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David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

Hot on the heels of yesterday's release of the declassified NIE on Al Qaeda, the U.S. military in Baghdad announced today that it has captured a top leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq:

The U.S. command said Wednesday the highest-ranking Iraqi in the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq has been arrested, adding that information from him indicates the group's foreign-based leadership wields considerable influence over the Iraqi chapter.


First off, the capture took place two weeks ago but was not announced until today. Hmmm, have we seen that before? And the detainee just happened to confess to a greater level of coordination between AQ in Iraq and Osama bin Laden's global AQ, right in line with the official White House line that AQ in Iraq and AQ are one and the same. The White House is already highlighting the capture in its daily email to reporters. Go figure.

Is this the best Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) could do? (Thanks to TPM Reader GW for the link.) This strikes me as a fundamental misunderstanding of how intelligence oversight is supposed to work.

The Post profiles the DC Madam, and ABC's Brian Ross has the goods:

More revelations are in the offing. Ross said the list includes the names of some "very prominent people," as well as a number of women with "important and serious jobs" who had worked as escorts for the firm.


Some people are downright giddy that the Bush Administration is about to be ensnared in another scandal. But I would remind them that nothing is more bipartisan than sexual indiscretion.

Stay tuned.

Late update: You can see the complete video of Brian Ross' report from Saturday night here.

If you missed the Bill Moyers' segment last night on the U.S. attorney purge, including his extended interview with Josh, you can watch it now online.

Here we go again. Back in December, the guys over at Powerline were having a hard time remembering any Bush Administration officials who had been touched by scandal. It was such a laughable proposition that we decided to help them out and started compiling a rogues gallery of this scandal-plagued administration. You can see the list that readers helped us come up with here. It's a little out of date now, what with Democratic oversight and all.

With such a long list, you wouldn't think Powerline could so easily forget. But I suppose it's easy to forget what you don't really want to know. Here is part of a Powerline post from today (thanks to TPM Reader WB for the link), about all of the "faux scandals" being played up by the left-wing media:

The truth is that the Bush administration has been extraordinarily scandal-free. Not a single instance of corruption has been unearthed. Only one significant member of the executive branch, Scooter Libby, has been convicted of anything. Whether the jury's verdict was right or wrong, that case was an individual tragedy unrelated to any underlying wrongdoing by Libby or anyone else.


Funny. Just yesterday we learned that a deputy secretary of state resigned because of his ties to the D.C. madam sex scandal and that the chief of staff to the head of the Department of Justice's Criminal Division had resigned because of his alleged personal ties to the Abramoff scandal. That's not to mention the fallout from the U.S. Attorney purge scandal, the guilty plea of the former No. 2 at the Interior Department, also in the Abramoff scandal, and the list goes on.

If you're a hard-core conservative reading Powerline, does this sort of nonsense make you feel better about yourself or about your beliefs? For the uninformed, maybe it offers the assurance that things are okay. For the semi-informed, maybe it comforts them that things aren't as bad as they may seem. At what point does the internal dissonance of those who read and write such garbage exact a personal toll--morally, emotionally, spiritually?

To follow up on the post below about the Attorney General Awards, DOJ's highest honor, I couldn't help but notice that one of the recipients of last year's Attorney General Award for Fraud Prevention was Robert E. Coughlin, II.

Coughlin was the chief of staff to the head of DOJ's criminal division until his quiet resignation earlier this month, first reported yesterday, allegedly because he is facing scrutiny in the Jack Abramoff investigation.

The award "recognizes exceptional dedication and effort to prevent, investigate, and prosecute fraud and white collar crimes." Coughlin was part of a team honored for its work on post-Hurricane Katrina fraud.

In September, Coughlin was honored for his work on fraud and white collar crime. By the following April, he was out because of his alleged connections to the one of the largest white collar crime investigations in DOJ's history. Only in the Gonzales Justice Department.

Oversight can produce results:

The Justice Department is removing political appointees from the hiring process for rookie lawyers and summer interns, amid allegations that the Bush administration had rigged the programs in favor of candidates with connections to conservative or Republican groups, according to documents and officials.


This nugget also from the Post, is worth following*:

According to a former deputy chief in the civil rights division, one honors hire was a University of Mississippi law school graduate who had been a clerk for U.S. District Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. about the time the judge's nomination by President Bush to a federal appeals court provoked opposition by congressional Democrats, who contended that Pickering was hostile to civil rights.

A few months after he arrived, that lawyer was given a cash award by the department, after he was the only member of a four-person team in the civil rights division who sided with a Georgia voter-identification law that was later struck down by the courts as discriminatory to minorities, according to two former Justice lawyers.


The cash payments are part of the Attorney General's Awards, the highest honor bestowed by the Department of Justice.

Late update: For more on the Pickering clerk*, Joshua Rogers, see Paul Kiel's earlier reporting over at TPMmuckraker.

Correction: While cash payments are associated with some of the Attorney General Awards, it does not appear that Joshua Rogers was the recipient of an Attorney General Award. The nature of the cash payment to Rogers remains unclear. I regret the error.

*Update/Correction: The Post has run the following correction to the piece:

An April 28 A-section article about the Attorney General's Honors Program incorrectly said that one lawyer hired through the program had been a clerk for U.S. District Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. The lawyer was a summer intern for Pickering while he was in law school.

How an incapacitated attorney general spends his time:

For the moment, Gonzales' days will be spent in much the same way they have been for most of the spring: preparing to defend himself before Congress. With the May 10 hearing before Conyers' committee fast approaching, the attorney general is certain to face new questions from members of Congress armed with information gleaned from testimony by McNulty, Moschella, Comey and possibly Goodling. As if that wasn't enough, Gonzales must also prepare for a May 9 Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, in which he'll be asked detailed questions about his management of the rest of the 110,000-person department.

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