The Daily Muck

House Leaders Face Down Dissent in Ranks over Jefferson Raid
More signs of a spreading breakdown of order in the House: leaders are losing face, big time. House Republicans are publicly grumbling about Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (IL) opposition to the FBI raid of cold-storage expert Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-LA) office. He’s made the party look like it’s protecting its own rear, not the Constitution, some say. Meanwhile, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has reportedly been forced to swallow a squishy compromise with the Congressional Black Caucus — she will refrain from calling on Jefferson to resign his Ways and Means committee seat, and the CBC will stop criticizing her for attacking one of its members. (Roll Call, Roll Call)Frist dismisses office search controversy
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Sunday he had talked the issue over with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and concluded that the FBI acted appropriately. “I don’t think it abused separation of powers,” Frist said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think there’s allegations of criminal activity, and the American people need to have the law enforced.” (AP)

A Defiant Stance In Jefferson Probe
The Justice Department signaled to the White House this week that the nation’s top three law enforcement officials would resign or face firing rather than return documents seized from a Democratic congressman’s office in a bribery investigation, according to administration sources familiar with the discussions. The possibility of resignations by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales; his deputy, Paul J. McNulty; and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III was communicated to the White House by several Justice officials in tense negotiations over the fate of the materials taken from Rep. William J. Jefferson’s office. (WaPo, NYT)

How the Jefferson Search Put Bush in a Bind
House Speaker Dennis Hastert erupted in fury over the search, demanding that the FBI return the material. “I’ve never seen Denny Hastert as mad,” said a senior Bush aide, declining to be named. Hastert twice complained directly to Bush that the FBI search of a congressman’s office was unprecedented and an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. When Dick Cheney chief of staff David Addington backed Hastert, tempers flared. DOJ officials floated the idea that Gonzales and Mueller might even resign over the issue. (Newsweek)

Threats led Bush to intervene in FBI fight
The constitutional showdown that followed the FBI’s search of a congressman’s office came down to this: The House threatened budgetary retaliation against the Justice Department. Justice officials raised the prospect of resigning. (AP)

Another Stumble for Ralph Reed’s Beleaguered Campaign
In August 1999, political organizer Ralph Reed’s firm sent out a mailer to Alabama conservative Christians asking them to call then-Rep. Bob Riley (R-Ala.) and tell him to vote against legislation that would have made the U.S. commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands subject to federal wage and worker safety laws. Now those seven-year-old words are coming back to haunt Reed. (WaPo)

Cheney aide is screening legislation
The office of Vice President Dick Cheney routinely reviews pieces of legislation before they reach the president’s desk, searching for provisions that Cheney believes would infringe on presidential power, according to former White House and Justice Department officials. The officials said Cheney’s legal adviser and chief of staff, David Addington , is the Bush administration’s leading architect of the “signing statements” the president has appended to more than 750 laws. The statements assert the president’s right to ignore the laws because they conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution. (Boston Globe)

Cheney keeps classification activity secret
Federal agencies made somewhat fewer decisions to classify top secret and confidential information last year than the year before–and declassified slightly more documents–according to a new government report Friday. Yet Vice President Dick Cheney again refused to report his office’s activities in either the classification or declassification of documents during 2005, as he has refused to disclose since 2003. (Chicago Tribune)

White House invokes privilege in spy cases
The Bush administration has asked federal judges in New York and Michigan to dismiss a pair of lawsuits filed over the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping program, saying litigating them would jeopardize state secrets. (AP)

Safavian Jury Is Shown More Abramoff E-Mail
A jury was presented with scores of damaging e-mails yesterday that showed lobbyist Jack Abramoff angling for inside information from then-General Services Administration chief of staff David H. Safavian — and Safavian doing what he could to accommodate his longtime friend. (WaPo)

Trial Is Expected to Bring New Scrutiny of Ney
Rep. Bob Ney’s (R-OH) former chief of staff, Neil G. Volz, who has pleaded guilty to conspiring with Mr. Abramoff to give illegal gifts to Ney, has been called to testify this week at the trial of David H. Safavian, the White House aide. Mr. Volz is expected to describe how Mr. Abramoff organized a $130,000 golf trip to Scotland by private jet in August 2002 for a group that included Mr. Ney and three House aides. (NY Times)

Target of F.B.I. Raid Had a Hard Path to Capitol Hill
Representative William J. Jefferson has always liked to talk about growing up in an impoverished farm community, picking cotton for $3 a day and hitting the books hard enough to win his ticket out — a scholarship to Harvard Law School. But even as Mr. Jefferson built a reputation as one of Louisiana’s brightest, most effective leaders, a less flattering view began to emerge, one signified by his nickname in political circles, “Dollar Bill.” (NYT)

Jefferson Probe Includes Other Suspected Schemes
Some of those schemes may be beyond the statute of limitations but could help show a pattern, according to a person familiar with the investigation. The records and materials seized during the FBI raid could shed more light on these areas, according to the affidavit. Investigators are looking at a number of companies listed under the names of Jefferson, his wife or other relatives, according to court documents. (WaPo)

Constitutional Squabble May Have Earlier Roots
Lawmakers and senior officials say Mr. Hastert’s determined challenge to the Justice Department’s court-authorized search of a Congressional office arose as much from frustration at missteps and slights by high-level administration officials as it did from outrage over what he saw as a gross violation of Congressional turf. (NY Times)

Filings in CIA Leak Case Paint Cheney as Determined to Counter Critic
The court filings — by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who charged Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, with lying in the CIA leak case — provide a vivid portrait of the vice president’s activity. Cheney repeatedly questioned Libby about the war critic, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV; wrote detailed notes about an op-ed article penned by Wilson; and raised questions about the CIA connections of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame. (WaPo)

House leaders concede FBI right to search
House leaders conceded Friday that FBI agents with a court-issued warrant can legally search a congressman’s office, but they said they want procedures established after agents with a court warrant took over a lawmaker’s office last week. (AP)

Bush ‘planted fake news stories on American TV’
Federal authorities are actively investigating dozens of American television stations for broadcasting items produced by the Bush administration and major corporations, and passing them off as normal news. Some of the fake news segments talked up success in the war in Iraq, or promoted the companies’ products. (Independent)

Grand jury eyes Kerik
A grand jury in the Bronx has been hearing testimony about a possible corruption case against former New York City Police Commissioner (and former candidate for homeland security chief) Bernard Kerik involving reputed mob associates, alleged influence peddling and a questionable home-renovation project. (AP)

Doolittle stalls resort land sale
The owner of a mountain resort tried to sneak through a land sale to the U.S. Forest Service but neglected to grease Rep. John Doolittle’s (R-CA) palm. Now Doolittle’s killed the deal. (Sac Bee)

Doolittle has raised over $1 million in campaign
Doolittle has raised just over $1 million in the campaign to date, including over $190,000 in the most recent reporting period, which he ended with $265,000 cash on hand. (AP)

Firm with Burns ties landed no-bid contract
A University of Montana spinoff company funded mostly with federal money secured by U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns gave a $270,000 no-bid contract in 2004 to a company that employed Burns’ former chief of staff as its lobbyist. The company, Compressus Inc., of Washington, D.C., also put Burns’ daughter, Keely Burns, on its board of advisers for a year beginning in May 2003, although she was not compensated for her involvement. (Missoulian)

Campaign Aide To Katherine Harris Is Missouri Fee Agent
At the Mexico, Missouri fee office, state-appointed fee agent Pat Thomas recently became a campaign aide in Florida for Katherine Harris, a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Florida. According to the St. Louis Business Journal, the Mexico license bureau grossed nearly $3.5 million in 2005. In addition, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported yesterday that several state-appointed fee agents are rarely seen in the license bureau. (Fired Up!)

Telco: Nobody Asked Us for Data

Cox Communications tells Tucson AZ City Council they have received no request to participate in NSA program. (AP)

West Virginia Wild Card
A new controversy surrounding Rep. Alan Mollohan’s (D-WV) may make this election one of the toughest of his career. (US News)