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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

A reminder today that, despite all the make-nice talk in Washington about the Mukasey nomination, the problems at DOJ are not going to disappear with a new attorney general. Alberto Gonzales cronies--or Bush cronies--are spread throughout the Department now, even though many top DOJ officials have resigned in the wake of the USAs purge scandal. One of those cronies, Minnesota U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose, is reportedly under investigation by the Office of Special Counsel for the way she has managed the government employees in her office.

Paulose, for those not completely immersed in the ins and outs of the purge scandal, was one of the coterie of young lawyers who saw rapid advancement within Main Justice. She was then dispatched out into the field where she replaced a respected U.S. attorney, who, while having resigned of his own accord, nonetheless appeared on the some of the lists of targeted prosecutors. Paulose's office has been in upheaval since shortly after her arrival, when four of the top administrators resigned en masse.* The Office of Special Counsel investigation appears to arise from that incident. At one point, Main Justice sent an official out to Minnesota to try to mediate the dispute, to no apparent avail.

Late Update: Atrios reminds me of Paulose's coronation as U.S. attorney. Take a look.

*The four administrators resigned their administrative positions.

I ventured a guess last week that public opinion had long ago hardened on Iraq and that the elaborate dog and pony show of the Petraeus hearings would make little impact. Well, the verdict is starting to come in.

A new CBS News poll shows a slight uptick (albeit statistically insignificant) since the Petraeus hearings in support for reducing or withdrawing troops from Iraq, not exactly the result the White House was after. Also out is a new Pew poll which shows mixed results. There is a slight increase in the number of respondents who say things are going well in Iraq--an obvious objective of the White House PR blitz--but only 16% of respondents said Petraeus' appearance made them more optimistic. Sixty-seven percent said Petraeus had not changed their opinions.

Some incremental softening of opinion at the margins, but by and large, public opinion on Iraq is fossilized.

Just a bit ago, Michael McConnell told Congress that the FISA Court rulings this year--which remain secret--required a warrant before the U.S. government could listen in on the communications of Iraqi insurgents who kidnapped U.S. soldiers.

Spencer has more on this, but I am very skeptical that the FISA Court went that far.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) came away from his first meeting with attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey offering conciliatory language toward Mukasey himself, but remained firm on his demands that the White House submit responses to committee requests on the USAs firing before confirmation hearings can proceed.

At TPMmuckraker, Spencer Ackerman is posting on the House Judiciary Committee hearing today at which intelligence chief Michael McConnell is testifying. Among the exchanges thus far, committee Chairman John Conyers has sought to quantify the number of Americans spied on under the warrantless surveillance program.

As we mentioned last week, there is a federal trial of a state legislator underway in Alaska which is part of the broader corruption probe that has snared Sen. Ted Stevens (who, not coincidentally, has just been named the king of earmarks by The Hill).

In bits and pieces, the trial is painting a picture of the scope of the larger investigation and particularly of the nexus of politics and business at which Alaska oilfield contractor VECO operated. Yesterday, for example, Rep. Don Young's name came up, as a former VECO executive testified about the company's funding of Young's annual Pig Roast fundraiser.

Neither Young nor Stevens is on trial here, at least not directly. But it's not every day that a witness admits in open court to having bribed a sitting U.S. Senator, which is exactly what happened last Friday, when former VECO executive Bill Allen admitted that among the bad acts he had pleaded guilty to was renovation work done on Stevens' Alaska home. Stevens is not commenting.

It's not airport bathroom sex so there has been muted national media coverage of the Stevens revelation, but it's a case we're keeping a close eye on.

Late Update: TPMmuckraker's Laura McGann walks us through some of Allen's testimony last week on the renovation of Stevens' house.

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