The FBI is investigating leaks to the press confirming various inquiries into federal lawmakers, the bureau's chief told Congress yesterday.
In particular, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said he was incensed that details of the investigation into departing Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) became public. Reports AP's Lara Jakes Jordan:
Mueller described himself as "exceptionally disappointed, and that is being charitable, in terms of my response upon hearing about the leak."
On Oct. 13, McClatchy Newspapers reported that the FBI was looking into whether Weldon illegally steered $1 million in contracts to his daughter's lobbying firm. Agents followed up with the raid three days later, in part out of fear that evidence would be destroyed after the investigation was exposed.
Officials also confirmed federal investigations of several other House lawmakers that month, including former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., and retiring Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz. All three men have maintained their innocence.
Senators scolded Mueller about the leaks. The committee chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said the disclosures were "just disastrous" for suspects who have not been charged, much less proven guilty.
"While the measure to restore the right of habeas corpus has almost no chance of passing before Congress adjourns later this week, the message is clear: When Democrats take over in early January, the issue could resurface.
"The Military Commissions Act of 2006, which Bush signed into law in October, prevents detainees who aren't U.S. citizens from challenging their detentions in civilian courts. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter [R-PA] who voted for the legislation despite his opposition to stripping such rights from detainees, on Tuesday reintroduced legislation to restore those rights. A similar measure sponsored by Specter failed by three votes in October.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Specter said he was reintroducing the issue to prevent federal courts from striking down the legislation, which some of the detainees' attorneys have challenged." (McClatchy Newspapers)
From Roll Call (sub. req.) -- who says white-collar defense lawyers should get all the money? Spokespeople gotta eat, too:
With Hurricane Subpoena bearing down on Capitol Hill, veteran GOP spin masters Mark Corallo and Barbara Comstock are hitching their wagons to help Republicans fight the storm and â well, sure â rake in some dough.
Corallo and Comstock are forming the crisis management firm Corallo Comstock, Inc. They aim to open shop on Jan. 1, just before the new Democratic chairmen will start banging their gavels and demanding information from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
âJust in time for subpoena season,â Corallo told HOH.
Barbara Comstock and Mark Carallo, of course, are seasoned professionals who have issued "no comment"s on behalf of such notable clients as Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Tom DeLay (R-TX), and Karl Rove. More at ThinkProgress.
Guess what: the U.S. occupation is suffering from a painful lack of Arabic speakers. In the Iraq Survey Group's report, they recommend the government "accord the highest possible priority" to language training and cultural proficiency.
In his press briefing this afternoon, White House flack Tony Snow brought up the recommendation, but squirmed when pushed to admit that it was a criticism of the administration. Ignoring the fact that we're five years out from 9/11, Snow averred that the administration could hardly be expected to "snap its fingers" and make Arabic linguists appear. Watch:
"You don't snap your fingers and have the Arabic speakers you need overnight." As my TPM colleague Eric noted, it's too bad the military's been kicking out Arabic speakers who they think snap their fingers a little too much.
Are you a federal government employee? You've probably been asked -- more than once -- to help the mighty Iraq rebuilding effort by volunteering to fill a post over there for a few months.
Apparently, folks haven't been stepping up to the plate. So you civil servants might not have a choice in the matter, if the Iraq Study Group gets its way. From the final report, Recommendation #74 reads:
In the short term, if not enough civilians volunteer to fill key positions in Iraq, civilian agencies must fill those positions with directed assignments. Steps should be taken to mitigate familial or financial hardships posed by directed assignments, including tax exclusions similar to those authorized for U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq.
So the government might force you, a lanyard-swinging desk jockey, to serve in the fiery chaos of a faraway land, away from friends and family, at risk of death. Silver lining: tax break!
The waning days of the 109th Congress, fromThe Chicago Tribune:
About the only Republican spotted with a joyous mood was Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, who said he had just returned from South Carolina where he had been "rolling and rocking" in his campaign for the presidency.
Hunter rode the House subway to the Rayburn Office Building, where he immediately ran into Rep. James Leach (R-Iowa), a 30-year veteran who lost his seat in the Democratic victory. Leach, like the other losers, said he has been consigned to a small office in an isolated corridor of the basement, with enough room for a computer, table and chair.
This corridor is like a losers' ghetto, a big comedown for once-powerful members like Leach, considered one of the most thoughtful members of the House.
They talked politics for a while and Leach offered this advice: The value of experience, he told Hunter, is "learning what does not work."
Asked to recall highlights of his career, Leach cited passage of bills dealing with financial modernization, AIDS prevention, aid to poor countries and Internet gambling restrictions. He said his biggest regret is the development of divisive, ideological politics. "I see both parties as mirror images of each other," he said.
And then he headed toward his tiny office in the corridor of lame ducks.
Republican Vern Buchanan made a rollicking, rambling appearance on Hannity and Colmes last night, during which he accused Democrat Christine Jennings of "destroying democracy" by contesting the election results.
The issue in the race, of course, is that electronic voting machines failed to register a vote in the congressional race from more than 13 percent of Sarasota County voters -- a rate far higher than other counties and absentee ballots. That statistical aberration or "undervote" has led experts and other reasonable people to declare that something went wrong in the race.
But not Buchanan, who enjoyed a victory by a 400-vote margin, and not Sean Hannity.
For those even passingly familiar with the details of the race, the segment is excruciating. You can watch it here:
In the segment, Hannity and Buchanan refer repeatedly to the recounts of the race (despite the fact that paperless electronic voting machines prevent a meaningful recount), which showed no significant shift in the vote counts, to buttress the notion that Democrats are attempting a power grab. Hannity falsely asserted that Democrats "want the court to declare that the Democrat won," when in fact Democrats are asking for a new election (as Hannity had actually stated earlier in the segment).
In response to questions from Alan Colmes as to why the undervote occurred, Buchanan gave a glass-is-half-full spin, emphasizing "the 238,000 people that did vote in this race." He had no explanation for the undervote, only offering, "I just think it was a competitive race; thereâs a lot of speculation out there you can read.â
Speaking of speculation you can read, a group of political science professors have issued a study (pdf) on the election, finding that the undervote was caused mainly by ballot design -- a similar conclusion as that drawn in an analysis by The Sarasota Herald Tribune -- and that had there not been a high undervote, Christine Jennings would have won the election.
Today at a too-rare oversight hearing, incoming Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) gave the Bureau's director, Robert S. Mueller III, an idea of the kind of inquiries he's planning come January.
What made the list? Datamining and privacy; detainee treatment; the shortage of FBI Arabic translators; and the bureau's continued technology woes.