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

The Washingtonenne politico-sex-blog scandal happened so long ago, we're surprised it hasn't been turned into a VH1 special yet. (Maybe it has -- we don't watch VH1 all that much anymore.)

But it's been resurrected, most recently in the pages of Legal Times, of all places. Why? One of her sex partners says he was inaccurately portrayed. So he's suing.

A quick refresher: in 2004, a twentysomething Hill staffer had been keeping a "secret" online diary of her sexual exploits with various Hill figures. Someone emailed the URL to Wonkette, who wrote about it ad nauseum. Washingtonienne was unmasked as Jessica Cutler, a staffer for Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH). She lost her job, found a book deal. Then, except for occasional stories about how she gets sexually entangled with her lawyers, she disappeared.

But one of the men Cutler wrote about, Robert Steinbuch, wants justice. And he's willing to have even more details of his private life entered into the public record in order to get it.

Steinbuch, a senior DeWine adviser (or, as Cutler described him, "this crazy hair-pulling, ass-smacking dude who wants to use handcuffs on me") is suing Cutler, not for violating his privacy, but to correct what he says are falsehoods in what she blogged.

As the paper reports:

It's hard to know why anyone would care to set the record straight about whether he is able to ejaculate with or without a condom or whether he likes to spank or be spanked. But [Steinbuch's lawyer, Jonathan] Rosen says that's exactly what Steinbuch intends to do.


“There are graphic and intimate details which are not true,” Steinbuch told Legal Times. “Those are facts that are going to be litigated.”

Now that's a trial I wouldn't mind sitting through.

President Bush has intervened in the constitutional catfight between House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Congress, and the FBI and the Justice Department. He ordered all materials seized by the FBI from their raid on Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) office to be sealed for 45 days.

The documents are currently held by the solicitor general, Paul Clement, AP reports. The solicitor general's official duties are to represent the U.S. Government in cases before the Supreme Court.

The New Republic's blog, the Plank, has more questions for presidential aspirant Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) about the $20,000 in campaign donations he recently returned to the Wyly brothers. In 2000, the duo funded a costly ad campaign smearing McCain's environmental record.

Hastert has struck back at ABC News for saying he is under investigation by the Justice Department in connection with the Abramoff trial. But the network appears not to be heeding him.

Hastert had his personal lawyer write an angry letter to ABC, accusing the network of "libel and defamation" for its "publication of. . . false information, after having actual knowledge of its falsity[.]" This is on top of his earlier demand that ABC retract its story.

ABC's apparent response? Bring it. The network published yet another story, this one not even about Hastert, that manages to mention one more time the allegation that the Feds are looking into the House Speaker.

National Journal's Murray Waas reports that Karl Rove was in fact columnist Robert Novak's source for learning Valerie Plame's identity, and that the two men, upon learning of a federal investigation, spoke and may have created a false cover story to hide the truth.



In other words, there's mounting evidence that Novak and Rove not only lied to the FBI and grand jury, but they conspired to obstruct justice. Waas explains, with greater finesse:

On September 29, 2003, three days after it became known that the CIA had asked the Justice Department to investigate who leaked the name of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame, columnist Robert Novak telephoned White House senior adviser Karl Rove to assure Rove that he would protect him from being harmed by the investigation, according to people with firsthand knowledge of the federal grand jury testimony of both men. . . .

Rove and Novak, investigators suspect, might have devised a cover story to protect Rove because the grand jury testimony of both men appears to support Rove's contentions about how he learned about Plame.


Before the conversation, Waas notes, Novak's story was that White House officials had given him Plame's name and encouraged him to write about it. After news of the investigation was broken on Sept. 26, Novak's story flipped. "Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this," he said on Sept. 29.

Both men told investigators and the grand jury that in July 2003, Novak called Rove and asked him about an "unsubstantiated rumor" about Plame's identity, and Rove said he had heard the same thing.

According to Waas, the investigators are having a hard time swallowing the story. After all, why would a guy with 46 years' experience out a CIA operative based on himself and Rove hearing an "unsubstantiated rumor?"

Earlier this month, the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility said that they had to close their investigation into whether department officials (including both Attorney Generals) acted properly in approving and overseeing the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program run out of the National Security Agency. The reason given was that they didn't have the proper security clearances.

It turns out they were denied access to documents already in the DoJ's possession. In other words, the higher-ups just wanted the investigation stopped.

From today's National Journal:

The only classified information that OPR investigators were seeking about the NSA's eavesdropping program was what had already been given to Ashcroft, Gonzales and other department attorneys in their original approval and advice on the program....


The piece has a gem of a quote from the man who used to run the DoJ's Office of Professional Responsibility:

Michael Shaheen, who headed the OPR from its inception [in 1975] until 1997, said that his staff "never, ever was denied a clearance," and that OPR had conducted numerous investigations involving the activities of attorneys general. "No attorney general has ever said no to me," Shaheen said. He added that, over the past several years, the OPR's muscle has degraded, in part because it was stripped of its authority to pursue criminal investigations. But under the Bush administration, the weakening has been especially pronounced, Shaheen said. "I just think that the White House has so frightened everybody.... If I were still at OPR and was told I couldn't have security clearances, the first word out of my mouth ... would have been, 'Balderdash!' "

News just out: Founder and CEO Ken Lay guilty of all charges - he'll be spending the rest of his life in prison.

The other former CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, not guilty of inside trading charges, but guilty of all others, 35 counts of 'em.

Update: Here's the AP's rundown.

I didn't think it possible, but it seems like the FBI really might be forced to hand over the documents they seized Saturday from Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) office. From the AP:

...not long after House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi demanded on Wednesday the bureau return documents it took, White House aides were in talks with Hastert's staff about the possible transfer of the material, perhaps to the House ethics committee, according to several Republican officials.

The goals of any transfer, they said, would be to deny the documents both to prosecutors and to Rep. Willliam Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat ensnared in a bribery investigation, until the legal issues surrounding the weekend search of his office are resolved. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the confidential nature of the discussions.


So, Hastert finally found a use for the House ethics committee: as a place to store documents until real investigators can go through them.

Brian Ross relays the Justice Department's latest on ABC's story that Dennis Hastert is under investigation by the FBI, this one straight from the DoJ's #2, Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty:

"With regard to reports suggesting that the Speaker of the House is under investigation or 'in the mix,' as stated by ABC News, I reconfirm, as stated by the Department earlier this evening, that these reports are untrue."


That sounds like a comprehensive denial to me.

It was a shock to most when ABC reported yesterday evening that the Justice Department was investigating House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL). But a look at the record shows the Abramoff scandal has been camped outside Hastert's door for some time.

The crux of Hastert's troubles is a 2003 letter to then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton which the GOP leader co-signed, along with three other party members, concerning an Abramoff tribal client. As long ago as September 2004, the Washington Post telegraphed how fishy that missive was:

V. Heather Sibbison, a lobbyist at the time for the Jena Band, said: "I do this for a living, and I have never seen a letter like that before. It was incredibly unusual for that group of people, who do not normally weigh in on Indian issues, to express such a strong opinion about a particular project not in any of their home states."


Ths January, when Abramoff pleaded out and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, the Chicago Tribune's Mike Dorning told us what bad news that was for Hastert. A week before the quartet sent their letter, he noted, Abramoff had hosted a fundraiser for Hastert. "The guilty plea by lobbyist Jack Abramoff could bring renewed scrutiny of a letter sent by House Speaker Dennis Hastert," he wrote, and explained why:

Indian tribes represented by Abramoff donated more than $20,000 to Hastert around the time of the fundraiser, which was held at Signatures, a Washington restaurant owned by Abramoff. Hastert's campaign committee did not pay the tab for the June 3, 2003, luncheon fundraiser until last year, following media inquiries about the unpaid check.


Given all that, it would almost be curious if the Justice Department truly had no interest in Hastert.

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