They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

At the National Journal, Murray Waas rakes muck on how White House aides in 2003 plotted to hide the fact Bush knew of disputes over pre-war intelligence. In particular, they were worried voters would learn Bush knew the intelligence on the aluminum tubes was questionable when he used it as evidence of Iraq's WMD program:

. . . Bush had been directly and repeatedly apprised of the deep rift within the intelligence community over whether Iraq wanted the high-strength aluminum tubes for a nuclear weapons program or for conventional weapons. . .

"Presidential knowledge was the ball game," says a former senior government official outside the White House who was personally familiar with the damage-control effort. "The mission was to insulate the president. It was about making it appear that he wasn't in the know. You could do that on Niger. You couldn't do that with the tubes." A Republican political appointee involved in the process, who thought the Bush administration had a constitutional obligation to be more open with Congress, said: "This was about getting past the election."

Here's a new development in a story I've been puzzling over for the better part of a year: the Justice Department is prosecuting one of its own attorneys because, they say, he was too aggressive -- to the point of breaking laws -- in an effort to catch terrorists on U.S. soil.

It's a comfort to know the Justice Department has chosen to start reining in the government's more aggressive anti-terrorism practices. But I can't help but wonder if the administration isn't going after the guy for its own reasons.

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We flagged this today in the Daily Muck, but it really shouldn't be missed.

Roll Call reported today that Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) has put his D.C. home on the market, and it looks like he's leaving town.

Jefferson is the target of a long-running bribery probe, and all signs point to Jefferson being indicted if he does not plead guilty. His ex-aide Brett Pfeffer has already pled guilty to his roll in the scheme and is due to be sentenced May 26.

But his spokeswoman says the sale has nothing, nothing, nothing at all to do with the investigation, no: it's because "the housing market 'has gone flat and is expected to decline' and that the Congressman's house has 'seen a large appreciation,' so now is the time to sell."

At the very least, the $799,000 ticket price will help Jefferson pick up what must be some hefty legal bills.

Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele (R) is making a run for Senate there. The GOP loves him - he is after all, that rare thing, a Republican African-American, and there are signs he's finding his way into the GOP machine.

Today, Roll Call reports that he's just picked up Doug Heye as his communications director. Who's Doug Heye? Well, he comes to Steele by way of Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). Before that, he worked for Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), who's very close to Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff. TPM's cache of Abramoff emails showed Heye frequently using Abramoff's skybox back in 2000.

So the AP picked up our story on Rep. Jim Ryun's (R-KS) townhouse deal. Let's look at what he came up with in his statement - he refused to be interviewed about it. There are some gaping holes in his story.

To repeat the facts: the U.S. Family Network bought the house in 1999 and sold it about two years later for a $19,000 loss, when they should have sold it for about a $100,000 gain in that market, according to experts we spoke to.

And the USFN wasn't just any old political organization - they were a front group that Ed Buckham used to funnel in $2.3 million from Jack Abramoff's clients. The money propped up Buckham's lobbying firm Alexander Strategy Group, paid for the townhouse which also housed Tom DeLay's political committee, and generally helped fund Abramoff's and DeLay's political machine.

So let's just focus on the USFN for a second. Ryun's spokeswoman told the AP that "Ryun 'was not specifically lobbied by USFN' and that the group has not made any contributions to his campaign."

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As we mentioned yesterday, Howard Kaloogian, of Turkish Baghdad fame, founded Move America Forward. They're a nonprofit and tax exempt 501(c)3 organization - and so required to be non-partisan. There are a number of organizations that push that line, but look at Move America Forward's past work and you can see that they push it more than most.

Because they're a non-profit, Move America Forward has to file publicly accessible disclosures, called 990s, with the IRS. We've posted their 2004 disclosure here. Take a look. We'd like to know, especially from TPMM readers who are experts on non-profits - how does it look to you?

It looks like MZM was in the Department of Homeland Security, and may still be there. Here's why:

As we reported last week, Mitchell Wade's MZM held a contract with the Pentagon's homeland defense office to provide "watchstanders."

A Pentagon spokesman confirmed that the office of Paul McHale, Asst. Sec. of Defense for Homeland Defense, has no "operations centers" -- the 24/7 intelligence monitoring centers where watchstanders monitor intelligence feeds and sound alarms when big stuff happens. (McHale's office held the MZM contract we reported.)

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Ryun Denies He Got Deal on House

Following up on a story broken by some website that shall not be named, the AP reports that Rep. Jim Ryun (R-KS) says his purchase of the U.S. Family Network's townhouse was on the up and up. See our reporting for what it's all about. More on this later. And read TPM for Josh's thoughts on the AP's theft. (AP, TPMM, TPMM, TPM)

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There's no reason to wait around until Howard Kaloogian produces a photo that shows the Baghdad he found during his trip to Iraq, which "is much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be."

You can look for yourself through the photos from the trip made available on Move America Forward's website. Let's see, is it this one, of Camp Victory, where the truth tellers stayed?

Or is it this one, of the bombed out Republican Guard palace, hosted on Truth Tour participant Mark Williams' site?

Maybe not. Keep looking.

Ed. Note: Thanks to TPM Reader CJ for the tip.

Late Update: See TPM for what Kaloogian came up with.

Looks like while Howard Kaloogian was touring Iraq with the truth, his partner at Moving America Forward was signing contracts.

Sal Russo, who's the chief strategist for Move America Forward as well as the chief strategist for Kaloogian's campaign, is also one of the principals of Russo, Marsh, and Rogers, a big-hitting GOP consulting firm. Move America Forward operates out of the firm's offices.

On July 9th, 2005, Kaloogian and his five talk radio hosts went over to Iraq on their trip sponsored by Move America Forward. On July 13th, an item appeared in Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter, which reports on the PR industry, that Sal Russo's firm had picked up a contract to "to get 'free media' to promote the interests of the Kurds in the post-Hussein Iraq." And that business also extended to the U.S. market - Russo, Marsh, and Rogers were hired to produce ads stateside. The Wall Street Journal described it as a "political-advertising contract with the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq" to produce "advertisements that run in the U.S. seeking investment in Kurdistan."