TPM News

Since we began our round-the-clock, if-it-moves-blog-it coverage of the Cynthia McKinney cop-punching scandal, we've been getting the same question from our readers: Do you mean to tell me the security of our nation's capitol depends on a system of dinky lapel pins?

The short answer: Yes. In an era of retinal scanning, five-fingerprint ID, facial recognition technology and all the rest, anyone wearing a dinky lapel pin can breeze past guards within the Capitol complex.

Hardly able to believe it ourselves, we called the House Sergeant at Arms' office. They're the ones who control the pin operation. We got an aide on the line who wouldn't be named -- the Sergeant forbids the staff from speaking with the press -- but who offered to help. Here's what we learned:

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Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) thinks it was inappropriate for his opponent to bring his daughter to Washington so she could receive cancer treatments.

But it was okay for Weldon to bring his daughter to Washington to make money off her dad? Perhaps now is a good time to remind everyone of Weldon's special relationship with his daughter.

The LA Times broke the story back in 2004 that Weldon's daughter Karen, then in her late twenties, ran a lobbying firm that was raking in approximately $1 million a year - and by some strange coincidence, her three main clients all had developed a relationship with her father, Curt.

The clients? There was:

-- "a plum $240,000 contract to promote the good works of a wealthy Serbian family that had been linked to accused war criminal Slobodan Milosevic." Weldon and his daughter worked, without any apparent success, to get them visas.

-- a Russian aerospace manufacturer who paid Karen Weldon's firm $20,000 per month to promote its technologies, which included its "flying saucer." Her firm also was to get " a 10 percent finder's fee if the company '[struck] a deal from a lead supplied'" by them. That little bonus had to be taken out of the subsequent contract, however, when they realized that it was illegal for a lobbyist to take a cut of a government contract. Weldon worked hard to win a contract for the firm.

-- a $500,000/year contract from a Russian natural gas company called Itera International Energy Corp. to "'create good public relations.'" She won the contract shortly before her father held a dinner at the Library Congress to honor the company's chairman.

Weldon needs to search harder for that moral high ground.

Scoops are flying about how Bush and Cheney selectively authorized "Scooter" Libby to leak pieces of classified information to the press, in order to make their pre-war claims look good.

But Libby's role was even more extensive than a leak here and a leak there. The court documents show Libby says Cheney made him de facto press secretary for the uranium issue -- giving "on the record" statements, and talking on "background" (that means he doesn't get named) to several reporters:

Defendant further testified that on July 12, 2003, he was specifically directed by the Vice President to speak to the press in place of Cathie Martin (then the communications person for the Vice President) regarding the NIE and Wilson.

Defendant was instructed to provide what was for him an extremely rare "on the record" statement, and to provide "background" and "deep background" statements, and to provide information contained in a document defendant understood to be the cable authored by Mr. Wilson.

For all of you Plamegate addicts, we've posted the entirety of Patrick Fitzgerald's response here.

Murray Waas scoops the NY Sun's scoop from this morning. Court docs show Libby had permission for one leak of national secrets; Waas says VP Dick Cheney directed Libby to leak all over the place, including to the WPost's Bob Woodward:

Although not reflected in the court papers, two senior government officials said in interviews with National Journal in recent days that Libby has also asserted that Cheney authorized him to leak classified information to a number of journalists during the run-up to war with Iraq. In some instances, the information leaked was directly discussed with the Vice President, while in other instances Libby believed he had broad authority to release information that would make the case to go to war.

In yet another instance, Libby had claimed that President Bush authorized Libby to speak to and provide classified information to Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward for "Plan of Attack," a book written by Woodward about the run-up to the Iraqi war.

Read all about it. . .

From the New York Sun this morning:

A former White House aide under indictment for obstructing a leak probe, I. Lewis Libby, testified to a grand jury that he gave information from a closely-guarded "National Intelligence Estimate" on Iraq to a New York Times reporter in 2003 with the specific permission of President Bush, according to a new court filing from the special prosecutor in the case.

And more:

Mr. Libby is said to have testified that "at first" he rebuffed Mr. Cheney's suggestion to release the information because the estimate was classified. However, according to the vice presidential aide, Mr. Cheney subsequently said he got permission for the release directly from Mr. Bush. "Defendant testified that the vice president later advised him that the president had authorized defendant to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE," the prosecution filing said.

Read the full story.

DeLay: The Bitter End of the News Cycle

The Times runs a mostly ho-hum analysis of DeLay's time in the leadership. The era of partisanship may be over, Robin Toner reports. I wouldn't be so sure. (NYT)

DeLay will get to collect his $67,000-a-year pension as soon as he leaves Congress, the Houston Chronicle tells us. He can even collect it from prison. Not that he had anything to do with any criminal activity. (Houston Chronicle)

The Post's Chris Cilizza sizes up Nick Lampson's costs in Texas' 22nd District now that DeLay has bowed out. The verdict: he could win, but his chances are definitely lower than they were Monday. (The Fix)

In an interview with the Washington Times yesterday, DeLay lambasted the Republicans for a lack of unity and answered "maybe" to the question of whether he might go on to be a lobbyist. (WT)

U.S. News' Inside Washington Column pushes forward the "Democrats Have Lost Corruption as an Issue Because DeLay is Gone" Meme. (US News)

DeLay's charities say that just because their man has surrendered his iron grip on power, they aren't worried they might lose the generous funding of the tobacco companies, Indian tribes, oil companies and others who needed favors from The Hammer when he was in office. (Houston Chronicle)

Michael Crowley compares DeLay to the alien in Alien and says that his remarkable capacity for hypocrisy really will be missed. (The Plank)

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Following the arrest of a Homeland Security Department spokesman for soliciting sex from a minor, the House Homeland Security Committee will take a closer look at how DHS hires and screens its employees.

A third DHS employee now appears to have criminal sexual tendencies involving children.

For a Dateline NBC segment on sex predators, Southern California police set up a sting: A decoy pretended to be a 12- or 13-year old online at home, alone. Sex predators found the decoy on the Internet and arranged to meet. When they showed up, the police arrested them.

Caught in the net was Michael Burks, 30, a former La Verne, Calif. police officer who was a DHS "agent," according to a Jan. 14 Los Angeles Times article (not online).

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Look familiar?

And no, CNN didn't even say please.

Thanks to all the TPMm readers who sent this in.

Josh asks, "Has new media finally arrived?"

Amidst all the public theater of DeLay's pending resignation yesterday, it was easy to lose track of the maneuvering by prosecutors and DeLay that's been informing it all.

Look at the predicament that DeLay is in. On Friday, one of his former aides, Tony Rudy, pled guilty to accepting bribes while working in his office. Rudy also pointed the finger at Ed Buckham, DeLay's former chief of staff and man on K Street, increasing the likelihood that Buckham will go down too (DeLay certainly seems to think so). As we've said before, Buckham is key. If the Justice Department were eventually bring DeLay up on charges, Buckham would be their star witness.

If Delay were backed into a corner, what could he do?

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