Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Big Truba? AP: "Hospital operator HCA (HCA) said Friday that federal prosecutors have issued a subpoena for documents the company believes may be related to the sale of its stock by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. A release from the company said the subpoena came from the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York."

Okay, let's fill in a few of the blank spaces in this new Post article about Jack Abramoff and Karl Rove.

The story, as we get it in today's article, is that Timothy E. Flanigan is the General Counsel of Tyco and now President Bush's nominee for Deputy Attorney General. A couple years ago when Tyco was interested in fending off legislation that might have required them to pay their taxes, Abramoff was hired to do a little of his magic for them and get Tyco off the hook. Abramoff reported to Flanigan on the account. And in the course of that work he first boasted of his juice with Karl Rove and later claimed he had in fact contacted Rove about Tyco's needs.

Fair enough.

But this Newsweek article from a few weeks ago notes that Flanigan worked at the White House before he went to Tyco. In fact, he was Deputy White House Counsel. And Abramoff didn't just report to Flanigan. Flanigan hired Abramoff.

Now, the Post piece treats it as an open question whether Abramoff was just puffing or blowing smoke, as lobbyists sometimes will, when he talked about his ties to Rove and his ability to get action from him.

But Flanigan had already been Deputy White House Counsel. That tells me he knew pretty well how the Bush White House operated and the juice Abramoff had there. The odds that Abramoff just bamboozled Flanigan seem surpassingly low.

Another point ...

In the Newsweek article from a month ago, a spokesman said on Rove's behalf that he had "never spoken to [Abramoff] about any of his clients." In today's Post piece the spokesman says Rove "has no recollection" of Abramoff's contacting him about Tyco.

I'm told that in the clinical literature this is called the 'Safavian effect'.

And one more point ...

The Post reports that Flanigan says that if he's confirmed as Deputy AG he'll recuse himself from any decisions relating to Abramoff and Tyco. Imagine that.

The Justice Department's Public Integrity Section is involved in a massive investigation of Abramoff, his business affairs and his ties to major Republican political figures like Rove and Tom DeLay. The investigation has already led to the arrest of one White House official. Abramoff himself has been indicted in a case that is nominally separate from the Washington investigation but is in fact closely tied to it.

Flanigan worked at the White House. He then left the White House, only to turn around and hire Abramoff to lobby the White House and Rove in particular.

Somebody tell me with a straight face that this guy can ethically deal with anything tied to the Abramoff case. Face it: from the word go at DOJ this guy has to recuse himself from everything having to do with Abramoff.

A tip for the folks in the White House press corps or other enterprising reporters.

We know now from the Post that David Safavian had some awkward connections with certain people later accused and/or convicted of ties to Islamic terrorism.

But I hear the Secret Service had serious concerns about Safavian's ties too and did not want to give him a badge to work at the White House. And I hear these concerns came up not just with the OMB job but in the earlier one at GSA as well.

Needless to say they were overruled and Safavian got his clearances.

AP: "When Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist asked a trustee to sell all his stock in his family's hospital corporation, a large-scale sell-off by HCA Inc. insiders was under way."

WaPo:"Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff bragged two years ago that he was in contact with White House political aide Karl Rove on behalf of a large, Bermuda-based corporation that wanted to avoid incurring some taxes and continue receiving federal contracts, according to a written statement by President Bush's nominee to be deputy attorney general."

(ed.note: As of about 5 PM on Friday afternoon, we're no longer accepting requests for tickets to the movie below. -- jmm)

Do you live in the New York City <$NoAd$>area?

Do you like TPM?

Next Wednesday night, September 28th, at 7:30 PM TPM is hosting a special advance screening of Serenity at the Union Square Stadium theater.

Serenity is the new film by Joss Whedon, the guy behind the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. This showing is only for TPM Readers. And it's free.

If you'd like to join us. Send in an email to movie@talkingpointsmemo.com with the subject line Serenity. Include your name and how many seats you'd like to reserve. (Two tickets per person; if you have other friends or family who want to attend too, have them email in as well).

Now, a bit of disclosure and transparency. Studios do advance screenings like this to generate buzz for a new movie. And that's what they're doing here. We're not getting paid anything for doing this. They get some publicity and some word of mouth buzz. We get to host a couple hundred readers at a movie in New York. And our readers get to meet fellow readers and see a free movie. I'll get to meet a bunch of you in person too; and that will be a treat for me.

So that's the score. And we were happy to give it a try on that basis.

And one last thing: If you don't live in the New York City area, don't fret. The studio has a bunch of preview screenings of Serenity around the country next week. And they've set aside seats for TPM Readers at each venue. Click here to find out how to request tickets.

News tomorrow in the Post on the Abramoff-Rove connection.

Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) on why she supports the President's Gulf Coast Wage Cut (note distinction between 'permitting' and 'requiring') ...

Thank you for contacting me about the suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act in the Hurricane Katrina disaster area. I appreciate hearing from you.

The Davis-Bacon Act, which dates back to 1931, requires every construction contract in excess of two thousand dollars to which the federal government is a party to pay all laborers and mechanics not less than the locally prevailing wage. Under Section 6 of the Act, the President may suspend the requirements of the Act during a "national emergency." Over its long history, the Act has been suspended several times for various types of national emergencies including war, economic emergency, and natural disaster. Suspension of the Act permits, but does not require, that less than the prevailing wage be paid on the covered contracts.

Now that we have entered the cleanup and rebuilding phase following Hurricane Katrina, the evacuees wish to be able to return home as expeditiously as possible. I would like to see this happen and this will require a lot of rebuilding.

The Davis-Bacon act can add weeks to federally financed construction projects and it increases costs to the taxpayers - also producing delays in construction since the available funds will be limited. President George H. W. Bush temporarily suspended the Davis-Bacon Act during the recovery from Hurricane Andrew in 1992 to help rebuild that area of Florida in an expeditious and affordable fashion.

Again, thank you for contacting me. Please continue to contact me about issues that are important to you. While I commute from my home in Albuquerque to Washington D.C. , for voting and committee hearings, you can always check my web site for upcoming community events to find where you can catch me around town.

More soon<$NoAd$>.

Sen. Evan Bayh: "On the Gulf Coast, we aren’t just rebuilding cities - we’re rebuilding lives. The workers whose wages would be cut are the same women and men struggling to support their families and find new homes to replace the ones they lost in the hurricane. They deserve all the support we can give them, not a cut in pay when they can least afford one."

I knew the House Republicans couldn't be trusted managing the federal budget. But I had no idea it was this bad.

To great fanfare a group of House Republicans has announced what they call Operation Offset, an effort to make up for new Katrina spending and save the president's tax cuts by proposing a whole slew of new cuts in the federal budget. As we noted below, a huge amount of the cuts come out of Medicare. And there's also a very timely cut in CDC funding.

But if you go to page 17 of the 'Operation Offset' budget plan they're circulating, you'll see they propose to "eliminate attache positions in the Foreign Agricultural Service." And by this they claim they'll get more than $37 billion of savings just next year. $347 billion over ten years.

Who knew attaches made such high salaries!

If you look down into the explanation section, it notes that the savings are in millions, not billions, on this and the item below on cuts at the Department of Education. Yet, they push this transcription error through the whole document. So about half a trillion dollars worth of savings they claim doesn't even exist.

(ed.note: Special thanks to sharp-eyed TPM Reader TW.)