Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Perhaps someone can help me.

Can someone send me the link to the first story in CNN, MSNBC, NYT, WaPo or any other major news outlet which picks up Mike Isikoff's Newsweek story placing Karl Rove at the center of the Plame leak?

Thanks. 'ppreciate it.

David Corn: "[T]onight I received this as-solid-as-it-gets tip: on Sunday Newsweek is posting a story that nails Rove. The newsmagazine has obtained documentary evidence that Rove was indeed a key source for Time magazine's Matt Cooper and that Rove--prior to the publication of the Bob Novak column that first publicly disclosed Valerie Wilson/Plame as a CIA official--told Cooper that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife apparently worked at the CIA and was involved in Joseph Wilson's now-controversial trip to Niger."

See more here.

When last we updated the Duke Cunningham 'Livin' Large Free of Charge' chronicles (DCLLFCC) you'll remember that Duke was trying to offer advice on getting a presidential pardon to one Thomas Kontogiannis, a Long Island real estate developer who'd recently been convicted in a bribery, kickback and contract-rigging scandal and who'd apparently, as part of that scam, arranged pay-offs totaling roughly a million dollars to Queens school superintendent Celestine Miller, including some $80,000 into the coffers of her failed congressional bid in 1998.

Around the time Duke was offering the advice he managed to sell his boat, the Kelly C, to Kontogiannis for what was apparently a vastly inflated price, bagging Duke a quick $400,000 profit. And somehow as part of this deal (we still haven't figured out quite the ins and outs of it) the Kontogiannis family mortgage lending company agreed to fund a series of discount loans that Duke used to buy his new house in Rancho Sante Fe.

But it seems that wasn't the only mortgage Duke got from Coastal Capital, the Kontogiannis family's mortgage company. According to this Friday evening AP report, they also set Duke up with another mortgage -- this one for $150,000 -- for a two-bedroom condo he bought in Arlington, Virginia. (And all this time you thought Duke lived on a boat!) The total purchase price was $350,000 and he resold it in 2004 for $500,000.

But even this isn't all.

Following up on a tip, I did a little poking around myself. And I take it that the condominium sale in question must be that referenced in the April 18th, 2002 real estate section of the Washington Post: "EADS ST. S., 1211, No. 2002-Ratta Joseph M. Della to Nancy D. and Randall H. Cunningham, $ 350,000."

Now, it seems that Joseph M. Della Ratta may be another real estate developer trying to settle some misunderstandings with government prosecutors.

According to this August 2003 Department of Labor bulletin, Della Ratta and a colleague got nailed for raiding an ERISA asset management plan of which they served as trustees. In July 2003, says the bulletin, a federal court "appointed an independent fiduciary to distribute all remaining plan assets of the profit sharing plans of Della Ratta, Inc. and Commercial Management Company in Silver Spring, Maryland. The court further ordered restoration of more than $166,000 to the plans from assets held in a Della Ratta, Inc. corporate account and restitution to be paid by the plans’ trustees."

Said Labor Secretary Elaine Chao of the case: "Corporations and executives who are designated retirement plan fiduciaries have a responsibility to protect the pension assets of its participants. These defendants used the plan assets for their personal gain. The department's action recovers pension assets taken illegally from the workers and their families.”

Della Ratta and his colleague Joseph E. Brimmer were ordered to pay back the money, removed as trustees of the plan in question and barred from ever again overseeing any other plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

The original government suit against Della Ratta was filed in December 2000 -- about a year and a half before Duke bought the condo. And the final resolution of the case came a little more than a year after that. This was of course while the home and boat switcheroos were also afoot.

In response to the question immediately below, a lot of commenters are suggesting the quite logical explanation that Novak's not in trouble because he cooperated and spilled the beans. But if that's true, why didn't that allow Fitzgerald to wrap the whole thing up right then and there? Would he really have allowed Novak off the hook for anything else beside telling him who his sources were, what they said, etc?

Perhaps Novak tried to pass off on <$Ad$>him the convenient lie that the persons in question didn't know or didn't tell him that Plame was covert. But some careful research we did almost two years ago on this point should pretty clearly I think that Novak has been fibbing through his teeth when he says this.

So, like I said, if Novak did cooperate and if that didn't provide enough for Fitzgerald to make some indictments or wrap the whole thing up, that in itself points to some more complex situation than most are considering.

Like I said, we're discussing the question here.

For months people have asked me this question: Why is everyone else in trouble over the Plame story but Robert Novak?

Earlier in the progress of the case, I thought I had two good answers. One, prosecutors usually work from the outside of a case in. Thus, it make sense that they'd get to secondary players like Cooper and Miller first. Second, precisely because of his immediate involvement in what happened, I suspected that Novak might be able to invoke the 5th amendment and not testify. Ironically, under this theory, that would put Cooper et al. in more jeopardy precisely because they're not accused of playing a role in the commission of a crime. And thus they've got no plausible 5th amendment claim to hide behind.

Now, clearly, if it ever was, we're way too far into this for my first answer to be correct. And I'm no longer sure my second one is either.

So why is it exactly that Novak is sitting pretty?

We're discussing it over at the TPMCafe politics discussion table.

Ed Kilgore and I are discussing the politics of the seemingly impending Rehnquist retirement over at TPMCafe. Ed seems to be thinking along the same lines I was yesterday evening -- that if President Bush must get to choose Rehnquist's successor, let it be now. Far better politically for the Democrats, far better shot at a better (or at least, a less bad) conclusion.

Can this be true? Says Judd Legum at ThinkProgress: "For the fourth straight time since his lawyer admitted that Rove was one of Matt Cooper’s sources, no member of the White House press corps asked a question about Rove’s role."

Duke-Kontogiannis grudge match plays out!

The North County Times has obtained Coast Guard documents which show that in May Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham signed two registration documents attesting that he was the owner of the Kelly C when in fact it was owned by New York real estate developer Thomas Kontogiannis who paid Duke $627,000 not long after he was convicted of price-rigging and bribery back in New York.

After signing the first document he sent a follow-up letter to the Coast Guard in which he wrote: "I am the sole owner of the 'Kelly C.'"

When asked, Duke's lawyer K. Lee Blalack told the paper: "These documents are entirely consistent with your previous reports regarding Duke's attempt to register the Kelly C in his name in anticipation of its resale from Mr. Kontogiannis." So, I guess Blalack is saying the documents confirm the paper's early claim that Duke made false statement on official government documents?

Meanwhile, a San Diego yacht salesman says of the sale price: "It might be worth a couple hundred thousand, maybe ----- but probably not ... I would say that what he sold it for is a gross overestimate of value."

Then there's this: "Kontogiannis said that the bill of sale he received from Cunningham is for $1 plus other valuables. When asked why they agreed to put the sale price so low, when in fact the amount he said he paid Cunningham was $627,000, Kontogiannis said that using a symbolic price of $1 is common in such transactions."

I've never bought or sold a boat. But is that common?

"My first thought when I heard - just on a personal basis, when I heard there had been this attack [i.e., yesterday's terrorist attack in London] and I saw the futures this morning, which were really in the tank, I thought, 'Hmmm, time to buy.'"

Name me the major network news anchor who could survive having made such a comment as his first reaction to a major terrorist attack.

That is, one beside Brit Hume, who said it.

David Sirota has more.

Duke Shaken? Stirred? Or just poured down the drain?

Option number three, says George E. Condon Jr. of Copley News Service.

And this one's lousy with quotes to sate your DukenSchadenfreude.

Charlie Cook: "I don't think Cunningham could be elected in that district anymore. You can make the case that almost any other Republican could, but not Cunningham."

Stu Rothenberg: "People are waiting to see when he gets out -- not if he gets out, but when he gets out."

GOP Consultant/Lobbyist John M. Dadian: "He's dead."

Meanwhile, Molly Ivins also gives Duke a stir.