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From the AP:

A federal judge said Thursday that CIA interrogation videotapes may have been relevant to his court case, and he gave the Bush administration three weeks to explain why they were destroyed in 2005 and say whether other evidence was destroyed.

Several judges are considering wading into the dispute over the videos, but U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts was the first to order the administration to provide a written report on the matter. The decision is a legal setback for the Bush administration, which has urged courts not to get involved.

The AP also has a helpful rundown on where things stand with the other courts that have looked into the matter:

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Rather than wait for litigation to reach its preordained conclusion, Senate environmental committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has introduced a bill that would overrule EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and instruct him to grant California's waiver.

Right out of the gate, it's got bipartisan support. Cosponsors include Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Joseph Lieberman (ID, CT), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), John Kerry (D-MA), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), Bill Nelson (D-FL.) Barack Obama (D, IL), and Roberts Menendez (D-NJ). We'll keep you updated.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) reacting to yesterday's goings-on:

"The conduct of Senate Republicans yesterday was shameless. After weeks of insisting that it is absolutely critical to finish the FISA legislation by February 1, even going so far as to object to a one-month extension of the Protect America Act, they obstructed all efforts to actually work on the bill. Now they want to simply ram the deeply flawed Intelligence Committee bill through the Senate.

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Today's New York Times editorial page puts some nails in the coffin of Giuliani's campaign by introducing readers to the "real Mr. Giuliani" - "a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man who saw no need to limit police power." The paper asserts that Giuliani, "whom many New Yorkers" have already come "to know and mistrust," should be known for his "breathtaking" "arrogance and bad judgment" and the manner in which he "shamelessly turned the horror of 9/11 into a lucrative business, with a secret client list, then exploited his city’s and the country’s nightmare to promote his presidential campaign." Just yesterday, one of the paper's blogs ("City Room") ran a scathing indictment of Rudy's improper use of public office, as documented by 25 former prosecutors from the N.Y. region. (New York Times)

Presidential hopeful John McCain has a Rick Davis problem. McCain's top political aide, who has worked on and off with the Senator since 1999, was once part of a lobbying firm that provided political advice to anti-democratic, pro-oligarch candidates in the Ukraine. Davis, who some McCain advisers have concerns about, even arranged a meeting between McCain and the Russian billionaire Oleg Deripsaka, whose alleged ties to organized crime and anti-democracy movements are so serious that the U.S. has revoked his visa. (Washington Post)

The Bush administration, which believes in third chances, has appointed Paul Wolfowitz, the disgraced former president of the World Bank and Under Secretary of Defense, as chairman of the International Security Advisory Board, a high-level advisory panel on arms control that reports to the secretary of state. Wolfowitz will, once again, be providing the government with his wisdom on disarmament, WMD, and nonproliferation. (New York Times)

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The squeeze is on.

You remember how it went last time: with time running out before the end of the congressional summer recess, the administration, with the help of some key Democrats, managed to push through a far-reaching surveillance bill.

And once again, five months later, some of the same conditions have been created. The administration's bill, the Protect America Act, is set to expire February 1st. Republicans and the administration have consistently opposed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's attempts to push that deadline back.

And yesterday they managed to vote down the Senate Judiciary Committee's surveillance bill (which does not have retroactive telecom immunity) and block votes on any amendments to the intelligence committee's version, which does contain such immunity. As the Republicans have demonstrated, the Senate's rules make it easy for the minority to make trouble.

The table is set for Monday, when the Senate will vote on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) attempt to end debate on the intel committee's bill. That motion to invoke cloture will need 60 votes to pass. If it does pass, then the Senate would immediately vote on the bill, which civil libertarians dislike for a number of reasons beyond its measure granting retroactive immunity to the telecoms.

The major papers took a look at what happened on the floor yesterday -- particularly the defeat of the SJC bill -- and declare that it was a great day for the telecoms.

Yes, the SJC bill, which contained no retroactive immunity, did get voted down 60-36 with the help of twelve Dems. But it's far from clear that those same twelve Dems would vote to invoke cloture and prevent votes on the various other amendments. One of those Dems, for instance, is Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) who is co-sponsoring an amendment by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that would throw the immunity question to the secret FISA court. Will he vote to prevent a vote on his own amendment? That seems unlikely. The Republicans need all twelve of those votes in order to invoke cloture.

So it will become a question of who's getting squeezed. Monday's vote is sure to be in the spotlight. It will be right before the President's State of the Union speech, making it likely the presidential candidates will show. And if that vote for cloture fails (my timid prediction), Sen. Reid has signaled that he'll try to shift the emphasis to the Republicans' obstructionism. Yesterday on the floor he declared: "It appears that the minority, the President, and the Republicans want failure. They don't want a bill. So that's why they're jamming this forward." (You can read a longer transcript of his remarks here.) Whether a media narrative of Republican obstructionism can take hold -- something that certainly hasn't happened so far -- is another question.

OK, here's where things stand with the surveillance bill. There was just a flurry of activity on the Senate floor.

After this morning's vote, where the judiciary committee's bill was killed by Republicans and a handful of Dems, a number of amendments were to be offered -- among them, the Dodd/Feingold bill that would strip retroactive immunity. But the Republicans objected to any of these from coming up for a vote under simple majority rules.

Finally, about twenty minutes ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) moved for a vote on cloture -- that would force an end to debate and trigger a simple majority vote on the underlying Senate intelligence committee version of the bill (which has retroactive immunity). To do that, he'll need 60 votes.

Reid objected to this, said that he would vote against it, and then postponed the vote until Monday. We'll get you Reid's remarks as soon as we have them.

Update: A rough transcript of Reid's remarks are below.

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Here's House intelligence committee Chair Silvestre Reyes' entire statement on the White House's sudden decision to allow them access to documents concerning the warrantless surveillance program:

“I have pushed for eight months to review this material... I don't know why the White House refused to give us access. Now we will be able to view documents used to set up the President's warrantless wiretapping program.”

With the battle over retroactive immunity in the Senate looking pretty good for the administration, they're no doubt looking to the House as the next battleground. And they apparently decided that it would help if they shared a little. They certainly haven't suddenly been struck with a love of inter-branch comity.

As for House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI), he decided that this was an offer he couldn't refuse -- ten Dems on his committee and nine Republicans will get to see the docs, an apparently arbitrarily limitation -- but he remains "disappointed," he said, that the administration is still withholding some documents from this and other programs.

WARNING: Readers with an impatience for administration evasiveness should not watch this video.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson appears to be a student of the Alberto Gonzales School of Congressional Testimony, the main teaching of which is to never answer a question "yes" or "no." And at the first sign of trouble, you'd better spiral into minutiae and hope the Senator's time runs out.

The first time around, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) didn't know quite what he was up against. But as someone who went toe to toe with the Dean of Evasion himself, and as a former prosecutor, he was ready for round two.

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After more than two years of review and delay, the EPA finally shot down California's attempt to crack down on greenhouse gases with a state law. And when EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson finally issued that decree, it was not accompanied by the usual bulk of agency legal and technical analysis. Rather, it came in the form of a press release on December 19th, which just happened to be the same day that the President signed the new energy bill.

In case the connection was lost on anyone, the EPA's press release proclaimed the decision to deny California's waiver with the title, "America Receives a National Solution for Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions." Johnson was quoted as saying "The Bush Administration is moving forward with a clear national solution – not a confusing patchwork of state rules – to reduce America’s climate footprint from vehicles." We've posted the press release in full below.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) wanted to know if just maybe there was a connection. Johnson, of course, did not oblige with a direct answer. And as the questioning proceeded, Sanders' patience thinned and his voice raised:

Oddly enough, Johnson's first explanation for the timing indicated a coup to curb a staff revolt. EPA internal documents had been leaked to the press, he said, and they were misrepresenting "what actually was true." So he made the judgment call to announce the decision rather than "having inaccurate information" out there.

Two observations on this.

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Well, one down. The Senate just voted to kill (table) the Senate Judiciary Committee's surveillance bill, which did not contain retroactive immunity for the telecoms. The vote was 60-36 to table, with a number of Dems crossing over. As we said earlier, a number of other amendments will also go up for votes this afternoon.

Among the Democrats voting to kill the SJC bill were Sens. Mark Pryor (AK), Daniel Inouye (HI), Claire McCaskill (MO), Mary Landrieu (LA), Ken Salazar (CO) and Tim Johnson (SD).

Update: The final tally was actually 60-36, not 60-34, and the full list of Dems voting to kill were: Sens. Evan Bayh (D-IN), Tom Carper (D-DE), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and Ken Salazar (D-CO).