enforcement authorities.

The visits to minority voters by the P.I. appear to be connected to last week's effort.

The story starts last week, when several representatives of the New Mexico Republican party, including Rogers, held a press conference to announce that 28 people had voted fraudulently in a Democratic primary in June in Bernalillo county, which contains Albuquerque. The party released the names of ten of these people -- almost all of whom are Hispanic.

The allegations quickly fell apart. ACORN announced that it had contacted the county clerk's office, who had verified that all of the voters were in fact legitimate. The group now says it has independently contacted 8 of these 10 voters to separately verify their validity.

At that point, the national GOP, which had at first jumped on the story as rare evidence of genuine voter fraud, seemed to quietly back off.

But that wasn't the end of the story.

Guadalupe Bojorquez, who works in law enforcement in Albuquerque, told TPMmuckraker today that her mother, Dora Escobedo, was one of the ten voters whose names were released by the GOP. After this happened, said Bojorquez, her mother had been contacted by the voter registration group ACORN. Bojorquez, with ACORN's help, confirmed with the county clerk that her mother, who does not speak English, is indeed eligible to vote, and had been when she voted in June.

Nonetheless, Bojorquez said that her mother yesterday received a visit from a man who asked for her personal information, including an ID, in reference to her eligibility to vote. Bojorquez told TPMmuckraker that according to her mother, at one point the man asked what she would do if immigration authorities contacted her.

After Bojorquez's mother, frightened, refused to let him in the door, the man waited outside her house. Eventually, Bojorquez's brother arrived at the house, emboldening Bojorquez's mother to go outside, call Bojorquez, and put her on the phone with the man.

Bojorquez said the man told her he wanted to make sure her mother knew that she shouldn't be voting, and continued to ask for her mother's personal information. When Bojorquez said that no information would be handed over unless the man revealed who he was employed by, he said he was a private investigator hired by Pat Rogers. He told Bojorquez his name was Al Romero, and left a number at which Bojorquez could contact him.

Bojorquez added that in fact, her mother has already voted in the general election, by absentee ballot -- which she is eligible for because she has trouble walking -- so Romero's efforts on that front were in vain.

Another Albuquerque woman had a similar experience.

Jenais Griego told TPMmuckraker that yesterday, as she arrived home with her kids, a man in a beige Chevy Silverado pulled up, removed a notebook from his pocket, and said he was looking for Emily Garcia. Garcia is Griego's grandmother -- Griego said Garcia, who works as a home care-giver, lists Griego's address for her mail -- and, like Escobedo, was one of the voters named by the GOP last week as having voted fraudulently in June.

Griego said she allowed the man in, and when she asked him for identification, he pulled out a card that gave his name as Al Romero. She said the man had a redacted copy of Garcia's voter registration form, and asked whether Garcia intended to vote. He said if she intended to do so, she needed to make sure she was properly registered.

As with Bojorquez and Escobedo, Griego said that Garcia had already confirmed after the GOP press conference that she was indeed a valid voter. An ACORN worker had come to her house to explain that the GOP had questioned her registration, and, along with Griego, they had contacted the county clerk to ensure that she could legitimately vote, and had done so in June.

So when Romero asked Griego whether Garcia intended to vote, Griego replied that she did. At that point, said Griego, Romero became "angry" and "upset," and left abruptly.

Rogers did not return several calls from TPMmuckraker seeking comment. But last week he said that the state party had hired a private investigator in connection with vote fraud.

Reached by TPMmuckraker at the phone number he provided to Bojorquez, Romero said he didn't have time to talk about the matter. He did not respond to repeated follow-up calls.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) may be in some trouble with the age-old bipartisan House Franking Commission. The commission, which oversees congressional mailing standards, is investigating whether Roskam violated franking rules by sending out official mail within 90 days of an election. (Roll Call)

Lawyers for six Bosnian detainees at Guantanamo are battling it out with the Justice Department in front of a federal judge over who can be considered an enemy combatant. Once given the enemy combatant label, detainees can be held indefinitely without charges. The judge overseeing the case said Thursday that the debate "should have been resolved a long time ago." (AP/Boston Globe)

Despite a bumpy start, it was all smiles after day two of jury deliberations in the federal corruption trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) according to the judge overseeing the case. After a dramatic second day, the jurors left just before 4 p.m. after coming together to announce that they were "unanimous in requesting a break." (Roll Call)

Read More →

Apparently there's more to Scott Bloch's resignation as head of U.S. Special Counsel that meets the eye. According to the National Journal's Congress Daily, Bloch was fired today in a meeting with White House officials.

From Congress Daily:

Scott Bloch, the embattled head of the U.S. Special Counsel, was fired today in a meeting with White House officials, according to several sources. Bloch is under federal investigation for possible obstruction of justice for destroying computer files sought by investigators in prior probe into whether he retaliated illegally against whistleblowers in his office. On Monday Bloch announced plans to resign on Jan. 5. OSC employees said Federal Protective Service employees barred Bloch from his office today. The agency has an all-hands meeting at 4 p.m.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed an FEC complaint today against Sarah Palin and the Republican National Committee for violating federal election law in spending $150,000 outfitting the Alaska governor.

The group claims the excessive spending is a violation of campaign finance law which specifically prohibits candidates from using campaign funds for personal use.

"It is ridiculous that RNC would spend $150,000 to outfit a vice presidential nominee and her family at any time, but it is more outrageous given the dire financial straights of so many Americans and the state of our economy," CREW director Melanie Sloan said in a statement. "If the RNC had an extra $150,000 to throw around, there were better alternatives than pricey designer clothes."

Earlier this week, the RNC responded to possible violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act by stating that all of Palin's clothes would be donated to charity after the election.

The jury in the trial of Sen. Ted Stevens sent three more notes to Judge Emmet Sullivan today, one of which specifically asked the judge to "please clarify the liability cost as it is not readily clear in Senate regulations," The Hill reports.

After receiving the notes, Sullivan sent the jurors to lunch early and asked attorneys from the case to return to court this afternoon for a bench conference to discuss how to instruct the jury.

From The Hill:

Sullivan proposed telling the jurors that the financial disclosure forms require "the filer to disclose the amount of liabilities in excess of $10,000 that were owed by the filer in any point in time during the calendar year." But Robert Cary, Stevens's defense lawyer, called the statement an "oversimplification" and asked to give the jurors a more elaborate explanation.

Today is only the first full day of deliberations for the jury, who were given instructions yesterday morning.

Late update: It looks like one of the jurors may be dismissed for "disruptive, rude and violent" behavior, the AP reports. We'll keep you updated as we hear more.

Late update. . . 2:33 pm: More details are emerging on the "violent" juror. The Hill describes her as a "middle-aged. . bookkeeper for the D.C. National Guard." According to Politico, one of the jury's notes to Sullivan says the woman "has had violent outbursts with other jurors and that's not helping anyone. She is not following the laws and rules that were stipulated."

Late update. . . 2:56pm: After discussing with attorneys from both sides, it doesn't look like the "violent" juror won't be going anywhere.

From the AP:

Worried about disrupting the process, Sullivan opted not to remove the woman. He spoke with jurors, told them how important their job was, urged them to be civil and sent them back to continue deliberating.

Late update. . .6:29pm: The Washington Post has a copy of the note sent from the jury to Sullivan requestion that juror #9 be removed. Read it here.

It looks like some of the state and local efforts led by Republicans to stymie voters, aren't panning out.

The latest loss for the GOP comes in Wisconsin. Where the suit filed by Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen requesting confirmation on thousands of voter registrations, has been thrown out by a county circuit judge.

From Wisconisn State Journal:

Judge Maryann Sumi said Van Hollen failed to state an adequate claim for bringing the lawsuit and noted that state law has consistently favored protecting citizens' right to vote. Sumi also said that Van Hollen did not have standing to bring the lawsuit.

. . .DOJ spokesman Kevin St. John said the Department of Justice plans to appeal, possibly directly to the state Supreme Court.

Just yesterday, the Nevada Secretary of State rejected a GOP argument that people who corrected incomplete registration information at the polls should be forced to cast provisional ballots. And in Indiana, a judge ruled against Republican efforts to shut down early polling places in Democratic-heavy areas of a key county.

Last week, the Supreme Court sided with Ohio's Democratic Secretary of State, ruling against ruling against a Republican effort to require her to provide infomration on voters with mismatched registration information to county election officials, which could have led to GOP challenges.

Late update: TPMmuckraker caught up with Joe Wineke, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, who called the ruling "very strongly worded."

"It's great to know that the circuit court in Wisconsin understood that the rule of law is more important than partisan political campaigns," Wineke told us. "The really amazing thing to me right now is that the attorney general plans to appeal with 12 day to go till the election."

We should have a copy of the court's decision shortly, so check back soon.

Though war crimes charges against five Guantanamo Bay prisoners were dismissed Tuesday, Mohamed Jawad, the detainee whose case prompted the resignation of a military prosecutor last month, is still being held. The former prosecutor, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, has accused the government of withholding evidence from the defense that might clear Jawad, who was picked up in Afghanistan as a teenager. (ProPublica/Salon) The Justice Department has declined to pursue the prosecution of two former Interior Department officials accused of corruption, citing inadequate evidence. In a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, John Conyers (D-MI), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, expressed suggested the decision was motivated by a desire to "run out the clock on the many controversies surrounding this administration." (Washington Post/Press Release)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture inadequately handles discrimination cases, according to a government report out yesterday. The study, issued by the Government Accountability Office, pointed to inaccurate data and a large backlog of complaints, and suggested the creation of an oversight board for the agency. (Washington Post)

Read More →

Yesterday we told you about the latest GOP effort to make voting more difficult -- a letter sent by Nevada GOP chair Sue Lowden to Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller, arguing that people should not be able to correct incomplete registrations on the spot when going to vote. Lowden claimed that Nevada law requires voter registration to be closed three weeks before election day, and that in such cases, people should be forced to cast provisional ballots.

Now Miller's office has responded with an interpretation of the law at issue, rejecting Lowden's argument. The key excerpt:

Question: If a county clerk/registrar of voters determines that an application to register to vote is incomplete or incorrect, does Nevada law provide an opportunity for the applicant to submit a corrected application after the close of registration?

Answer: Yes. Nevada law provides the manner in which an in-person and mail-in applicant may update or correct the voter information, and may do so without losing his right to vote.

Miller has already been in the news for voting issues this cycle. Last month, he engineered a high-profile raid on an ACORN office in Las Vegas after fraudulent registration forms were submitted, despite the fact that ACORN claimed it was cooperating with investigators.

We've got a bit more information on the FBI's investigation into voter fraud that's taking place in New Mexico.

Last Friday, the Associated Press reported that FBI agents had met with Bernalillo County clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver, "after she notified authorities about an estimated 1,500 possibly fraudulent voter registration cards."

And speaking today to TPMmuckraker, Toulouse Oliver added a bit of detail to that picture. She said she had passed on redacted copies of the suspicious forms (many of which had badly mismatched information, or listed addresses that did not exist) to the offices of the District Attorney and the US Attorney in the area. When the FBI contacted her, it said it had been asked to follow up by the US Attorney' office. And the meeting between Toulouse Oliver and an FBI agent was also attended by an Assistant US Attorney.

The US Attorney's office didn't return a call seeking comment. But it appears that the office is taking a lead role in the investigation.

It's worth noting that David Iglesias was fired from that very US Attorney's office largely for his reluctance to pursue bogus voter fraud claims.

What's still unclear is how closely the probe is tied to the nationwide investigation into ACORN's voter registration activities that we learned about last week. ACORN is active in Bernalillo County.