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

If the snickers in the gallery during David Safavian's cross examination were any indication, things aren't looking too good for him. But he's still on the stand right now, and who knows? Maybe his lawyer will be able to put the pieces back together when she questions him again on re-direct.

Justin will be back later in the day to report how she did.

Almost immediately after the Homeland Security Department announced its grant awards to major cities, condemnations were launched. What appeared to be deep cuts in funding for New York City and Washington, D.C. were decried by lawmakers and pundits as incompetence and worse (my favorite: Buzzflash said it was "raw, oozing evil"). Some have called for the resignation of Tracy Henke, the DHS official who oversees the grant program; some have even called for DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to step down.

Let's take a deep breath.

I'm hardly a loyalist and defender of the Homeland Security Department. But in this case I think they may be the dog that's whipped when it's the owner who deserves the punishment. In fact, the future may show DHS is -- gasp -- forward-thinking.

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Roll Call: Lewis Probe Heating Up The investigation into dealings involving House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) appears to be picking up steam. At least four clients of Copeland Lowery Jacquez and Denton -- a lobby firm with notoriously close ties to Lewis -- are confirmed to have received subpoenas. Feds are looking at the ties between Lewis and Copeland Lowery. "Copeland Lowery’s clients, many of which are in Lewis’ own district, are heavy donors to the California Republican," Roll Call explains, "and they have received tens of millions of dollars in federal earmarks thanks to Lewis’ clout."

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The Washington Post goes front page Monday morning with a new story on William Jefferson (D-LA). There's nothing new here, no - except that reporters Jonathan Weisman and Allan Lengel would like to announce to the world that they've finally got their mind around the Jefferson case.

Everybody knows why Jefferson's in trouble (and about the $90,000 in the freezer). But over the past couple months, I've read a number of different attempts by journalists to explain the facts, and usually my head is spinning by the third paragraph.

Here's why: the case involves several deals "involving at least seven business entities, nearly a dozen family members [his wife, two brothers, five daughters and two sons-in-law] and hundreds of thousands of dollars sloshing through bank accounts."

Well, the Post does the best job I've seen so far this morning. So if you're curious about what the case is against Jefferson, give it a read.

More details on the Lewis investigation.

Last week, Justin reported on Rep. Jerry Lewis's (R-CA) top aide at the House Appropriations Committee, Letitia White. The FBI's investigation of Lewis is reportedly revolving around Lewis' very close ties to lobbyist Bill Lowery, and Letitia White was one of a few aides who moved from Lewis's office to Lowery's. As Justin pointed out, she was flown to Italy for a 10-day all-expenses-paid trip by a defense contractor while with Lewis; a couple months thereafter, she left the Hill and registered to lobby for the company with Lowery's firm.

White was about as powerful as an aide can be on Capitol Hill. And investigators are interested. As we noted yesterday, the FBI recently subpoenaed San Bernadino County, a client of Lowery's firm. White was one of their lobbyists.

And The New York Times reports that "prosecutors are looking into" White's ties to Lewis and Lowery.

According to the Times, White had a real hold on Lewis. And she got all sorts of special attention from lobbyists while she worked with him, including Brent "Boom shaka laka" Wilkes and Lowery:

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That Shirlington Limousine story isn't over.

On Thursday, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee went on Hardball and gave it to the Homeland Security Department with both barrels -- first for cutting preparedness funding to New York, and then for making what he thinks may be a corrupt deal with the Shirlington Limo company.

"[T]here’s issues we’re looking into as to whether or not other companies were asked not to bid" on the $21 million contract, said Rep. Peter King (R-NY). The contract ultimately went to Shirlington, the troubled transportation company with strange ties to powerful Republicans.

I didn't catch the show, but in the transcript King -- declaring "I am at war with the Department of Homeland Security" -- sounds nearly apoplectic:

You had the orgies going on at the Watergate Hotel, with prostitutes, pimps, booze, card games, Duke Cunningham, lobbyists, CIA. The people were driven and the prostitutes were driven to the Watergate Hotel in limousines owned by a company which was run by a crook, which lost two of its previous contracts but was given a $21 million contract by the Department of Homeland Security to drive the top executives of the department around Washington. . . .

And there’s a lobbyist who was involved with the company who is also involved with Duke Cunningham and somehow mysteriously this company gets a $21 million contract to escort or to drive around the Department of Homeland Security’s top officials.


I'll grant DHS this much: It takes guts to cut funding to a Congressman's state when he's sitting on a pile of corruption allegations about you, and holds the power to subpoena your documents and testimony. (Thanks to CQ's Patrick Yoest for pointing this transcript out to me.)

I was down at the district court yesterday afternoon to watch federal prosecutors begin their cross-examination of David Safavian.

The gallery was packed with spectators. Justice Department interns, clerks for other judges in the courthouse, and lawyers squeezed onto the hard wooden benches to see how the prosecutors would treat Safavian. They got a good show.

There were audible snickers from the gallery -- I'm not making this up -- at some of Safavian's answers. Some of the former White House official's answers seemed simply too disingenuous to believe. For instance, when the prosecutor, Peter Zeidenberg, asked why Safavian thought Jack Abramoff had invited Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) on the weeklong luxury golf trip to Scotland and England, Safavian said, "I thought Mr. Ney was on the trip to meet with Scottish Parliament."

(Minutes earlier, the prosecutor and Safavian had this exchange: "You were [in Scotland] on Sunday. Did you play golf?" "Yes." "And you played Monday, correct?" "Yes." "And you played Tuesday, correct?" "Yes." "And Wednesday, correct?" "Yes." "And Thursday?" Safavian couldn't remember Thursday.)

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In a ruling today granting Scooter Libby limited access to classified information, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton gave him some bad news: This trial will be about lying. Of course, this is what you'd expect in the trial of a man who's accused of perjury and obstruction of justice. But Libby's lawyers had been trying to complicate matters by seeking documents on far-ranging topics, such as Joe Wilson's trip to Niger, his wife's affiliation with the CIA, etc. The judge will have none of it.

As he wrote:

...the only question the jury will be asked to resolve in this matter will be whether the defendant intentionally lied when he testified before the grand jury and spoke with FBI agents about statements he purportedly made to the three news reporters concerning Ms. Wilson’s employment. The prosecution of this action, therefore, involves a discrete cast of characters and events, and this Court will not permit it to become a forum for debating the accuracy of Ambassador Wilson’s statements, the propriety of the Iraq war or related matters leading up to the war, as those events are not the basis for the charged offenses. At best, these events have merely an abstract relationship to the charged offenses.


Not a good sign for Libby. You can read the order here.

More from the AP.

Via the Senate Majority Project, I see that Steve Forbes has used the pages of his magazine to denounce the rank injustice done to his friend James Tobin. To Forbes, Tobin's conviction was a conspiracy between shifty "perpetrators" and a usually sensible judge who for some reason "gave instructions to the jury that virtually begged for a guilty verdict against Tobin."

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