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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

Jury selection can be as slow as watching paint dry, but MSNBC's David Shuster teases out some interesting tidbits from week one of the Scooter Libby trial.

You got the sense this week that the federal investigations into Republican corruption were going to muscle their way back into the news on a more regular basis.

Former GOP Congressman Bob Ney was sentenced today to 2 1/2 years in prison for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal. (The best headline for that story was "Abramoff Republican Sentenced." Abramoff Republicans. I like that. You had Radical Republicans, Rockefeller Republicans, and now Abramoff Republicans. Sums up the era, doesn't it?)

In other Abramoff news, an indictment of former Bush Interior official Steven Griles appears imminent. Griles has resigned from the lobbying firm of Lundquist, Nethercutt & Griles LLC and from the Jamestown 400th Commemoration Commission. He has also beefed up his legal defense team.

Duke Cunningham briber Mitchell Wade, founder of the now defunct defense contractor MZM, is still singing like a canary. His sentencing will reportedly be delayed for another six months so that his cooperation with the feds can continue. That investigation will continue without the involvement of Carol Lam, we learned this week. The San Diego U.S. Attorney whose office was leading the Cunningham investigation and its various outgrowths was pushed out of office by the Bush Administration for reasons which are still unclear and therefore suspicious. While the criminal justice side of the scandals ground slowly onward, the political house-cleaning swept along in ways large and small. In Washington, the Senate, after the usual jockeying and gamesmanship, passed an ethics reform bill that was tougher than many had expected and than Majority Leader Harry Reid may have wanted. In Texas, the state canceled controversial lobbying contracts with two Tom Delay-connected lobbying firms, vestiges of the headier days of GOP dominance.

For my money, though, the best antiseptic was a return to congressional oversight. The lights and cameras focused on high-profile hearings, like the appearance of the Attorney General before the Judiciary Committee, but the hardest and most important work is done out of the view of the cameras in the myriad of little ways that Congress, when doing its job properly, can hold the Executive to account.

This morning, for example, the Washington Post ran an important story on an effort, later abandoned, by GSA Administrator Lurita Doan to award a no-bid federal contract to a company owned by her former business partner and friend. Before the day was out, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee had opened an investigation, and Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) had fired off letters to Doan and the two other principal players in the Post story requesting documents and information pertaining to the contract in question.

The days of wine and roses for our Republican friends are over.

TPM Reader JO, on the U.S. Attorney purges:

A lot of people seem to be getting snowed by the dodge that some of the acting US Attorneys will go through the confirmation process as if it gets rid of the problem, but it really doesn't.

Before they changed the statute, the President had no effective way to put a political stooge in as US Attorney for more than 4 months without buy-in from another branch of government (or a year at most via a recess appointment). But now he can, and putting the stooge up for confirmation is a no-lose proposition. If the Senate confirms, great. If they never give the nominee a hearing, they only prolong his tenure. And if they reject the nominee, he can still stay in office until a new nominee is appointed -- which might never happen.

This is a serious blow to effective law-enforcement, and it's going to make morale plummet in prosecutors' offices all over the country.


Has anyone introduced legislation yet to strip this misguided provision from the Patriot Act?

Update: The answer is yes. Senators Feinstein, Leahy, and Pryor have introduced the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act, which would restore to the District Courts the power to appoint interim U.S. Attorneys.

The reports of his death having been greatly satirized, Michael Ledeen is now revealed as a caricature of himself. His preening and self-serving answers in a Salon interview are too numerous to meaningfully excerpt. So go take a look.

Pretty strong stuff for a straight news lead (from McClatchy):

President Bush and his aides, explaining their reasons for sending more American troops to Iraq, are offering an incomplete, oversimplified and possibly untrue version of events there that raises new questions about the accuracy of the administration's statements about Iraq.


But certainly not unwarranted.

From The Independent:

The American company appointed to advise the US government on the economic reconstruction of Iraq has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars into Republican Party coffers and has admitted that its own finances are in chaos because of accounting errors and bad management.

. . .

BearingPoint [formerly KPMG] is being paid $240m for its work in Iraq, winning an initial contract from the US Agency for International Development (USAid) within weeks of the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. It was charged with supporting the then Coalition Provisional Authority to introduce policies "which are designed to create a competitive private sector". Its role is to examine laws, regulations and institutions that regulate trade, commerce and investment, and to advise ministries and the central bank.

Last week The Independent on Sunday revealed that a BearingPoint employee, based in the US embassy in Baghdad, had been tasked with advising the Iraqi Ministry of Oil on drawing up a new hydrocarbon law. The legislation, which is due to be presented to Iraq's parliament within days, will give Western oil companies a large slice of profits from the country's oil fields in exchange for investing in new oil infrastructure.


Sounds like another investigation for Henry Waxman.

You know it's bad--very, very bad--when Trent Lott gets bashful:

Last Tuesday afternoon, a day before President George W. Bush went on TV to explain his decision to send more troops to Iraq, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called his Republican colleagues together for a private talk. Several GOP senators had already come out against the plan. McConnell, Bush's closest Senate supporter on Iraq, hoped to keep others from defecting. He urged his colleagues to stand together at least until Bush had the chance to speak to the country.

After the meeting, the senators went outside the room to display their unity to waiting reporters. McConnell said he thought more troops were just the thing to "give us a chance to succeed." He then stepped aside so the other senators could second his sentiments. No one came forward. McConnell's eye fell on Trent Lott. "Trent?" McConnell said, motioning him toward the microphone. "I don't think I have anything to add," said Lott.


Thanks to TPM Reader JW for the catch.

I have not been satisfied with Democratic efforts to link our adventure in Iraq to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and to setbacks in our overall counterterrorism strategy. Perhaps this somber assessment will help focus Democrats:

Henry Crumpton, the outgoing State Department terror coordinator . . . [and] ex-CIA operative . . . told NEWSWEEK that a worldwide surge in Islamic radicalism has worsened recently, increasing the number of potential terrorists and setting back U.S. efforts in the terror war. "Certainly, we haven't made any progress," said Crumpton. "In fact, we've lost ground." He cites Iraq as a factor; the war has fueled resentment against the United States.


For Democrats opposed to the Iraq war who still fear a backlash for not being tough enough, advocating for more resources for the wars in Afghanistan and against global terrorism has the dual benefit of showing a stiff spine and pursuing the right policy.

From an advance copy of an anti-war speech to be given by John Edwards today in Harlem: "If you’re in Congress and you know this war is going in the wrong direction, it is no longer enough to study your options and keep your own counsel."

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