Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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A TPM Reader informs me that Tucker Carlson, and apparently other scofflaw Republicans, are out there again making the claims that Valerie Plame wasn't a covert agent at CIA after all and that, apparently, there's no crime at the bottom of the whole thing.

I'm hoping maybe I can speak to Tucker or maybe that he'll go directly to Langley and also to speak to Mr. Fitzgerald because he seems to know stuff no one else is aware of, perhaps vouchsafed to him through a special revelation.

As we noted almost two years ago, the statute that started this whole gangling cavalcade in motion only applies to covert agents. The Justice Department investigation began in response to a CIA 'referral'. Presumably the people at the CIA know Plame's status. Such a referral is made when the referring agency believes that a crime may have been committed that the Justice Department should investigate. If she wasn't covert, a crime could not have been committed. And yet they sent the referral because they think a crime may well have been committed. Ergo, the CIA must believe she is covert. Carlson says, no. But that's their story and they're stickin' to it.

Perhaps she wasn't covert enough for Carlson. But I'll leave that to Carlson, Angleton, Donovan and whatever other worthies he regularly communes with.

As for Fitzgerald and the current investigation, he seems out of the Carlson loop too.

As we noted a few days ago, DOJ guidelines are pretty clear on just how and when prosecutors should even try to compel testimony from journalists, let alone try to throw them in jail. It's not to be done for idle curiosity or to tie up loose ends, but only when the prosecutor believes he's zeroing in on a crime. And even then they're not supposed to do it unless all other alternatives have been exhausted. So unless Fitzgerald's not following the procedures he should be, it seems Fitzgerald is pretty confident there is a significant crime at the bottom of all this.

In sum, Carlson seems like the only fellow in Washington who's really got the goods on this whole case. If he could just lay it out for us, maybe Cooper, Miller, Fitzgerald and all those good souls at the White House could finally put this regrettable saga behind them.

Ahhh, the intricacies of Aqua-Duke. This from Roll Call ..<$NoAd$>.

Sure, now it’s called the “Duke-Stir.” But the 42-foot Carver boat — yeah, the one that was raided by federal agents on Friday, a fact first reported by Roll Call — had a different name when Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) became its unofficial helmsman. The yacht used to be called “Bouy Toy,” so named by its former owners, a gay couple, according to sources at the Capitol Yacht Club.

Apparently, the fellas down at the marina kind of razzed ol’ Duke, a former “top gun” fighter pilot, about the gay-themed name. And apparently, Cunningham couldn’t take it. He changed the boat’s name from the sweet-and-saucy Bouy Toy to the mucho macho Duke-Stir in December 2004, according to Coast Guard records.

Aqua-Duke ...

So Matt Cooper agrees to testify ...

I'll be curious to see what turn of events led to this or whether it was just the approaching prospect of a long stint in prison. In Cooper's case I'll give a strong benefit of the doubt till I hear otherwise, since he's one of the few people who's held his head high through this whole sordid and long-drawn-out affair.

Of equal interest to me is Judith Miller.

As we suggested a few days ago, it's not clear to me that Miller is in this jam for the same reasons as Cooper is.

And in the Post this morning comes this hint: "Fitzgerald may learn more details from Cooper's notes. Sources close to the investigation say there is evidence in some instances that some reporters may have told government officials -- not the other way around -- that Wilson was married to Plame, a CIA employee."

Go figure ...

Like to discuss and share your thoughts? We've opened a special discussion thread on this breaking news at TPMCafe.

As near as I can tell, there's no major new Duke Cunningham scandal in the news today. And yet, it's still pretty early.

On the other hand, this gives me an opportunity to highlight the chart Bob Brigham posted yesterday over at the Swing State Project. Particularly if you're just getting started, it can help clear up all the players.

It includes a column each for each bagman/shark, organized vertically with the relevant yacht, how much Duke scored from the given bagman, which house he helped with, and so forth.

"We're going to fight this through to the end," says Duke Cunningham. Those were Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's (R-Wade) words before ducking into a no-press speech before the Escondido Rotary Club.

Does he plan to seek a ninth term? "Absolutely."

A bit more on Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's (R) new pal, Thomas Kontogiannis.

Looking at this November 2000 piece in the New York Post, it seems other pols who've gotten cozy with Kontogiannis haven't fared so well.

One was Celestine Miller, a one-time Queens school superintendent who got charged with taking some $1 million in bribes in the same tangle that got Kontogiannis those convictions he was looking to get pardoned for.

According to the Post, grand jury testimony in the case came from one informant he said he had personally counted out some $50,000 that Kontogiannis had given to Miller in a brown paper bag. And, no, I don't mean brown paper bag in the figurative sense. I mean a literal brown paper bag.

Here's a bit more from the Post piece dated November 2nd, 2000 ...

Authorities say that was just part of a total of $1 million in payoffs Miller and her husband, William Harris, received from the 51-year-old Kontogiannis.

Also included in the payoff total, according to authorities:

* Contributions totaling $80,000 to "Friends of Celestine Miller" for her unsuccessful 1998 Republican congressional campaign against Gregory Meeks to succeed Queens Democrat Floyd Flake.

* Several European trips and payments of tens of thousands of dollars on her American Express bill.

* At least $75,000 from Kontogiannis' companies that showed up in Miller and her husband's joint bank account.

* Two two-story homes, worth more than $800,000, given to her by Kontogiannis, whose companies held the mortgages.

Duke runs in good company, don't he?

More coming on this front soon ...

Late Update: Apparently at some earlier point Kontogiannis had branched out from domestic shenanigans. "He and an official at the U.S. Embassy in Athens were arrested by the FBI for taking bribes to provide phony U.S. visas," said the Post.

I wanted to let you know about a new group blog we've just launched over at TPMCafe. It's called House of Labor and, as the name suggests, its focused on the labor movement in the United States.

I'd be much obliged if you'd stop by and check it out.

Here's the introduction to the site and why we think it's important, and here's the url of the site itself: http://houseoflabor.tpmcafe.com.