Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Last week, we ran one of our first TPMmuckraker.com Advance Copy pieces on Rep. Don Young (R) of Alaska.

In the piece, one of our two new TPMmuckraker.com hires, Paul Kiel, reported on a congressional delegation Rep. Young led to the Marshall Islands in 1999 -- a trip that was put together by none other than Jack Abramoff.

On Sunday, Paul's story got picked up in the Anchorage Daily News.

ADN reporter Liz Ruskin reported on Paul's scoop and the trip. And Young's office denied that Abramoff had anything to do with it. (Young's office failed to return repeated requests for comment from TPMmuckraker.com.)

From Ruskin's article ...

Young's office says the article is wrong and that the trip was a normal part of his work then as chairman of the House Resources Committee, which has oversight over matters involving the Marshalls and other U.S.-affiliated islands.


Young's spokesman, Grant Thompson, said Abramoff didn't help plan the congressional delegation tour, or CODEL, as they're called.

"CODELs are planned and executed as official government travel. They are planned and executed in strict compliance with the law," Thompson wrote in an e-mail in response to the Daily News' questions.

He reiterated Young's previous assertion that he has had no personal or professional relationship with Abramoff. Further, he said, Young doesn't recall ever meeting the lobbyist.

We beg to differ.

Rep. Young's office says Abramoff had nothing to do with the visit. But in September 2001, Abramoff's former law firm Preston Gates filed court documents that say otherwise. They say Abramoff organized the trip right down to the delegation's schedule when they were in the Marshall Islands.

A former Marshall Islands government official familiar with the trip disagrees with Young too.

We'll be reporting more this week on Young's trip and the discrepancies surrounding his account of it.

On Meet the Press today Mary Matalin claimed that Vice President Cheney never sent surrogates out to blame Harry Whittington for last weekend's hunting accident in the first days after the news broke ...

I don’t know what answers you pressed for that weren’t contained in this story. And you want to know why there’s bad faith because this human accident, this tragedy is conveyed as “Vice president”—she just characterized it—“The vice president sent people out for four days to blame the victim.” No such thing occurred. In the first story it was clear from his spokesman and Katharine Armstrong that he took responsibility and he was apologetic. He did not send anybody out to take the blame. I’ve explained how these stories go from putting out facts to issuing denials. He wasn’t out—he wasn’t out—and he wasn’t not out for four days. If you go through those four days, the first day the story was out there in as complete a fashion as we could humanly do.

How can she be serious when she was one of the lead surrogates sent out to do just that?

Right out of the box there was Katharine Armstrong (call her surrogate #1): Whittington "came up from behind the vice president and the other hunter and didn't signal them or indicate to them or announce himself ... The vice president didn't see him. The covey flushed and the vice president picked out a bird and was following it and shot. And by God, Harry was in the line of fire and got peppered pretty good."

Then Scott McClellan who builds on Armstrong's initial point (call him surrogate #2): "I don't know all the specifics about it, but I think Mrs. Armstrong spoke publicly about how this incident occurred. And if I recall, she pointed out that the protocol was not followed by Mr. Whittington, when it came to notifying the others that he was there. And so, you know, unfortunately these types of hunting accidents happen from time to time."

Then Mary Matalin (call her surrogate #3): "The vice president was concerned. He felt badly, obviously. On the other hand, he was not careless or incautious or violate any of the [rules]. He didn't do anything he wasn't supposed to do."

This just isn't even up for debate. Until they were forced to switch course the party line was that Whittington screwed up by sneaking up behind the vice president.

About physical courage I don't know the answer. But all available evidence suggests that the Mr. Cheney is a man of deep moral cowardice. Makes a mistake and shoots his friend; blames the friend. Only he won't do it directly. So he gets underlings to do it for him. Forced to speak out publicly, he appears before a ringer-journalist guaranteed not to press uncomfortable questions.

It's all of a piece with the man's record. He's afraid of accountability. That's why he's such a fan of self-protecting secrecy. That's why he's big on smearing government whistle-blowers. It's really just two sides of the same coin. He's afraid of accountability. It's the same reason why he's such a notorious prevaricator -- lies to avoid accountability.

These are all the hallmarks of a moral coward.

On Friday we noted that surreal headline about Harry Whittington apologizing to the vice president and his family for the anguish they had endured in the week since the vice president shot him in the face.

Now, put a benign gloss on that 'apology' and figure Whittington meant what he said only in the sense that he wished Cheney hadn't had to go through the media wringer for something that wasn't due to his recklessness or bad faith, etc. -- his fault perhaps, but something that happens in the course of an inherently dangerous activity.

But as we go from the mastication of the shooting event itself to the meta story about Dick Cheney's dark and dangerous shadow presidency, let's not let one salient fact disappear down the memory hole.

Even if Dick Cheney is blameless in this matter in any deep moral sense, let's not forget that his immediate reaction was to send out his surrogates to publicly blame what happened on the victim.

Actually, that may afford him too much credit since it wasn't actually his 'immediate' reaction. It was his considered reaction after the 24 hour cooling off period he gave himself between the shooting and when he chose to make it public.

By my count, he continued to have his public surrogates blame Whittington for fully three days. He only relented and took responsibility himself when the public and no doubt private political clamor became too much to sustain.

That's Dick Cheney.

"Having admitted unparalleled corruption, defendant Randall H. Cunningham now comes before the Court to be sentenced for his stunning betrayal of the public trust."

That's the first sentence of the 35 page sentencing memorandum federal prosecutors presented to U.S. District Court Judge Larry Burns in the Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham case. They want Duke to serve the max -- 10 years in prison.

It's the most detailed and eye-popping recounting of Cunningham's various bad acts, bribes and shenanigans yet.

And we just posted the whole thing at the TPM Document Collection.

A few highlights, for lack of a better word ...

Page 6, item b. Duke's staffer catches Duke buying a Suburban at under market value from Mitchell Wade. Duke tells staffer to "Stay the f--- out of my personal business." "In an attempt to right, and conceal, this obviously corrupt transaction" Duke's staffers falisfy his DMV application and try to get him to pay up to make up the difference. Duke passes on the opportunity.

Page 9, item i. We learn about the roots of the GOP contempt for the capital gains tax. Duke asks for special bribe earmarked for payment of capital gains taxes on sale of house.

Page 12, item a. Duke shares ride back from the antique store bribery junket with Mitchell Wade, expresses "his appreciation for [Wade's] willingness to bribe him" and tells Wade he'll make him "somebody".

Page 15, item e. Duke demands that Mitchell Wade buy him a used Rolls Royce. Duke then has Wade pay thousands to restore the car. Duke then engineers bogus paper 'sale' of the car to Wade to pocket still more money. Cunningham retains ownership of car.

Page 16, item f. Duke arranges to purchase the yacht 'Buoy Toy' from gay couple with his "business partner" Mitchell Wade. Duke then renames boat the 'Duke Stir'. When explaining his reasons for changing the yacht's name, Duke quips, "I bought the boat, not the lifestyle."

Page 19. Unnamed Duke staffer confronts Duke over millions of dollars in bribes he has accepted, asks Duke to either resign or not seek reelection. Duke thinks it over, decides he'll stay in Congress. Staffer resigns.

Page 20, item a, following. Duke embarks on reign of witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

Remember Duke Cunningham?

He was crooked before crooked was cool. Way back into last summer.

The prosecutors came out with their sentencing request today. And apparently Duke's cooperation didn't wring any further reductions from his recommended sentence.

Prosecutors asked U.S. District Court Judge Larry Burns to give Cunningham the maximum sentence of 10 years behind bars, a sentence Cunningham's attorney Lee Blalack called "grossly excessive."

Speaking of gross, Cunningham has not lost the power to amaze. In court documents filed by prosecutors comes this, as described by Seth Hettena of the AP ...

The prosecution's sentencing memorandum included a copy of a “bribe menu” written under the Congressional seal on Cunningham's office stationary. One column of figures represented the millions of dollars in contracts that could be “ordered” from Cunningham, according to prosecutors. The right column showed the amount of bribes Cunningham demanded in return.

According to the sentencing memorandum, Cunningham offered co-conspirator No. 2 – identified elsewhere as defense contractor Mitchell Wade – $16 million in contracts in exchange for a $140,000 bribe, which came in the form a 42-foot yacht, the Duke-Stir.

Takes your breath away, don't it? We'll have more soon.

Let's put this headline in amber and pack it into the time capsule. Let folks know what it was like.

Sic Transit.

Roll Call (sub.req.): "The Department of Justice has instructed the Senate Ethics Committee to steer clear of any investigations into actions involving ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, warning the panel it has “concerns” that any such probes could interfere with its long-running investigation."

Harry Whittington released from hospital in Corpus Christi.

Says Whittington: "My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this week."

Senator Specter won't be outdone by Sen. Santorum in ethics shenanigans. That and other news of the day in today's Daily Muck.