Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Wow! ThinkProgress seems to have Tom DeLay dead-to-rights on a bit of pork-barrel shenanigans even extreme by the Hammer's standards. Seems DeLay slipped over a billion dollars of privately-administered pork for oil companies in his district into the energy bill after the bill was out of conference committee.

ThinkProgress has the details.

Roberts and the <$NoAd$> recount, from the Miami Herald ...

U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts played a broader behind-the-scenes role for the Republican camp in the aftermath of the 2000 election than previously reported -- as legal consultant, lawsuit editor and prep coach for arguments before the nation's highest court, according to the man who drafted him for the job.

Ted Cruz, a domestic policy advisor for President Bush and who is now Texas' solicitor general, said Roberts was one of the first names he thought of while he and another attorney drafted the Republican legal dream team of litigation ''lions'' and ''800-pound gorillas,'' which ultimately consisted of 400 attorneys in Florida.

Until now, Gov. Jeb Bush and others involved in the election dispute could recall almost nothing of Roberts' role, except for a half-hour meeting the governor had with Roberts. Cruz said Roberts was in Tallahassee helping the Bush camp for ''a week to 10 days,'' and that his help was important, though Cruz said it is difficult to remember specifics five years after the sleep-depriving frenetic pace of the 2000 recount.

Not disqualifying perhaps. But worth knowing.

Walter Pincus has a very good and very important piece in the Post tomorrow (with Jim VandeHei) on the Plame matter. It contains no explosive quotes or shocking revelations. The headline is that the Fitzgerald probe has a much broader scope than we've been led to believe. And there's a choice passage which, I believe, shows pretty clearly that Bob Novak knew just what he was doing when he printed Valerie Plame's name.

But the really succulent meat is reserved for the tail end of the article, which I'll quote at length ...

[Former CIA spokesman Bill] Harlow was also involved in the larger internal administration battle over who would be held responsible for Bush using the disputed charge about the Iraq-Niger connection as part of the war argument. Based on the questions they have been asked, people involved in the case believe that Fitzgerald looked into this bureaucratic fight because the effort to discredit Wilson was part of the larger campaign to distance Bush from the Niger controversy.

Wilson unleashed a multimedia attack on Bush's claim on July 6, 2003, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," in an interview in The Post and writing his own op-ed article in the New York Times, in which he accused the president of "twisting" intelligence.

Behind the scenes, the White House responded with twin attacks: one on Wilson and the other on the CIA, which it wanted to take the blame for allowing the 16 words to have remained in Bush's speech. As part of this effort, then-national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley spoke with Tenet during the week about clearing up CIA responsibility for the 16 words, even though both knew the agency did not believe Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Tenet was interviewed by prosecutors in the leak case, but it is not clear whether he appeared before the grand jury, a former CIA official said.

On July 9, Tenet and top aides began to draft a statement over two days that ultimately said it was "a mistake" for the CIA to have permitted the 16 words about uranium to remain in Bush's speech. He said the information "did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches, and the CIA should have ensured that it was removed."

A former senior CIA official said yesterday that Tenet's statement was drafted within the agency and was shown only to Hadley on July 10 to get White House input. Only a few minor changes were accepted before it was released on July 11, this former official said. He took issue with a New York Times report last week that said Rove and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, had a role in Tenet's statement.

Here we have some of the cobweb of lies, large and small, brushed back, ones the falsity of which has remained somehow unspeakable in high political debate despite all their transparency.

As Pincus and Jim VandeHei rightly say, twin attacks -- one aimed at Wilson for blowing the whistle, the other at the CIA, an elaborate fraud perpetrated upon the American people (and perpetuated through last year's SSCI report) in which the CIA, which had repeatedly tried to prevent the president from publicizing and validating the bogus Niger uranium claims, was forced to take the blame for not warning the president of their falsity. (As this ball of yarn unravels, remember the name Alan Foley.)

And all of this, of course, meant to cover up the big lie -- the administration's knowing use of bogus WMD reports to convince the country to go to war.

As Frank Rich put it so aptly less than two weeks ago, "the administration knows how guilty it is. That's why it has so quickly trashed any insider who contradicts its story line about how we got to Iraq, starting with the former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill and the former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke."

Admittedly, I mentioned this before - but proprietor's privilege. You never know how these things are going to work in practice. But we've got a great exchange going at TPMCafe between Thomas Frank, Ed Kilgore, Todd Gitlin and Greg Anrig about Populism, Marxism (both crude and refined), various other isms, Tom Watson and other stuff -- all bubbling out of their discussion of Tom's book What's the Matter with Kansas. Stop by.

Some saw it as far back as 2003. <$NoAd$>This from a July 17th 2003 piece in The New Republic ...

Democrats say Rockefeller has not served as a particularly effective counterweight to Roberts. Despite his mighty name, bank account, and six-foot-seven-inch frame, Rockefeller is a low-key figure--a senator in the old collegial mold rather than a media-savvy partisan warrior. And he's a relative newcomer to the world of spooks and secrets, having only joined the intelligence committee in 2001. Some Democrats complain that, in contrast to his predecessor, Graham, Rockefeller lacks the necessary expertise for his current role. Rockefeller himself warned as much last fall, telling Roll Call the committee's term limits were "a big mistake." "I know a lot about health care, but it took me about 10 to 12 years to learn that because it is very complicated. This is much more complicated." Sometimes Rockefeller's learning curve is evident. During a July 12 interview with National Public Radio on the Niger uranium fiasco, for instance, he incorrectly referred to Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, who apparently played a key role in the episode, as a Cheney aide--a small but important distinction.

More important, Democrats say Rockefeller has allowed Roberts to roll over him. For instance, in early June Rockefeller publicly threatened that, with the support of four other committee Democrats, he could force Roberts to conduct an open investigation. In fact, Rockefeller overstated his power-committee rules only allow members to force a closed meeting--but previous intelligence chairmen have generally honored such minority--party requests for broader investigations. When Roberts refused to observe that precedent, Rockefeller essentially yielded. And, although he had the power to block it, on June 20 Rockefeller signed off on Roberts's plan to hold a handful of closed hearings, with the vague promise of one open hearing in September. The news came "to the serious dismay of the caucus," says a Senate Democratic staffer. "Many in the caucus think Rockefeller is being used."

This, of course, was well before the 2004 SSCI Iraq intel report travesty.

A pained TPM Reader checks in ...

I wouldn't expect anything different from Pat Roberts and his attempts to justify, mollify and cover-up Bush's failures, but Jay Rockefeller is clearly the tool of the man. He appears with Roberts on the news shows, and he either shills for Roberts or is totally ineffective in pointing out Roberts' efforts to cover-up. I can't be mad at a Republican for acting like a Republican, but I am upset at the ineptitude of my own man.

Too true.

As long as we're talking about Al Gonzales' '12 hour gap', don't forget this letter from the CIA to Rep. John Conyers, which we posted a year and a half ago, in which the CIA's Director of Congressional Affairs highlights the Agency's multiple attempts to get the Ashcroft Justice Department to do something about the Plame leak.

Take a look. You can almost hear the sound of the foot dragging.

In case you were wondering, we're going to announce the winners of our Duke Cunningham Shenanigan Worksheet contest later this week.

(Of course, the entries are slightly out of date, given this morning's revelations about Duke's attempt to lean on the Queens DA, then fixing to indict Thomas Kontogiannis on multiple felonies, in exchange for various boat and house emoluments.)

And we've just started our roundtable exchange about Tom Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas over at the TPMCafe Book Club. Greg Anrig, Todd Gitlin and Ed Kilgore have just posted their thoughts on the book and Tom will be responding later.

Also later today, help TPM with a pressing diction problem! 'Toady' and 'lickspittle' aren't doing the job for Sen. Pat Roberts, seeing as they convey shameless sycophancy, rather than a degraded willingness to do any and all of Karl Rove's dirty work. And 'hack', while appropriate in meaning, is simply too shopworn and colloquialized to serve the purpose.

Late Update: By popular demand, we've just opened a Sen. Roberts new epithet thread at TPM Cafe.

RNC product testing a new tactic in Kentucky?

Gov. Ernie Fletcher tried to persuade Attorney General Greg Stumbo to dissolve the special grand jury investigating whether officials broke civil service hiring laws, according to a memo released yesterday.

In the July 5 memo from Fletcher general counsel Jim Deckard to Stumbo, the governor agreed to "suggest that mistakes may have been made" in filling state jobs that merit laws are designed to insulate from politics.

And he would take "appropriate personnel actions" against employees found to "have exercised less than good judgment."

Deckard said yesterday that Stumbo agreed to terms of the memo during a meeting over the July 4 weekend, but Stumbo disputed that.

The memo details how Fletcher would appear before the grand jury -- not under oath and with a lawyer -- to report on "new policies" regarding the hiring of civil service workers.

But Fletcher asked that the special grand jury not issue a report detailing evidence it had reviewed, and that no future grand jury take up matters already under investigation, according to the memo.

Stumbo was out of state yesterday and did not return calls. But he said in a telephone interview Sunday that the written memo "was hogwash. I wouldn't sign it."

I guess they'd call it the McConnell <$NoAd$>plan?

Just when you thought it was safe to go back down to the yacht basin, the Duke story returns!

I know they're hard to keep straight. But you'll remember that one of Duke's several cronies and sugar-daddies was Thomas T. Kontogiannis, the Long Island real estate developer convicted of a far-ranging kick-back, bid-rigging and bribery scheme centering on a public school district in Queens. In addition to the millions of dollars in fraudulent contracts, about 80-grand of his money also ended up finding its way into the campaign coffers of the Queens school superintendent when she unsuccessfully ran for Congress. But then, I digress.

Just to review, Kontogiannis gave Duke a) a loan at wholesale rates to buy a condo in Northern Virginia, b) a million dollar loan at the same rates to buy the new manse in Rancho Santa Fe that got Duke into all the trouble, and c) bought Duke's boat, the Kelly C, from him from at what seemed to be three or four times its market value.

Somehow or another the boat money ended up getting Duke out of paying back most of the million dollar loan. But the details escape me.

In any case, one mystery to the Kontogiannis angle has always been just what Kontogiannis got from Duke for all the free money. Remember, the standard merchandise Duke sold was the corruptly-obtained defense contract. And Kontogiannis' lines of business seemed limited to real estate and large-scale municipal corruption.

So it wasn't easy to see how these two entrepreneurs could end doing business together, though the massive skein of public corruption investigations and convictions hovering around Kontogiannis did always suggest that when there was a will there'd be a way.

Indeed, when the Post's Charles Babcock asked Kontogiannis earlier this month whether all his free goodies to Duke might constitute favors of an inappropriate sort, Kontogiannis had the Copolla-esque response: "Why would I do that? I don't need the man."

Well, it turns out Duke was in a position to do Kontogiannis a favor. He faxed a letter to the Queens DA basically suggesting that he back off and cut the K-man some slack.

Lest I be summarizing the matter too poetically, here's how Babcock describes it in his follow-up piece in tomorrow's Post ...

Cunningham wrote that it had come to his attention that the prosecutor had filed a case against Kontogiannis. The congressman wrote that there may be a political agenda against the school official by a disgruntled contractor and that Kontogiannis may have been victimized as a result. He asked Brown to contact him with any information he could provide on the case, and he thanked the prosecutor for considering his concern.

Cunningham noted in the letter, the sources added, that he had filed a congressional inquiry with Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), who was then chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and attached a note in which a committee lawyer acknowledged receiving the inquiry and said he was looking into it.

Sam Stratman, a spokesman for Hyde, said the note "was merely a matter of courtesy to acknowledge that the committee had received [Cunningham's] request." When the committee lawyer "learned that the New York case was a potential criminal matter," Stratman said, "any inquiry would have been inappropriate. No inquires were ever made of New York officials by the chairman or his staff."

Oh, what a tangled web ...