The Note: (F.B.)I. Spy

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17

NEWS SUMMARY

The most significant political story in the newspapers today is the Wall Street Journal's must-read front-pager on how the 2006 economy is expected to do.

The most significant unknown for the Republican House Conference is not who will win the Leader race, but why the winner will win.

The most significant political question of the day we can't answer is -- between Hillary Clinton and Al Gore, which one got coverage in the last 24 hours more in line with what they intended (and expected)?

The most significant para-political question of the day is (still) will the Senate hearings on domestic spying be the real deal or kabuki?

And the most significant 2006 event of the day will come out of the Deep South. Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) is expected to announce whether or not he will seek reelection to the Senate this year. It's a two-stop announcement tour. First, Lott will be in his hometown, Pascagoula, MS, at the La Font Inn at 12:00 pm ET. He will then head up to Jackson, MS to repeat his intentions.

If Sen. Lott decides to head to the private sector, expect the Mississippi Senate contest to become one of the most closely watched of the cycle. Many local and national Democrats believe their likely nominee, former Attorney General Michael Moore, represents the party's best shot at making some Democratic inroads into traditionally (well, recent tradition) Republican turf.

President Bush has two Oval Office meetings this morning. First up is the Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt of Belgium at 9:10 am ET. Reporters will have the chance to get some presidential feedback on Al Gore's speech when the two leaders chat with the pool at the conclusion of their meeting. Then the President meets with the National Commander of the American Legion at 9:55 am ET. There will only be still photos of that event.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights plan to file separate lawsuits against the Bush Administration today over its domestic spying program to determine whether the operation was used to monitor 10 defense lawyers, journalists, scholars, political activists, and other Americans with ties to the Middle East. These are the first major court challenges to the warrantless domestic eavesdropping program.

Due to a Specter/Leahy agreement, the executive business meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee that was scheduled for 11:00 am ET at which the Committee was "expected" to vote on the Alito nomination will now take place one week from today on Tuesday January 24.

First Lady Laura Bush met with the President of Ghana this morning. The First Lady continues her travels through Africa today as she heads to Nigeria where she will meet with President Obasanjo tomorrow morning.

Vice President Cheney travels in Egypt and Saudi Arabia today. He is scheduled to meet with President Mubarak in Cairo and King Abdullah in Riyadh. These are the rescheduled meetings from his trip to the region in December that needed to be cut short so he could cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. The Vice President is also scheduled to travel to Kuwait before returning home.

Speaker Hastert and Rep. Dreier (R-CA) will attempt to trump the much-publicized Reid/Pelosi unveiling of the Democratic lobbying reform agenda set for tomorrow with their own unveiling of the Republican lobbying reform agenda at a 2:00 pm ET press conference today.

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