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Here's one other key aspect of the Rove-Miers testimony agreement that's worth noting...

The agreement declares that the famous "Scudder memo" will be made available "for Committee review only". In other words, the committee won't get to keep a copy, nor will it be able to release the memo publicly.

That seems at first like a significant concession.

The Scudder memo, to refresh your memories, appears to be a key piece of evidence in the effort to get to the bottom of the White House's role in the firings. Michael Scudder, an associate White House counsel, was tasked by White House staff with conducting an internal inquiry fully documenting the White House's involvement in the affair. He interviewed numerous White House and DOJ officials, including Rove. In their report on the firings released last year, Justice Department investigators identified the Scudder memo as one of the most crucial documents to which they lacked access, that might have helped them uncover the truth.

But it's not quite that simple. In an emailed statement to TPMmuckraker, a committee source explained why the committee settled for being able to review the memo only:

The Scudder memo was identified by OIG/OPR as a critical document even they could not get, and we would not have accepted a settlement that did not get us full use of the document in the interviews. At the same time, we do respect the need for White House lawyers to investigate rising controversies, and so we think the agreement works a fair compromise that won't limit our investigation or unduly burden any future Administration.


In other words, it sounds like one or both of the Bush and Obama White Houses were concerned, perhaps legitimately, about maintaining the ability to conduct internal reviews of controversial issues with the confidence that the results will remain confidential. And the committee felt willing to compromise on that point, as long as it was given adequate time to review the memo before it questioned Rove and Miers.

And of course, when transcripts of the testimony are released, we'll likely learn the key facts included in the memo anyway-- since they'll presumably be included in the committee's questioning and in the witnesses' responses.

On the related subject of the Obama White House's role in the deal, here's the cover letter that went with the agreement, written by Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig, and sent to Judiciary chair John Conyers, and President Bush's lawyer, Emmet Flood.

The letter, which notes that "both the Bush administration and the House Judiciary Committee have confirmed to me orally and in writing that they have accepted the terms of the enclosed Agreement."

In other words, as recent reports have suggested, the Obama White House was intimately involved in shaping this agreement -- a fact that would appear to explain the concern for maintaining the White House's ongoing ability to conduct confidential internal inquiries.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) confirmed today that Republicans are holding up approval of David Ogden, President Obama's nominee to be deputy attorney general. From Leahy's remarks in the committee this morning:

Despite the strong support from law enforcement groups, children's advocates, civil rights organizations and former Democratic and Republican officials, and despite this Committee's bipartisan vote, Republican Senators have now chosen to filibuster the second of President Obama's nominations reported by this Committee. This is not a good start.


Ogden did win approval in committee, as Leahy notes, from senior Judiciary GOPer Arlen Specter (PA) as well as Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). But we know who doesn't like him: the right.

Family Research Council fellow Cathy Ruse, in a recent op-ed for CNSNews.com, outlined the conservative case against Ogden, focusing on his past defense of abortion providers and the porn industry. Focus on the Family is also mobilizing its members this week to call for Ogden's defeat.

Late Update: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is expected to file for cloture on Ogden's nomination this week, according to Leahy's office -- meaning that Republicans will be challenged to put their money where their mouth is soon enough.

A group of centrist Democratic senators held their first meeting this week to discuss brewing -- but so far non-specific -- concerns with President Obama's budget.

Many of these emerging Democratic budget skeptics also fought to slim down the economic stimulus bill before it became law next month: Sens. Ben Nelson (NE), Mary Landrieu (LA), Evan Bayh (IN), Mark Begich (AK), Amy Klobuchar (MN), and others were part of influential centrist blocs during the stimulus debate and are likely to keep hold on their power during the budget debate.

Klobuchar told me yesterday that the stimulus negotiations could "potentially" serve as a model for the drafting of the budget. That prospect may give progressives heartburn if increased spending and tax hikes for the wealthy are put on the chopping block to assuage centrist concerns. But as Landrieu explained, the Democratic skeptics have yet to delve into details about what exactly is worth resisting in the president's budget.

Using the public record, however, let's take a look at what motivates three five of the key centrists in this debate:

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In his first public comments about the deal to secure his testimony on the US Attorney firings, Karl Rove told Fox News.com:

I understand they may be the hors d'oeuvres, but I'm the main course. Some Democrats would love to have me barbecued.


But beyond that eye-catching quote, something far sneakier came out of the interview. Rove used a curious argument to defend his role in the firings, saying:
If White House contact with the Justice Department is inappropriate, then what are we doing by allowing anybody who has anything remotely to do with the political campaign -- like the general counsel of the Obama White House -- to have any contact with the Justice Department?. I mean, we named the Justice Department building after the campaign manager of the 1960 presidential campaign - Robert F. Kennedy.


Leave aside the shot at Bobby Kennedy. Rove seems to be arguing that the White House's coordination with the Justice Department over the firings is comparable to any contact that the White House counsel might have with the department.

But as Rove knows, one of the concerns that the firings scandal brought up was the fact that the Bush White House allowed numerous White House staffers to talk to DOJ officials about the case. Democrats responded with efforts to limit those contacts -- and Rove certainly has never before expressed the view that those efforts didn't go far enough.

And while we're on the subject of Rove's mendacity, here's another point worth noting: Yes, Rove will testify under penalty of perjury. But he appears to have shown in the past that he's perfectly capable of dissembling even under such conditions.

In 2006, there was fevered speculation that Rove would be indicted for perjury for lying to Pat Fitzgerald's investigation into the Valerie Plame affair. Rove initially did not tell the grand jury about his conversation about Plame with Time's Matt Cooper (now at TPM!), claiming he forgot about it.

A New York Times story from 2006 lays out the details:
In his February 2004 testimony, Mr. Rove acknowledged talking to the columnist Robert D. Novak about Ms. Wilson, but he did not tell the grand jury about a second conversation he had about her with Matthew Cooper, a Time magazine reporter. Mr. Novak revealed her name and C.I.A. employment in a column on July 14, 2003.

Critics of the Bush administration have asserted that the revelation was retaliation against her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat who had publicly accused the administration of twisting some of the intelligence used to justify going to war with Iraq.

Mr. Rove later voluntarily told the grand jury about the conversation with Mr. Cooper, and said that he had forgotten about it in the rush of his daily business. But Mr. Fitzgerald has long been skeptical of Mr. Rove's account of his forgetfulness, lawyers in the case say.


So it wouldn't run counter to precedent if Rove again walked right up to the line of inviting a perjury charge when he testifies.

Something for Conyers and his team to be aware of, perhaps.

We've obtained a copy of the agreement on Karl Rove and Harriet Miers' testimony about the US Attorney firings, and it appears to answer some of our initial questions.

Are any subjects off limits?

The scope of the interviews will be limited to: (1) facts relating to the evaluation of, decision to dismiss, or decision to replace the former U.S. Attorneys in question; the alleged decisions to retain certain U.S. Attorneys; and any allegations of selective prosecution related thereto; and (2) testimony or representations made by Department of Justice officials to Congress on the U.S. Attorneys matter. For the period beginning on March 9, 2007 (the date of the Committee's first written demand for information from the White House), interviews will not include the content of conversations involving: (i) Mr. Rove and members of the White House Counsel's office; or (ii) Ms. Miers and members of the White House Counsel's office. In the case of Mr. Rove, the interview also will include facts relating to the prosecution of Alabama governor Don Siegelman.


And when can Rove and Miers claim executive privilege?
As to official privileges, counsel will direct witnesses not to respond to questions only when questions relate to communications to or from the President or when questions are outside the scope of questioning set forth above.


You can see the whole thing here.

Over the past few weeks, a lot of questions have been raised about how to stop banks receiving government bailout aid from paying for high-priced lobbying teams with taxpayer money.

The short answer, unfortunately, is that most banks will continue lobbying unless shamed into stopping -- like AIG, which closed its influence shop but kept on hiring pricey PR consultants. Just listen to Roll Call's interview yesterday with Citigroup's chief lobbyist, who formerly served as George W. Bush's legislative affairs chief:

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In an interview with the Washington Post, Michael Steele offered his own unique description of the job of party chairman, in response to those who have criticized him for gaffes: "I'm in the business of ticking people off," Steele explained. "That's why I'm chairman."

Steele also made the case that he -- and not Congressional figures, or perhaps Rush Limbaugh -- is the leader of the Republican Party. "Everyone has a role to play, but at the end of the day, all roads are going to lead to this desk," he said. "From the Hill, from the grass roots, the donors, it all comes here. They're all going to look to me to speak on issues."

Steele also explained that he is trying to break the GOP's mindset of outreach to traditionally non-Republican communities, as opposed to active involvement.

"'Outreach.' I have banned that word from the building," he said. "The Republican Party no longer does outreach. Outreach is a cocktail party where you put your arm around a black friend and say, 'Look who I know,' and that's about it. What I want the party to do and focus on is coalitions, know the major religious players, business players of both parties in your state."

Boehner Op-Ed: Rush Limbaugh Controversy Is A Dem Distraction In a new op-ed piece for the Washington Post, John Boehner denounces the Rush Limbaugh flare-up as a diversionary tactic by the Democrats: "And in a carefully calculated campaign, operatives and allies of the Obama administration are seeking to divert attention toward radio host Rush Limbaugh, and away from a debate about our alternative solutions on the economy and the irresponsible spending binge they are presiding over."

Obama's Day Ahead: Discussing Health Reform President Obama will be speaking at 1 p.m. ET at the White House Forum on Health Reform, at which he will be hosting representatives from labor, business, health providers, insurers and activist groups, plus members of Congress and members of the administration. At 2:30 p.m. ET he will be meeting with Tim Geithner, then at 4 p.m. he will be holding further discussions with the health forum members.

Biden In Miami, Speaking To Labor And Promoting Stimulus Vice President Biden will be speaking at 11 a.m. to the AFL-CIO Executive Council, in Miami Beach. At 1:45 p.m. ET, he will be joining Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz at the construction site of the Miami Intermodal Center, a transportation hub, to promote the stimulus program.

Napolitano, Donovan And Fugate Touring Gulf Coast The White House has announced that Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan will be touring the Gulf Coast today to assess rebuilding efforts. The two of them will be joined by FEMA Director-designate Craig Fugate for a 1 p.m. ET press conference in New Orleans.

Carville: I'm Not Promoting Rush As Head Of GOP -- Rush Is In an interview on CNN yesterday, James Carville denied reports that he was behind any Democratic plan to promote Rush Limbaugh as head of the Republican Party. "I think that honestly I don't want to take credit away from the great Rush Limbaugh who did it on January 16 when he said he wanted the president's policies to fail, and that's what started the whole thing," Carville said. "So don't give Paul and I, or Rahm credit. Credit is due to the great Rush Limbaugh. So my hat's off to you, Rush."

Bill Clinton Wades Into Florida Senate Primary, Supporting Meek Bill Clinton will be holding a fundraiser tomorrow in Florida for Congressman Kendrick Meek's Senate campaign. Meek was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primary season, and by the St. Petersburg Times' count is only the third primary candidate that Bill has supported in a down-ticket race -- the other two were Rahm Emanuel for the House in 2002, and Terry McAuliffe for governor of Virginia this year.

AIG Retains Mark Penn's Firm For PR It turns out that AIG, the insurance giant that is now depending on continuous government rescue, has hired Burson-Marsteller to handle its public relations. An AIG spokesman told PRWeek a while ago that the firm was being retained because of the company's expertise, and not due to its high-profile CEO: Mark Penn, the former chief strategist for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

U.S. lawmakers suffered a minor setback Wednesday in their ongoing effort to close offshore tax havens. Mark Branson, an executive at the powerful Swiss bank UBS, apologized to a Senate subcommittee for helping Americans dodge taxes but he refused to disclose the names of the estimated remaining 33,000 U.S. clients accused of evading taxes with the help of UBS. Branson argued that he could not cooperate because full disclosure would violate Swiss criminal law, and told lawmakers, "the IRS is attempting to resolve this diplomatic dispute in a courtroom, which is neither productive, nor proper." (Associated Press)

The Treasury Department Inspector General reported on Wednesday that bank regulators knew in 2002 about financial instability at several banks owned by First National Banking Holding Co. but failed to act before it was too late. Those banks - in Arizona, California and Nevada - crashed last year because their management favored "growth and profits over appropriate risk management," according to the audit report. This follows the IG's criticism last month of the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision for their insufficient oversight of IndyMac bank. In each of these cases, the IG's actions indicate the potential for increased government regulation of financial institutions. (Financial Week)

Franklin D. Raines, a prominent Democratic businessman, took advantage of a special program reserved for friends of a former Countrywide Financial CEO, claims Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA). Issa released documents Wednesday which indicate that Raines, the former CEO of Fannie Mae, received discounts including a 4.125 percent rate on his mortgage compared to the 5.1 percent prevailing rate for comparable loans. Raines also did not have to pay application or processing fees common for Countrywide's ordinary clients, according to Issa's documents. (Washington Post)

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David Iglesias has responded to the news of a deal to secure Karl Rove and Harriet Miers' testimony about the firings of Iglesias and seven other US Attorneys.

In a statement to TPMmuckraker, Iglesias, whose firing as US Attorney for the district of New Mexico was deemed the "most troubling" by a Justice Department report released last year, said:

Today's agreement represents true progress in this matter which has been on-going for over two years. I trust that the initial private testimony of Mr. Rove and Ms. Miers will become public at the soonest possible date.

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