TPM News

The Daily Journal of Illinois reports:

Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Morris, through his election attorney, moved Thursday to inform the House that a former page or intern may have been the subject of inappropriate attention from another lawmaker, Weller's campaign manager said Thursday.

Steven Shearer said the congressman was not prepared to reveal the identity of the youth, the timing, nor the identity of the lawmaker, but felt confident that a former page or intern was "inappropriately invited to a social function by another congressman."

Kind of raises more questions than it answers, doesn't it?

It looks like the House ethics probe into the Foley scandal won't hear any new testimony today. A dedicated klatsch of journalists staked out the hearing room all morning, but no witnesses have entered or left, I'm told; the FOX News camera has since packed up.

The panel does not make its schedule publicly available, and requests for information are routed to its chief of staff. It's not clear how long the investigation will take, although a Democratic spokesman says the leadership still believes the matter will be resolved in "weeks, not months," as they promised two weeks ago when they announced the effort.

A Democratic spokesman for a member of the House Appropriations committee disagreed with comments from the Republican chairman, who said yesterday that the recent massive firing of the panel's fraud investigators was "bipartisan."

In a surprise move, House Appropriations chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) Monday fired all 60 of his panel's contract investigators. Sixteen permanent investigative staff were not affected by the action.

In a comment to Congressional Quarterly, Lewis spokesman John Scofield said the firings came because of a "bipartisan review" of the investigative unit. The review, he said, was supported by Rep. David Obey (D-WI), the top Democrat on the committee.

But an anonymous Democratic spokesman told ThinkProgress today that the firings were not okayed by Obey or other Democratic members of the committee. In fact, they weren't even consulted, he said.

Kirstin Brost, press secretary for David Obey, declined to comment for the record on the matter.

The effectiveness of the House Appropriations Committee's "I-Staff," as it is known, is unclear. Current and former staff from both sides of the aisle who are familiar with the group's reports say their quality was uneven. Lewis spokesman Scofield told CQ that "the work we’ve been getting as of late has not been that good."

"I never saw anything of value come out of them," Ronald Garant, a former contract investigator, said of the investigators working Katrina fraud claims. "I thought that was wasted time." Garant left the unit in March.

Update: An earlier version of the ThinkProgress post implied that the anonymous spokesman worked for Rep. Obey. A revised version identifies the commenter only as a "press spokesman," whose comments apply to all Democrats on the panel, not just Obey's office.

Was terror detainee Jose Padilla drugged by his U.S. government captors? His lawyers say yes.

Government officials have said they do no such thing, but reports on other detainees tell a different tale.

"Of course not," snapped Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in response to a reporter who asked him if the military ever used truth serums on high-value terror detainees, at an April 2002 news conference.

The CIA has also denied employing drugs in interrogations. "[T]he agency is closemouthed about such matters, other than denying that it uses truth serum," the Wall Street Journal reported in March 2003.

But evidence belies that. In March 2002 -- the same month Rumsfeld issued his denial -- author Gerald Posner says that U.S. interrogators used sodium pentothal, the most common form of "truth serum," against Abu Zubaydah, an alleged al Qaeda kingpin. Posner published his account in September 2003.

And in May 2005, the British Sunday Telegraph reported that Pakistani intelligence had used truth serum on alleged al Qaeda No. 3 Abu Faraj al-Libbi.

Read More →

Nev. Gov. Candidate Denies Wrongdoing "'I did nothing wrong last Friday. I did not act inappropriately with anyone," [gubernatorial candidate and] U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons [R-NV] said, a day after police released reports detailing events that ended in three 911 calls and an assault allegation against him three weeks before Election Day....

"Chrissy Mazzeo, 32, told police that Gibbons, 61, grabbed her arms, pushed her up against a wall and propositioned her in a parking garage near a bar where the two had met earlier in the night." (AP)

Read More →

My goodness. As TPMm readers know well, House Appropriations chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) is under federal investigation for possible improprieties in how he oversaw Congress' spending of $900 billion annually. Yesterday, we reported that Lewis had dropped nearly $800,000 in legal fees to defend himself against the probe.

This evening, Congressional Quarterly reports (sub. req.) that in a round of calls Monday evening, Lewis fired 60 investigators who had worked for his committee rooting out fraud, waste and abuse, effective immediately. As in, don't bother coming in on Tuesday.

The investigators were contract workers, brought on to handle the extraordinary level of fraud investigations facing the panel. Sixteen permanent investigative staff are staying on, according to CQ. More:

Lewis’ decision “has in fact stalled all of the investigations on the staff,” said one of the contractors, a former FBI agent, who asked not to be identified. “This eviscerates the investigatory function. There is little if any ability to do any oversight now.”

. . .

“In effect, no investigative function is going to be done,” said the contractor, who called the decision “misguided.”

“This staff has saved billions and billions of dollars, we’ve turned up malfeasance and misfeasance,” the contractor said. “It’s results justify the expense of the staff. I have no idea why the chairman would do this.”

Lewis' spokesman, John Scofield, told CQ that such complaints were "sour grapes," and assured the publication that "there is nothing sinister going on."

CNN adds to ABC's reporting on former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl's testimony before the House ethics committee today:

Former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl repeatedly raised red flags about former Rep. Mark Foley years before GOP leaders said they knew about Foley's inappropriate conduct with pages, sources said....

Two sources close to Trandahl told CNN that he had been monitoring Foley's interaction with pages after being told of troubling behavior by the congressman in the House cloakroom and elsewhere. Trandahl took his concerns to Kirk Fordham, Foley's former chief of staff, many times, the sources said.

So Trandahl has corroborated a key point of Kirk Fordham's testimony. But did he also tell the committee, like Fordham did, that Speaker Hastert's chief of staff interceded way back in 2003 to warn Foley about his advances?

The prison door will close behind Jack Abramoff November 15th, starting an at least nine year sentence behind bars.

But that doesn't mean that prosecutors are done with him. Their sprawling investigation is far from over. So they've asked, and a judge has granted their motion, to have Abramoff placed in a Maryland prison. Prosecutors recommended a prison in Cumberland, Maryland, a medium security facility.

"Mr. Abramoff’s incarceration there will facilitate the government’s access to him and, therefore, the ongoing investigation," prosecutors wrote. Judge Paul C. Huck granted the motion Monday.

Abramoff's sentence relates to his forgery of a wire transfer related to his purchase of a Florida casino boat company. He has not yet been sentenced for charges relating to his corrupt lobbying practice.

ABC News has a taste of Trandahl's testimony:

The former clerk of the House of Representatives, Jeff Trandahl, who testified for more than four hours before the House Ethics Committee today, is believed to have testified that a top aide to House Speaker Dennis Hastert was informed of "all issues dealing with the page program," according to a Republican familiar with the investigation.

The Republican source said Trandahl planned to name Ted Van Der Meid, the speaker's counsel and floor manager, as the person who was briefed on a regular basis about any issue that arose in the page program, including a "problem group of members and staff who spent too much time socializing with pages outside of official duties." One of whom was Mark Foley.
Van Der Meid, you might remember, was one of the Hastert staffers who was involved in the fall, 2005 response to the "overly friendly" emails that Foley had sent to a staffer. Hastert had described Van Der Meid as "the Speaker's Office liaison with the Clerk's Office."

That brings to two the number of staffers in Hastert's office who allegedly knew about Foley's pursuit of House pages before last fall. According to Kirk Fordham, Foley's former chief of staff, Trandahl also alerted Hastert's chief of staff Scott Palmer about Foley's behavior.

This morning, former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl testifed before the House ethics committee. What did he say?

In a statement, his lawyer would only say that Trandahl "has cooperated fully" with the investigation being conducted by the FBI and the House ethics committee, and that "he answered every question asked of him."

According to various accounts, Trandahl, a Republican, knew for several years that Foley had a problem of pursuing House pages.

In 2000 or 2001, Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) says he notified Trandahl after a page told him he'd received inappropriate messages from Foley.

According to Foley's former chief of staff Kirk Fordham, Trandahl warned him several times, starting in 2001, of Foley's worrying interest in the pages. Fordham says that in 2003, he and Trandahl agreed to go to the Speaker's office about the problem.

And then in 2005, Trandahl was again central when a page received emails from Foley. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) says that he and Trandahl sat down with Foley to talk about the problem.

So amidst all that back and forth, did Trandahl ever mention anything about the earlier run-ins to Speaker Hastert's staff or other members of the leadership? We'll have to wait to find out.