TPM News

Last week, after IraqSlogger's Christina Davidson broke the news that Iyad Allawi has hired a GOP lobbying powerhouse to persuade the U.S. to back his efforts at becoming Iraqi prime minister again, we took a look at which other Iraqis have taken out Washington-based representation.

What we found was an imbalance: Allawi and the Kurds have taken out the lion's share of Iraq lobbying contracts, while the leading Sunni organizations -- the Iraqi Islamic Party and the broader coalition of which it's a member, the Tawafuq -- have comparatively modest arrangements. The "lobbyist" for the Tawafuq, in fact, told us that he had stopped doing any work on his informal contract, which he had taken on a "volunteer basis." That's just as well: the Tawafuq's rep, Mohammed Alomary, is based in Michigan, a far cry from the corridors of power.

Now, we've just learned that the Iraqi Islamic Party canceled its contract months ago with the Focus on Advocacy & Advancement of International Relations.

Read More →

The D.C. watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed a complaint (pdf) with the Senate ethics committee against Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) for his lewd conduct / restroom-signaling conviction.

The Senate ethics manual warns against "improper conduct which may reflect upon the Senate," and CREW argues in their complaint that Sen. Craig clearly crossed the line. As Melanie Sloan, the group's executive director, put it, "If pleading guilty to charges stemming from an attempt to solicit an undercover officer in a public restroom is not conduct that reflects poorly upon the Senate, what is?"

The group has also filed complaints against Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) (for pressuring a U.S. attorney about a prosecution of a state Democrat) and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) (for paying for sex). It's unclear what's happening with Domenici, who has reportedly faced a preliminary investigation, and there's been no word on the Vitter complaint. "The ethics committee doesn't do anything about anything," was Sloan's summary of its recent activity.

Get ready for more revelations about the extent of the National Security Agency's post-9/11 warrantless surveillance program. Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee is going to hear testimony from Jack Goldsmith, the former head of Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, a key ally in James Comey's efforts as acting attorney general to scale back what they considered an illegal program.

A Senate source confirms to TPMmuckraker that the committee "expects him to testify at a hearing sometime after Congress reconvenes," but no dates have been announced yet. Nor is there word about other witnesses, or if Goldsmith -- who didn't testify along with Comey during his dramatic May 15 hearing -- has been subpoenaed. Isikoff reports that that the hearing will likely occur next month.

Read More →

It looks like there is still more to come in the Alaska political corruption scandal, according to the Juneau Empire, which quoted a federal prosecutor saying there are "multiple, ongoing nonpublic investigations" looking at the ties between Alaska lawmakers and the oil industry.

The paper also notes that a federal judge officially named Ben Stevens, former Alaska Senate President and son of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), as a subject in the investigation. Stevens had been identified as "Senator B" in charging documents; the Anchorage Daily News pieced together the younger Stevens' involvement in May.

It looks like Major John Cockerham might have some competition for his title as most-crooked contracting official in Iraq.

The New York Times reports that a plethora of criminal investigations, all part of a new Pentagon anti-corruption push, are open into what exactly happened to "weapons, supplies and other materiel" dispensed in that country as part of over $40 billion in reconstruction aid. And one of the investigations -- though it's maddeningly unclear as to what the charge even is -- centers around a former aide to General David Petraeus, now the commanding general in Iraq.

Contracting fraud in the effort to supply and equip Iraqi security forces, Afghan soldiers and U.S. troops is suspected to be immense. Over 70 cases are currently under investigation in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, according to the paper, for contracts worth more that $5 billion. So far, investigators have uncovered evidence of upwards of $15 million in bribes.

One such case involves Lieutenant Colonel Levonda Joey Selph, a master logistics officer who worked with Petraeus when he commanded the effort to train and equip Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005. Petraeus has already commented that he considered the rapid preparation of Iraqi soldiers and police to be a greater priority than scrupulous bookkeeping. As yet, Petraeus is not suspected of any wrongdoing -- and indeed, even what Selph is suspected of having done is unclear. But here's what is: Selph ran a massive logistics operation, and one that was ripe for abuse.

That operation moved everything from AK-47s, armored vehicles and plastic explosives to boots and Army uniforms, according to officials who were involved in it. Her former colleagues recall Colonel Selph as a courageous officer who was willing to take substantial personal risks to carry out her mission and was unfailingly loyal to General Petraeus and his directives to move quickly in setting up the logistics operation.

“She was kind of like the Pony Express of the Iraqi security forces,” said Victoria Wayne, who was then deputy director of logistics for the overall Iraqi reconstruction program.

Still, Colonel Selph also ran into serious problems with a company she oversaw that failed to live up to a contract it had signed to carry out part of that logistics mission.

It is not clear exactly what Colonel Selph is being investigated for. Colonel Selph, reached by telephone twice on Monday, said she would speak to reporters later but did not answer further messages left for her.

Read More →

The Judge Advocates General for each branch of the military have informed Republican senators that Bush's recent executive order on CIA interrogation could still allow abuse, and that the order is carefully written to allow for humiliating and degrading interrogation tactics. The Justice Department insists that the order, which does not rule out tactics like waterboarding, is consistent with the Geneva Convention. (Boston Globe)

Former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) is unlikely to face charges for having sexually explicit conversations with young men, unless new evidence comes for demonstrating intent. Meanwhile, investigators have still been denied access to Foley's office computers, which have been declared congressional work papers. Via Think Progress. (TC Palm)

Michael Chertoff's name has been at the forefront of the D.C. rumor mill as a replacement for Attorney General Gonzales. And the scrutiny has already begun, as Salon explores his fortuitous lack of memory on the issue of detainee abuse during his stint at the Justice Department. (Salon)

Read More →

Why did Alberto Gonzales resign this weekend? He just did and that's all there is to it, says the White House.

Witness, for example, this perfectly absurd exchange from this morning's press gaggle with spokesman Scott Stanzel:

Question: The resignation, is this an admission that his critics were right, that after all this time that he would no longer be effective as Attorney General?

Stanzel: No, I think this is a recognition by the Attorney General that it was in the department's best interest for him to move on.

Take a second to wrap your head around that one.

The other telling exchange from the gaggle:

Question: Did the President try to talk him out of resigning?

Stanzel: He did not. He respects the Attorney General's judgments and he knew that the Attorney General had given this thoughtful consideration and had come to the conclusion that it was in the best interest of the Department of Justice for him to step down.

Question: If the President is so insistent that there was no wrongdoing, then why would he accept his resignation?

Stanzel: Well, like I said, he does respect the Attorney General's judgment.

Any more questions?

Reached by phone today, David Iglesias, the former U.S. attorney for New Mexico, was quick in his reaction: "It's morning in America, Paul."

Asked if he felt vindicated, he said yes, citing the long stream of resignations of those connected to the firings. And he said he was hearing expressions of relief from friends in the Justice Department. "Finally," said one. "All the leaves have fallen off the tree and now the tree has fallen," another told him.

"I doubt that this kind of scandal will happen again in our lifetimes, during future administrations," he told me. "It's been instructive, and it's been destructive to the integrity of the Justice Department." But he's "hopeful," he said.

Iglesias' formula for restoring confidence in the Justice Department was simple, and similar to what Democrats have been urging today: "Get an attorney general who's respected by the courts and by Capitol Hill and somebody who has experience as a federal prosecutor.... You need someone who understands that the attorney general has to say no to the president sometimes."

Paul Clement, the solicitor-general of the United States, will step in as acting attorney general when Alberto Gonzales finishes boxing up his memories on September 17. (You know, the ones he told the Senate he didn't have.) Clement isn't likely to stay in office very long, as President Bush intends to appoint a permanent replacement for Gonzales, but for an unspecified amount of time, Clement will be the nation's chief law enforcement official. (The acting attorney general can remain in office for up to 210 days starting from the departure of his Senate-confirmed predecessor, Mike Allen reports; but this is, to say the least, unlikely.) So that raises the question: Who is Paul Clement, anyway?

You might say he's... a conservative. Primarily a legal scholar an attorney in private practice, Clement clerked for two of the most conservative judges in the country, Lawrence Silberman of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He came to the solicitor-general's office in 2001 as the deputy SG on the strength of serving on John Aschroft's Senate staff, and for helping construct the winning argument in Bush v. Gore. It was something of a consolation prize: Ashcroft unsuccessfully tried to make Clement chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, but was blocked when the White House backed Jay Bybee for the position.

According to a 2004 Legal Times profile, Clement's consistent conservatism hasn't stopped him from winning the respect of his ideological opposites:

Indeed, in D.C.'s clubby Supreme Court Bar, where reputations are built over a lifetime, Clement seems to have achieved remarkably early success.

"He's one of the best I've ever seen," says O'Melveny & Myers partner Walter Dellinger, who served as acting solicitor general from 1996 to 1997.

"Whenever I think of an argument from Paul, the one word that springs to mind is clarity," Dellinger adds. "He has an extremely precise and clear intellect. Paul is never murky in thought or expression."

Indeed, at his Senate confirmation hearing in 2005 to become solicitor general, Clement received high praise from leading Bush-administration inquistor Russ Feingold (D-WI) for his "superb" 2003 defense of Feingold's campaign-finance reform before the Supreme Court. Feingold vouched for Clement's "professionalism and integrity" even when the two men disagreed.

Read More →

The circle is pretty much complete at the Justice Department with Gonzales' resignation today. Here's a rundown of the numerous resignations over the past several months connected to the U.S. attorney firings scandal.

1) Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, today.

2) Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty announced his resignation May 14th.

3) Acting Associate Attorney General William Mercer (the Department's #3) announced that he was withdrawing his nomination for the position June 22nd.

4) Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' chief of staff, resigned March 13th.

5) Department White House liaison Monica Goodling resigned April 6th.

6) Michael Elston, McNulty's chief of staff, resigned June 15th.

7) Executive Director of the Executive Office of United States Attorneys Michael Battle, announced his resignation in mid-February.

8) Bradley Schlozman, an attorney in the Counsel to the Director staff at the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, formerly the U.S. attorney for Kansas City and a former acting assistant attorney for the Civil Rights Division, resigned mid August.

And, finally, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Wan Kim was another notable resignation (on August 23rd), although Kim's troubles were unrelated to the firings scandal.