TPM News

The Justice Department Inspector General released a report yesterday showing that a select number of U.S. Attorneys sought reimbursement above government lodging rates. At the top of the worst offenders list: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who was U.S. Attorney from 2002 to 2008.

The report doesn't identify Christie or any of the U.S. Attorneys by name. But thanks to stories that came out during his campaign against former Gov. Jon Corzine (D) in 2009, we know that the U.S. Attorney who went over the government-set reimbursement rate the most between 2007 and 2009 was none other than current New Jersey governor.

Specifics of Christie's travel detailed in stories during the gubernatorial race last year as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request from his opponent match with the profile of a federal prosecutor dubbed "U.S. Attorney C" in the Inspector General report.

"In terms of the percentage of travel, U.S. Attorney C was the U.S. Attorney who most often exceeded the government rate without adequate justification," the report found. "The U.S. Attorney provided insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification for 14 of 23 trips (61 percent) that exceeded the government rate."

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After watching Majority Leader Steny Hoyer conduct an overt campaign to become House minority whip next year, current Whip Jim Clyburn is starting to make a more public play for the leadership office.

Last night, the Democratic Conference's Vice Chair Xavier Becerra became the first member of leadership to endorse in the contest -- and picked Clyburn.

"James Clyburn deserves to be reelected Democratic Whip in the 112th Congress," Becerra said in a statement. "Through some of the toughest legislative efforts in recent history--from health care to Wall Street reform--Mr. Clyburn found us the votes when they counted most. He fought to pass legislation that is putting America back to work and laying the foundation for a future where America leads the world in the new energy economy. He is a stalwart supporter of fixing our broken immigration system and providing every American a decent education and an equal shot at the American Dream. James Clyburn has my vote to continue as our Whip in the 112th Congress."

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A number of influential House chairmen, including key allies of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have signed a letter this morning endorsing Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in his race against Democratic Whip James Clyburn to be the new minority whip next Congress.

"Leader Hoyer is ready to hit the ground running as Democratic Whip," the chairmen write. "He is one of our party's most effective messengers, with the ability to challenge Republicans on the Floor, build support for our party's middle-class policies across America, and fight back against the special-interest money that played such an important role for Republicans in this election."

Like us, Congressman Hoyer understands that Americans do not support the Republican agenda of repealing health care reform, loosening rules that protect consumers and our environment, privatizing Social Security, and funding tax cuts for the wealthy with billions of dollars in new debt.

Steny Hoyer is a tested leader who can help Democrats rise to the challenge of the next Congress, protect the interests of the middle class, and win back the majority. For those reasons, we support Steny Hoyer as our next Democratic Whip, and we hope that you will do the same.

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Last week, while one tea party winner in North Carolina should have been celebrating the final vote tally, she instead found herself at the center of one more battle between insurgent conservatives and elements of the Republican establishment. The National Republican Congressional Committee -- which reportedly had a hand in a devastating video this summer of a Democratic congressman physically confronting college-age men -- is now at apparent odds with the Republican candidate who benefited from the video's fallout. And the NRCC has drawn the ire of tea partiers and big-name conservatives like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh.

Renee Ellmers, a registered nurse and first-time candidate, squeaked past Rep. Bob Etheridge (D) last Tuesday night, a result that is not yet set in political stone. Both sides are gearing up for a recount, a costly and potentially long process that has publicly pitted Ellmers against the National Republican Congressional Committee and eventually led Palin and Limbaugh -- who spent much of the year taking on establishment groups -- to attack the NRCC yet again. Now, the Republicans swear everyone has made up, but not before a nasty couple of days that played out like a mini 2010.

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Former President George W. Bush was asked during an interview last night why he believes waterboarding is legal.

"Because the lawyer said it was," Bush said. "He said it did not fall within the Anti-Torture Act. I'm not a lawyer, but you gotta trust the judgment of people around you and I do."

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Report: White House Open To Dem Outside Groups In 2012 Politico reports: "The White House is bracing for an onslaught of $500 million or more in spending by outside Republican groups opposed to President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election, prompting Obama advisers to give the green light to big Democratic donors to set up similar outside groups to counter the GOP's effort. That posture marks a significant shift by a White House that had discouraged outside players in the political arena in 2008."

Obama Visits Indonesia The Associated Press reports: "President Barack Obama says the landscape of Indonesia "has changed completely" since he lived there as a child in the late 1960s. He told reporters at a news conference in Jakarta Tuesday that he has thoroughly enjoyed his first return visit to the Asian nation as president, saying "it's wonderful to be here," and wishing aloud that he could stay longer."

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A 50-year-old Army veteran who was arrested after an eight-hour standoff with federal agents back in September and charged with threatening to kill President Barack Obama will undergo a competency evaluation at a federal institution in Colorado.

The trial of Roman Otto Conaway was set to begin on Nov. 15. But last week federal prosecutors in the Southern District of Illinois agreed to a defense motion which delayed the trial so Conaway could undergo a competency evaluation in Englewood, Colorado. The U.S. Marshal's Service removed Conaway from Illinois in late October and as of last week were transferring him to the new location in Colorado, according to court documents reviewed by TPMMuckraker.

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A former federal government official who was involved in the 2002 Beltway Sniper case told TPMMuckraker that it is important for investigators trying to identify the individual behind a string of shootings at empty military buildings to not narrow their focus and filter out alternate motives or suspects.

Michael Bouchard, a former official with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives who was involved in the Beltway sniper case, told TPMMuckraker that it was important not to be blinded to alternative suspect profiles or possible motives.

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