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The new story on Chris Christie, the former U.S. Attorney and current Republican nominee for Governor of New Jersey, just keeps getting worse, the New York Times reports -- now involving his tax returns.

It was revealed that Christie had failed to reveal in his state and federal financial disclosure forms that he'd made a $46,000 loan to an assistant in the U.S. attorney's office, Michele Brown, who still works in the U.S. Attorney's office and is still paying off the loan to him in regular installments. The loan was secured by a second mortgage on Brown's home.

Now the Times has discovered that Christie failed to report income from the loan on his tax returns. Christie aides told the Times that Christie will file an amended tax return.

This story is sure to give Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine a lot of ammunition. Combined with the news about Christie's conversations years ago with Karl Rove about a potential bid for governor, these stories could seriously damage Christie's reputation as a squeaky clean corruption-busting prosecutor, which has been a cornerstone of his political career.

The White House has strengthened its denial that the administration's non-committal position on the public option has changed one way or another.

"Here's the bottom line: Absolutely nothing has changed," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

"We continue to support the public option. That will help lower costs, give American consumers more choice and keep private insurers honest. If people have other ideas about how to accomplish these goals, we'll look at those, too. But the public option is a very good way to do this."

Over the weekend, President Obama referred to the public option as a "sliver" of health care reform, and Sebelius said the public option wasn't essential reform's success. Though the White House's core position hasn't changed, the intensity with which it supports the public option has varied over the last several weeks, and this weekend's remarks were the first indication that the administration doesn't even regard the public option as particularly crucial.

But White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insists that Sebelius' statements were not a trial balloon. "If it was a signal, it was a dog whistle we started blowing three months ago, and it just got picked up," Gibbs said. "It's crazy. It's not a signal."

Chris Christie, the former U.S. Attorney and current Republican nominee for Governor of New Jersey, is now getting a new headache over a story that was broken last night by New Jersey Public Television -- that in 2007, Christie made a $46,000 personal loan to an assistant of his in the U.S. Attorney's office, which is still being paid off in regular installments:



Christie said he did not view this as an improper financial relationship: "I just believe that if you have friends who are in need, that you help them, whether they work with you or whether they're friends of yours from outside the work realm. We were happy to be able to help, and they've been great about repaying the loan."

Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine's campaign has pounced on the report, saying that a candidate for governor should not have an ongoing financial relationship with someone who is still working in the U.S. Attorney's office. "This raises more significant questions and legal issues for the Christie campaign," said Corzine spokesman Sean Darcy. "Are they still in contact? Have they been discussing this campaign? What impact has their ongoing financial relationship had on the gubernatorial campaign?"

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Appearing on Fox News this morning, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) once again called the death panel controversy (which he stoked) a Democratic party diversion...and then noted that the House proposal to reimburse doctors for providing end-of-life care "raises questions."



"What they try to do is divert attention," Grassley said, referring to what he called the House's "miserably poor health care bill."

But then he switched gears, to defend his support for end of life counseling six years ago. "[W]e were talking just in the very narrow area of hospice care...nothing to do with saving money," Grassley said. "And when you get in to what their goals are in the House bill, it's saving money...and we never had anything like that in 2003."

Host Megyn Kelly interjected, "and your concern is the plan to save money and cut costs, coupled with these end of life consultations, raises questions, I guess.'

"And coupled with government takeover of health care," affirmed Grassley.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is now sticking up for the town hall demonstrators, firing back at Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) for calling the disruptions a "fascist tactic."

The Huffington Post reported that Nadler said at the Netroots Nation conference:

"It is fascist. It is a fascist tactic," Rep. Jerry Nadler, (D-N.Y.) said of the conservative town hall protesters. "That's exactly what they did in Weimar, Germany. Let me put it this way. It is a fascist tactic not to disagree with you, or to say you are an idiot or whatever, but to try to shut you up. That's what I mean. That's a fascist tactic."


In response, NRCC communications director Ken Spain has put out this statement:

"Apparently, when Democrats aren't busy forming a circular firing squad, they are still shooting themselves in the foot. Democrats are so frustrated by the widespread opposition to their healthcare takeover that they have resorted to calling town hall attendees names like 'fascist,' 'un-American,' and relegating their views to racism reminiscent of the Jim Crow South. What was once promised to be an 'August offensive' to sell their failed healthcare agenda, has turned into an unmitigated disaster for Democrats who have now taken to attacking each other, including the Obama White House."

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Yesterday, I noted that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)--the powerful ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee and chief Republican negotiator in the bipartisan Gang of Six--said he'd vote against his own health care compromise if it didn't win more than a handful of GOP votes.

That seems to have gotten the attention of some progressives, one of whom took to the cable channels this morning to suggest that the White House ditch Grassley.

"I don't know what's the point of negotiating with Chuck Grassley, frankly, if he says himself he can't deliver any Republicans," said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) on MSNBC this morning.

Grassley's been putting on quite a public show of late, falsely affirming the concerns of some health care reform skeptics that House Democrats will create death panels, and then blaming the controversy on liberals.

For his part, Weiner has become a leading public spokesman for robust health care reform, criticizing the administration for its willingness to compromise, and insisting that health care reform will die in the House without a public option.

In a YouTube video, the man who carried a semi-automatic assault rifle outside yesterday's presidential event tells fellow demonstrators "We will forcefully resist people imposing their will on us through the strength of the majority with a vote."

The man, only identified as "Chris," spoke against taxation: "Just because you sic the government on people doesn't make it morally OK to steal money from people. Taxation is theft."

He also said "it would be insane" not to be armed, saying he wears a gun at all times.

But he didn't seem to be planning any violence. At the beginning of the video, a voice off-camera asks, "You gonna water the tree of liberty?" a reference to a Thomas Jefferson quote, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

Chris responded, "I hope not."

The video comes from a libertarian group called Freedom's Phoenix and another group called 4409, which opposes police security cameras.

Watch:



Late update: In another video, this one from the Associated Press, "Chris" says he is "absolutely, totally against" health care reform, saying such a plan would amount to "stealing it from people."

He also said more people should carry guns openly in states where it's legal.

"People need to get out there and do it more," he said.

Latter Update: Ernest Hancock, the man who organized "Chris's" trip to the Obama event and himself came to the event armed, had close ties to a violent militia group charged with plotting to blow up federal buildings in the mid-1990s.

The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence has issued a press release warning people not to bring guns to presidential events. In recent days, several people have showed up outside of President Obama's town halls with loaded firearms. Yesterday, when Obama gave a speech at the VFW National Convention, a dozen people were carrying guns outside, including at least one man with an assault rifle.

Here's the press release:

Gun Responsibility: Leave Loaded Firearms At Home When Attending Presidential Events

Washington, DC - Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, released the following statement on reports that a man was carrying what appeared to be a loaded assault rifle and a sidearm to President Obama's speech in Phoenix, Arizona today:

"Bringing loaded firearms to any Presidential event endangers all in attendance. Even though our weak national and state gun laws may allow this dangerous behavior, we should use a little common sense.

"Individuals carrying loaded weapons at these events require constant attention from police and Secret Service officers, thus stretching their protective efforts even thinner. The possibility that these weapons might be grabbed or stolen or accidentally mishandled increases the risks of serious injury or death to all in attendance.

"The National Rifle Association and other 'gun rights' groups need to send a message about 'gun responsibilities' to their members and all gun owners. Loaded weapons at political forums endanger all involved, distract law enforcement, and end up stifling debate. Presidential protesters need to leave their firearms at home - no exceptions."

#

There have been multiple reported incidents of guns being brought to town halls this month:

* Gun brought to town hall in Memphis, Tennessee: http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/obama-to-enter-town-hall-fray-2009-08-11.html;

* Gun dropped at town hall in Sierra Vista, Arizona: http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/printDS/304149;

* Gun carried openly to President Obama's town hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/11/protester-with-gun-found_n_256614.html;

* Handgun found concealed in the car of an attendee of President Obama's town hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire: http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/08/more-details-emerge-on-the-concealed-gun-arrest-in-new-hampshire.php;

* AR-15 military-style assault weapon and handgun brought to President Obama's speech today in Phoenix, Arizona: http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/2009/08/17/20090817obama-scene.html.

# # #

As the nation's largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence, the Brady Campaign, with its dedicated network of Million Mom March Chapters, works to enact and enforce sensible gun laws, regulations and public policies. The Brady Campaign is devoted to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities.

For continuing insight and comment on the gun issue, read Paul Helmke's blog at www.bradycampaign.org/blog/. Visit the Brady Campaign website at www.bradycampaign.org.

President Obama is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Biden in separate, closed press meetings this afternoon.

Hillary Clinton returned Friday from an 11-day tour of Africa and will be catching up with the president at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Obama will meet with Bill Clinton later, at 4 p.m., to discuss the former president's successful trip to North Korea to bring home two U.S. journalists who had been detained.

He will meet with Biden at 2:30 p.m.

An angry John Boehner has sent a heat-seeking missive to a former caucus mate: former GOP Rep, and current PhRMA president Billy Tauzin.

In the letter, which Boehner forwarded to the executives of PhRMA's member companies, the House Minority Leader charges that PhRMA's alliance with the White House on health care reform amounts to appeasement. "Appeasement rarely works as a conflict resolution strategy," Boehner writes. "The simple truth is, two wrongs don't make a right. And the short-sighted health care deal PhRMA struck with the Obama Administration at your urging provides confirmation of this time-tested maxim on an epic and tragic scale."

You can read the entire letter here. It comes as the relationship between the White House and PhRMA has soured slightly.

"The Obama Administration tacitly acknowledged last week that the President will not be bound by the $80 billion limit PhRMA and its board of directors were led to believe had been secured in exchange for your organization's support of the Administration's health care takeover," Boehner writes, "and key Democrats...have said explicitly they will not honor the agreement."

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