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

The DHS revolving door strikes again.

When he was chief of the Homeland Security Department's Federal Air Marshal Service, Thomas Quinn spent $22 million on a system of handheld computers that were supposed to help air marshals log suspicious behavior, ABC News reports.

It was a waste of money, most air marshals complain now. The technology is useless.

Maybe so -- but not for Quinn. Just weeks after leaving the top Air Marshal post earlier this year, Quinn signed up to be a consultant for the Datamaxx company, the producer of those PDAs.

"[P]eople come in and out of this office all the time. Send me memos, half of which. . . are appropriate for me to have, some of which aren't, which I don't read. And call or come in and say I am going to do this or what do you think about that."


-- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, explaining why he can't remember approving a $30 billion Boeing tanker lease deal. The deal, which was reportedly pushed for by the White House, has become one of the biggest Pentagon procurement scandals in history.

The jury in the Safavian trial woke up this morning and decided to make life hard for us reporters. And to send David Safavian to jail.

After five days of deliberations that seemed to be as stop-and-go as the Beltway during rush hour, the jury slipped a note to the judge this morning around 9:30 which said they had made up their minds.

I'm not sure a single reporter was there when the verdict -- guilty on four of five counts, generally following expectations -- was read. It was sent to reporters via email, and we clambered to the courthouse to get a few questions to the lawyers and jury before they disappeared.

I may have been the last on the scene. By the time I made it to the sixth floor of the courthouse annex, where the trial had been held, a clutch of reporters was waiting. Moments later, Safavian's defense attorney, Barbara Van Gelder, emerged from the courtroom. TV and radio reporters asked her if she'd take questions in front of the building -- where they had their mics and cameras set up -- and she agreed.

The clutch followed her to the bank of elevators, politely asking Van Gelder questions about the trial. An elevator arrived and she got in. The clutch followed, wedging themselves en masse into the car. Not being a big fan of crowded elevators, I let them go without me and waited for another one.

As the next elevator arrived, who came around the corner but Safavian himself, with his wife, members of his defense team and a couple others I didn't recognize. In his by-now-trademark sober suit, he looked miserable. I had heard through the grapevine that he had privately been preparing himself for a guilty verdict, but in the courtroom he usually looked upbeat -- smiling, making friendly jokes, even breaking out into a small dance at one point.

He wasn't smiling or joking anymore. He had deep circles under his eyes. He looked me in the face as he got on the elevator. I realized it had been less than an hour since he learned he was facing a fate he had spent months of his life and many thousands of dollars trying to avoid.

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There's one simple thing to take away from the verdict against David Safavian: for a player in Washington, gullibility is no defense. It's Washington; savviness is the name of the game. Safavian tried wide-eyed innocence -- let's call it the Forest Gump defense -- and it didn't fly.

Safavian swore under oath that Abramoff had flown him to Scotland on a golf junket as a buddy, essentially, and not as his inside man, his "champion" at the General Services Administration. And when Abramoff told him that his share of the lavish, week-long trip amounted to $3,100, he didn't think anything of it, because Abramoff was his pal.

Naivete didn't play well for Safavian, a former lobbyist and high-ranking official. The heart of the trial was his cross-examiniation, when prosecutors vividly illustrated the delusion necessary to construe a lobbyist's gifts as anything other than a bid for influence and access. Safavian testified that he just didn't see it that way. And the jury didn't believe him.

That has to be bad news for future targets of the Abramoff investigation, such as Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), who will eventually find himself, most likely, attempting to explain to a jury how he, in Forest Gump style, just happened to wander his way into a relationship with Abramoff.

Finally, the jury reached a verdict on David Safavian - guilty on four of the five counts.

From the AP:

Safavian was charged with two counts of obstructing justice during investigations into the Scotland trip by the GSA inspector general and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. He also was charged with three counts of making false statements or concealing information from GSA ethics officials, a GSA inspector general investigator and a Senate investigator.

The jury found Safavian guilty of obstructing the work of the GSA inspector general and of lying to a GSA ethics official. It also convicted him of lying to the GSA's Office of Inspector General and of making a false statement to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. He was acquitted of a charge of obstructing the committee's investigation.


Update: Justin is down at the courthouse and will be posting later on what he saw and heard.

Approps Lobbyists Fear Effect of Lewis Probe Lobbyists who specialize in winning earmarks for their clients are nervous about the effect of the federal probe into House appropriations chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and the Copeland Lowery lobbying firm, Roll Call reports. One lobbyist told them that the investigation could have a more chilling effect on their business than the Jack Abramoff scandal, or the Cunningham fiasco:

After all, this lobbyist said, Abramoff’s scheme of charging clients millions of dollars to do grass-roots work and maintaining a secret partnership with Michael Scanlon is not something most lobbyists do. But raising money for Members and then asking them for appropriations is routine.

“If you have clients who want earmarks, get earmarks and then contribute to the Congressman — that’s everybody,” this lobbyist said.


Why - why - if a fella can't swap an earmark for a contribution, government money might get spent based on merit and need, not on free-market favoritism! One shudders to think it. (Roll Call)

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Prosecutors in the Jack Abramoff case (remember him?) want their man where they can reach him without too much of a hassle, so they've asked the judge to postpone the date he was due to enter prison by 90 days. In late March, Abramoff was sentenced by a federal court in Florida to almost six years in prison for fraud charges relating to his purchase of SunCruz. But prosecutors in D.C. want Abramoff around to help with their bribery cases. So Abramoff will be free at least until late September.

And Roll Call reports that Abramoff might get a number of such extentions - the more he gives, the longer he puts off prison:

Several sources close to the case believe Abramoff may not be required to begin his prison sentence in the Florida case until next year, depending on how the Washington corruption probe is progressing.

I spoke with Truthout editor Marc Ash this afternoon. His correspondent Jason Leopold wrote a number of stories involving Karl Rove's legal worries -- that the White House adviser had been indicted, and had informed the president of his pending resignation -- which have become increasingly difficult to reconcile with accounts in mainstream papers that Rove will not be indicted in the Plame affair.

Most recently, Leopold's reporting methods have been called into question by the Washington Post, which yesterday ran a piece questioning whether he had impersonated another journalist while covering Rove's troubles.

"We're suffering from hysteria here," Ash said of the reaction to the mainstream press accounts which appear to contradict Leopold's reporting. "And I don't find that attractive and I don't find it in the best interests of our readers. We are expressly endeavoring to mitigate hysteria," said Ash.

As part of that effort, last Friday Ash posted a statement to Truthout.org. "Obviously there is a major contradiction between our version of the story and what was reported" by other outlets, Ash wrote. Therefore, Truthout is "going to stand down on the Rove matter at this time. We defer instead to the nation's leading publications."

Some might think that was a retraction -- but they would be wrong. Just two paragraphs later, Ash wrote, "There is no indication that Mr. Leopold acted unethically. . . we stand firmly behind Jason Leopold."

So does Truthout stand behind Leopold's reporting -- or does it "defer. . . to the nation's leading publications"?

Ash doesn't seem to think it's an either/or proposition. "There is a perception here that Jason misreported facts, didn't report facts accurately, wasn't candid with his editors. None of that is true," he told me. Right now, the publication is "reviewing all our sources. . . and trying to confirm, confirm, confirm."

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The San Bernardino Sun has done a great job staying on top of the Jerry Lewis probe, breaking many of the stories about which Southern California towns have been subpoenaed by investigators.

The paper provided us with a copy of the only grand jury subpoena known to be released to the public from the Lewis probe -- from a US Attorney in Los Angeles to the City of Twentynine Palms. Read it here.

A grand jury subpoena doesn't tell us that the feds are moving forward on a specific target yet, or even that they know what charges they wish to pursue. It only confirms that prosecutors are looking for evidence that could be used to obtain one or more indictments in the future.

In San Diego, however, a grand jury appears to be examining evidence collected by prosecutors in support of an indictment for Brent Wilkes (according to my colleague's expert analysis). Is the summer of scandal about to heat up?

On Friday, Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan heard arguments over the FBI's late night raid on Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) congressional office. Jefferson's lawyer, along with counsel representing the House leadership, argued that the raid had been unconstitutional.

But the judge has indicated that he'll side with the Justice Department on this, announcing at the end of the day that he thought Jefferson and the House were full of it... or, as he gently put it, he was "not sanguine" about their arguments.

For the niceties, citations of legal precedent, etc., I encourage you to read the parties' legal briefs, which we've posted online -- Jefferson's original brief is here, the DoJ's reply here, the House's amicus brief is here, and the DoJ's reply to that is here.

But it's really not so complicated. And Judge Hogan seems to have a knack for getting down to the essentials of what Jefferson and the House are arguing.

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