WASHINGTON, May 25
A week is a lifetime in politics blah blah blah.
Some things, however, can get baked into the electoral cake. The White House and congressional Republicans will not give up until Election Day on making Iraq less of an albatross and on getting more credit for positive economic news. But there are other factors that are immutably fixed in place from now through November:
-- House Republicans will be worried about a tsunami.
-- House Republicans will be certain that the tsunami will grow in size exponentially if they pass a bill that Laura Ingraham terms "amnesty."
-- House Republicans will not be as disciplined or loyal to the Bush Administration as they were 2001-2004.
-- The Senate will be less likely to flip than the House.
-- The Justice Department Abramoff prosecutors and Patrick Fitzgerald will be the wildest of wild cards, who believe that October is just another month.
-- A majority of the minority will be in their hearts for higher taxes, universal health care, a heightened emphasis on civiil liberties, and a dramatic and swift reduction of troops from Iraq. They know it, the RNC, NRCC, NRSC, and The Note all know it -- the Democrats just have to hope that the American people don't find out until February.
-- Democrats know who they will blame if they don't take back Congress; Republicans are still deciding who they will blame if they lose.
-- 484 members of the Gang of 500 think Tony Blair is smarter, more articulate, more principled, and more visionary than Geroge W. Bush; their Brit counterparts think those Gang members are plonkers and muppets.
All of this will be on display when toothpaste buddies Bush and Blair ruin everyone's evening by holding a plush joint newser after or on Old Media deadlines.
A whole lotta thumbsuckin' going on as everyone vamps for the post-East Coast network news full press conference at 7:30 pm ET.
"This will be the President's 25th full press conference since taking office in 2001. His last press conference was on April 28 in the Rose Garden and was originally billed as just a statement on the economy. That day the President took questions from 15 different reporters," reports ABC News' Karen Travers, rattling off those stats as if they were sports scores.
Do not expect any announcements on troop withdrawals. The White House said Wednesday that such talk is "premature" and that those decisions will still turn on conditions on the ground. But watch closely the nuance, the body language, the bonhomie, and the sheer homo-eroticism (We are sort of kidding about that last one, Mr. President.).
For the impatient, the place holding, and the cables, we'll get to see the President first at 11:00 am ET when he makes remarks at the "Change of Command" ceremony for the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard.
Minority Leader Pelosi (D-CA) will have an opportunity to provide her on-camera reaction to ABC News' Brian Ross' exclusive report on Speaker Hastert's alleged connection to the Abramoff affair (LINK) at her 10:45 am ET press conference.
Majority Leader Boehner (R-OH) will get his chance fifteen minutes earlier at his 10:30 am ET on camera briefing.
Per The Hotline's Notey Jonathan Martin, "House GOPers will take to the floor this morning to 'Rally Behind Our Speaker,' as one staffer for Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) put it in an email circulated to fellow GOP aides. LINK
Sen. Clinton, in her Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee chairwoman role, kicks off a homeland security summit at 9:45 am ET in Washington, DC. At 5:15 pm ET, Sen. Clinton receives the "Gold Star Wives of America" appreciation award. Later tonight, President and Sen. Clinton (update that spreadsheet, Pat Healy!!!) attend the Sons of Italy foundation gala.
Gov. Schwarzenegger (R-CA) welcomes President Fox of Mexico to California this afternoon.
President Bush has no public schedule tomorrow. He does the West Point commencement on Saturday. Vice President Cheney delivers the Naval Academy commencement address tomorrow at 10:00 am ET in Annapolis, MD.
Fresh from his visit to Iraq, Gov. Romney (R-MA) visits Bay State troops deployed in Afghanistan.
Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) is in Iowa today. He attends a fundraiser for State Representative Paul Shomshor in Council Bluffs, holds a media availability, and attends a fundraiser for the Woodbury County Democratic Party in Sioux City, IA.
Sen./Dr./Leader Frist (R-TN) is in Anderson and Rock Hill, SC on Saturday. Sen. Frist will appear with congressional candidate Ralph Norman.
Due to the Memorial Day holiday weekend, The Note will not be publishing Friday or Monday. The Note will return on Tuesday May 30. Have a great holiday.
On "Good Morning America," ABC News' Brian Ross said: "Despite a flat denial from the Department of Justice, federal law enforcement officials tell ABC News the FBI investigation of Capitol Hill corruption has widened to include Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert."
He closed by saying: "Hastert says the story is untrue and demanded a retraction. Our sources say Hastert is not considered the formal subject or target at this time, but that the FBI will soon seek documents from him and other members of Congress based on information from the convicted lobbyist Abramoff. The investigation is in its very early stages, and it is entirely possible, it will turn out there was nothing unlawful about Hastert's relationship with Abramoff."
You can see more of Brian Ross' reporting here: LINK
Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty said last night in a second statement, "With regard to reports suggesting that the Speaker of the House is under investigation or 'in the mix,' as stated by ABC News, I reconfirm, as stated by the Department earlier this evening, that these reports are untrue."
(That was two quickly issued statements from DOJ last night; Speaker Hastert must have some pull.)
(The Chicago Tribune has Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse acknowledging that DOJ rarely publicly confirms or denies the existence of an investigation, as it did yesterday, but Roehrkasse says the "department was moved to respond to the report because of 'unique circumstances.'" LINK) The Chicago Sun-Times' scooper and digger Lynn Sweet has Hastert deputy chief of staff Mike Stokke saying the story was leaked to ABC "in retaliation for Hastert's outspoken criticism" of the raid of Rep. William Jefferson's office Saturday night. LINK
Says Stokke: "We've been in discussion with them since Sunday, with the Department of Justice, on this other matter of unconstitutional search and seizure… I don't recall any threats being made, but this is what is called in baseball a brushback pitch. ... ABC News got this from somewhere. I don't think they made this up."
An unnamed Hastert aide goes the same route with the Wall Street Journal in accusing the DOJ of leaking the story, saying, "No doubt about it. They're pushing back."
The Hill writes that the ABC News story "caused a late-day furor on Capitol Hill with GOP aides questioning the motivation behind the leak." LINK
Check out this from the Huffington Post from November 2005: LINK
Jefferson and separation of powers:
In a rare joint press release, Speaker Hastert and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi demanded that the Department of Justice return papers seized from the office of Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) as part of a bribery probe. In a separate letter, Pelosi called on Jefferson to step down from the Ways and Means Committee, pending the outcome of the criminal investigation. Rep. Jefferson rejected the request, calling it unfair to his constituents and discriminatory. House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) announced that he will hold a hearing on the "profoundly disturbing" questions that he said the DOJ's actions have raised.
Carl Hulse of the New York Times writes that the institutional battle over the FBI raid on Rep. Jefferson's office is "a potential new problem for President Bush" in White House/Hill relations at a time when he doesn't need a new problem. LINK
"Mr. Jefferson's case, which holds potential for Republicans to score partisan points, seemed an unlikely mechanism for bringing the two parties together in an election year."
"But it appears to have done just that, leading Democrats and Republicans to find common ground in defense of institutional prerogatives."
And be sure to Note the Sensenbrenner hearing set for next Tuesday.
Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly tells the San Francisco Chronicle that she isn't "prepared, at least yet, to ask for Jefferson to quit the House." LINK
In the Washington Post's story, Shailagh Murray and Allan Lengel report that the Jefferson case has revealed a "more forceful side" to Pelosi and has drawn "protests from some of Jefferson's colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, for what they regard as harsh treatment, given that Jefferson has not been indicted." LINK
The Hill also picks up on the displeasure of the CBC. LINK
(Democrats should wonder where Rush Limbaugh got the list of examples of alleged bad treatment of African-American politicians by Democratic Party elites that he read on the air yesterday.)
In the Washington Post's analysis of the FBI raid on Rep. Jefferson's office, Charles Lane writes that while it "might violate the spirit of the Constitution, it might not violate the letter of the document or subsequent rulings by the Supreme Court," according to legal analysts. LINK
The Washington Post ed board is basically ok with the search. LINK
". . .some members of Congress began to question how the public would view the leadership's position," reports the Los Angeles Times. LINK
"'For congressional leaders to make these self-serving arguments in the midst of serious scandals in Congress only further erodes the faith and confidence of the American people,' Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) wrote in a letter to Senate leaders."
Check out a sampling of conservative blogger reaction to the Hastert/Pelosi joint statement: LINK
Tom DeLay has joined the growing list of MOC's concerned about the FBI raid on Jefferson's office. "I believe in the Constitution, and people need to understand that no one is above the law," said DeLay, per the Houston Chronicle. LINK
Politics of immigration:
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) made the morning show rounds to talk about immigration.
While appearing on "Good Morning America," McCain was asked if the House and Senate would be able to reconcile their diametrically opposed approaches towards illegal immigrants. McCain said: "We're ready to enter serious negotiations and discussions. We're not drawing any lines in the sand. . . . I think there is a lot of room for maneuver."
McCain, who thinks there is a 90 percent chance of a deal emerging, went on to warn that it was not going to "sit well" with the American people if Congress ends up doing nothing.
In his look at the fragile Senate coalition that is poised to pass an immigration bill, the Washington Post's Charles Babington Notes that Karl Rove received a "cold reception" when he met privately with House GOPers yesterday. LINK
The Houston Chronicle's Gebe Martinez writes that Rove heard "sharp criticisms" of the bill the Senate was expected to pass today. LINK
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) tells the Los Angeles Times that the Rove meeting was less "an exchange of ideas as much as it was an exchange of arguments." LINK
The Hill on Rove's meeting with GOPers: LINK
"Although House members indicated some willingness to consider a guest worker program, they remained steadfastly opposed to any process for allowing illegal immigrants already here to become citizens -- which some consider amnesty," writes the Los Angeles Times Janet Hook of the response to Karl Rove's latest appearance on the Hill to assuage immigration reform concerns. LINK
Hook wisely captures the 'do something many consider bad' vs. 'do nothing' debate inside the GOP.
In her column, the New York Post's Deb Orin predicts no immigration bill that includes a path to citizenship will become law prior to November's election. (Be sure to Note Rep. King's assessment where GOP base voters stand on the do nothing vs. do something including a path to citizenship debate.) LINK
In a Washington Times op-ed, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's (R-CA) writes: "Sens. Sessions, David Vitter, Jon Kyl and John Cornyn have been heroic in attempting to salvage this bill -- but gluing teeth and fur onto a duck doesn't turn it into a bear." LINK
With the cloture vote out of the way and Senate passage all but assured, the New York Times' Rachel Swarns previews the battle that lays ahead in conference. LINK
The New York Times editorial page bemoans Speaker Hastert's majority of the majority rule. LINK
President Bush has been more lax on illegal immigration over his one and half terms than President Clinton, reports Stephan Dinan of the Washington Times. LINK
The Washington Times' Charles Hurt reports on liberal House Republicans supporting tougher border control measures. LINK
Quick, senator, two words on what to expect from negotiations on new immigration legislation: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): "Very difficult." Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE): "I'm optimistic." LINK
A USA Today op-ed advocates for a fence along the border: "It won't fix all of the problems related to illegal immigration, but it will solve one — the nation's lack of determination to even try to secure its borders." LINK
Border vigilantes the Minutemen plan to start building their own wall (and doing live television interviews) along the Arizona-Mexico line this weekend. LINK
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Wednesday he was prepared to deploy National Guard troops to the Mexican border -- but only temporarily -- as part of a national effort to curb illegal immigration," reports the Los Angeles Times. LINK
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to see a national tamper-proof worker I.D. card as a part of immigration reform, reports the New York Post. LINK
The New York Daily News' Ben Smith Notes Bloomberg is showing a bit more of his Democratic roots lately. LINK
George F. Will takes Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to task for dismissing whether he would favor prohibiting bilingual ballots while appearing Sunday on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." LINK
The Fitzgerald investigation:
Per ABC News' Jason Ryan, a motion by Patrick Fitzgerald and his team of prosecutors filed Wednesday suggests Vice President Cheney could be called as a witness in the trial of Scooter Libby set to begin early in 2007.
A footnote in the filing notes, "Contrary to defendant's assertion, the government has not represented that it does not intend to call the Vice President as a witness at trial. To the best of government's counsel's recollection, the government has not commented on whether it intends to call the Vice President as a witness, and the representations it has made regarding the identity of potential government witnesses have been limited to responses to the defense assertions in defendant's [court filings]." (p4)
The filing from Fitzgerald shows how intently Libby and Cheney allegedly discussed the July 6, 2003 Joseph Wilson New York Times op-ed which disputed the Administration's claims about Iraqi WMD intelligence.
The Special Counsel had recently disclosed in court papers that Cheney took Notes on the Wilson op-ed which included references to Wilson's wife sending him on a "junket." Fitzgerald says the Notes from Cheney are key in the government's case, "The Vice President's handwritten notes (sic) on a clipping of the Wilson Op Ed, which reflect his views concerning Mr. Wilson and his wife, are evidence of the views the Vice President communicated during the conversations that the Vice President and his chief of staff had during the period immediately following the publication of the Wilson Op Ed, and corroborate other evidence regarding these communications, which are central to the government's proof that defendant knowingly made false statements to federal agents and the grand jury."
Fitzgerald says the Wilson article is key to the perjury case since Libby told the grand jury that he had not seen it until he was shown the article by FBI agents in November 2003. Fitzgerald believes this confirms other evidence that Libby lied to investigators and a federal grand jury because he knew in June 2003 Valerie Plame's assignment at the CIA was covert. The government has said in court records that Libby learned that Plame was covert from Cheney and State Department official Marc Grossman yet he lied to investigators saying he initially was told about Plame's CIA work by NBC's Tim Russert in July a days before Novak's column outed Plame.
Fitzgerald in this filing says Cheney's Notes should be submitted and are relevant to the case. " [the] Wilson Op Ed, is relevant and admissible to establish some of the facts noted (sic) by defendant's immediate superior, including the suspicion that Mr. Wilson's wife had "sen[t] him on a junket"...,and that his superior communicated these facts to defendant at or near the time the Wilson Op Ed was published," the filing Notes.
The filing includes an attachment with excerpts of Scooter Libby's grand jury testimony about his conversations with the Vice President and reporters. The transcripts of Libby's testimony are key to the perjury and obstruction case Fitzgerald brought against Libby. The filing says the conversations between the Vice President and the defendant are "critical to determining relevant issues in the case."
In his March 5, 2004 testimony before the grand jury Libby recalled that Cheney felt the Wilson article was a attack on the Vice President's credibility. Libby told the grand jury "I recall that he was very keen to get the truth out. He wanted to get all the facts out about what he had or hadn't done…He was very keen on that and said it repeatedly. Lets get everything out."
"The state of mind of the Vice President as communicated to defendant is directly relevant to the issue of whether defendant knowingly made false statements to federal agents and the grand jury regarding when and how he learned about Ms. Wilson's employment and what he said to reporters regarding this issue." The filing Notes.
The Washington Post on the same: LINK
The New York Times: LINK
The Los Angeles Times: LINK
New York Daily News:. LINK
Bush Administration agenda:
"While he served on an Education Department board under the first President Bush and as a legislative assistant to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat, Mr. Zinsmeister is not in the mold of many other White House aides who have longtime ties to Mr. Bush or Republican administrations," writes the New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller of the President's new chief domestic policy adviser. LINK
The New York Sun's Josh Gerstein combs through some of the Norquist-approved Zinsmeister's writings, some of which "could cause embarrassment to the White House. . . " LINK
The Washington Post's Michael Fletcher on Karl Zinsmeister's appointment as domestic policy advisor. LINK
The New York Times' Brinkley on Robert Zoellick's future, which appears not likely to include continued service at the State Department: LINK
Politics of energy:
President Bush's push for more nuclear power plants and a joke about Washington's power to produce wind awaits you in Jim Rutenberg's New York Times wrap of the President's day. LINK
The Washington Post's Baker and Mufson on Bush going nuclear. LINK
The New York Times' Philip Shenon on the opening statements in the Safavian trial: LINK
When the first Abramoff-related trial got underway yesterday, prosecutors accused Safavian, the federal government's former top procurement official, of "lying repeatedly to investigators." LINK
The Washington Post's Walter Pincus has G. Jack King Jr. of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers saying that the Attorney General is correct in saying that the Bush Administration isn't violating the Fourth Amendment with its collection of domestic telephone records but "he's failing to acknowledge that it is breaking" the Electronic Communications Privacy Act which was passed in 1986. LINK
The Washington Post's ed board urges the Senate Judiciary Committee to oppose any and all legislation dealing with the NSA's program of warrantless domestic surveillance given that "most members of the committee still have no firm sense of what the NSA surveillance program consists of." LINK
"The American Civil Liberties Union said yesterday that it was asking utility commissions in 21 states to investigate whether the country's largest phone companies handed over their customer records to the National Security Agency without warrants," reports the New York Times. LINK
Roll Call reports that the FBI wants to interview top lawmakers in both parties to determine who leaked the existence of the domestic surveillance program to the New York Times. LINK
The Hill's Patrick O'Connor explores the relationships within the GOP leadership teams past and present. LINK
Big Casino budget politics:
In a story where the word "Medicare" does not appear, the New York Times' Robert Pear looks at Members of Congress coming to the House floor to defend their earmarks and defy some fiscal conservative's attempts to do away with earmarks. LINK
In a must-read, the Wall Street Journal's David Rogers offers the latest warning to Republicans that their majority is at risk "because of exhaustion, scandals and, critics would say, the rigidity of their ideology and failure to learn from policy failures in a changing world." LINK
Rogers focuses on taxing and spending, and writes that Republicans have to know things are bad when a news conference about tax cuts unravels, as one did last week, and the Speaker of the House has to sell both members of his caucus and voters on the cuts.
More Rogers: "Rarely have leaders talked so early and openly of a post-election session to finish the year's work. But the party takes a big risk of heading empty-handed into the November election."
Note the texture and tone throughout.
The Philadelphia Inquirer writes of the odd "straddling act" that played out in Philadelphia yesterday, where President Bush campaigned alongside Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Jim Gerlach (R-PA), while at the same time both representatives took pains to distance themselves from the White House, including Fitzpatrick touting his rating from Congressional Quarterly as one of the top five House Republicans who dissents from the President. LINK
The Philadelphia Daily News picks up on the same theme. LINK
Stuart Rothenberg writes in Roll Call that he is "finally seeing a significant amount of evidence at the local level -- in polling data and in recent primary election results — that the national mood is having an impact on incumbents." LINK
While speaking to reporters during a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) warned his fellow GOPers by saying: "If we do the same-old same-old and keep it on cruise control, you're flying into the mountain."
Davis, a former NRCC chairman, called the GOP's problems a "very correctable problem for us" but he said Republicans "have to change things."
More from USA Today's Susan Page: LINK
Excerpts from David T. Cook of the Christian Science Monitor: LINK
A Wall Street Journal editorial claims that the New York Republican Party's treatment of gubernatorial candidate John Faso is yet more evidence that the party "has lost its way."
A new poll shows Rep. Jim Davis (D-FL) leading the pack to be Florida's next governor reports Beth Reinhard of the Miami Herald. LINK
The AP on the same: LINK
Roll Call's Nicole Duran hits a Montana rodeo with embattled Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) and finds he's doing just fine with the cowboy set.
A new Quinnipiac University poll out this morning shows Sen. Nelson (D-FL) trouncing Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) in a head-to-head match up 58 to 25 percent. The poll also finds that 37 percent of Florida Republicans favor Harris for the nomination.
Want a free cheesecake? All you have to do is run for a seat in Congress as a Democrat! USA Today compares the candidate-recruiting strategies of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY). LINK
The Schwarzenegger Era:
A new Public Policy Institute of California survey shows State Treasurer Phil Angelides now has a narrow lead over Controller Steve Westly in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor, although a third of likely voters are still undecided. LINK
The Los Angeles Times looks at from where Phil Angelides gets much of his campaign contributions. LINK
"The Democratic candidate for governor is a self-styled crusader against corporate excess. But since taking office in 1999, he also has collected $4.5 million in campaign donations from money managers and others seeking to do business with the state's two major public pension systems, an analysis of his campaign records shows."
George Skelton pegs his Los Angeles Times column to the latest PPIC poll showing Angelides edging out Westly by three points and wonders why the candidates don't seem to have (yet) inspired the Democratic electorate at large. LINK
While appearing on "Good Morning America," Sen. McCain said he would make a decision on running for president early next year. He said there were circumstances under which he could imagine not running for president and that a lot may depend on the mood of the country after the election.
"There is no reason to make a decision before next year," he added. "No practical reason."
The New Hampshire Union Leader's John DiStaso writes that Sen. McCain's Straight Talk America PAC is "building quite an organization in New Hampshire," especially with the recent addition of former New Hampshire state GOP Chair Steve Duprey and former judge and congressman Charles Douglas to the PAC's lineup. LINK
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza reports that Sen. McCain returned $20,000 in campaign contributions from two prominent and wily Texas businessmen after staff members for his PAC discovered that there was an investigation into one of their companies. LINK
Todd J. Gillman of the Dallas Morning News on the fallout between Sen. McCain and the Wylys of Dallas. LINK
John McCain and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin offer a Los Angeles Times op-ed urging cable companies to sell cable channels "a la carte." LINK
Massachusetts Gov. Romney yesterday made a surprise visit to the troops in Iraq and told the Associated Press his visit "wasn't political." LINK
The Boston Globe on Romney's trip. LINK
The Boston Herald complains that Romney has "virtually abandoned" Massachusetts while buffing his presidential credentials. LINK
Fred Dicker and Maggie Haberman (How's that for a powerful double byline?) of the New York Post report Rudy Giuliani will not be attending the New York State Republican Party convention next week and wonder if Gov. Pataki may not have been eager to share the spotlight with his potential 2008 rival. LINK
The "shadow" returns! Writing under a "Shadow of a Marriage" header, Dean Broder columnizes that the "two sides" of Sen. Clinton were on display Tuesday at the National Press Club. "For the better part of an hour, the senator from New York held forth in a disquisition on energy policy that was as overwhelming in its detail as it was ambitious in its reach. But the buzz in the room was not about her speech . . . but about the lengthy analysis of the state of her marriage to Bill Clinton that was on the front page of that morning's New York Times." LINK
Paul Begala and James Carville will call it parody!!! "Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton took more campaign cash from well-heeled lobbyists this year than any lawmaker except one," reports the New York Post on the Public Citizen report on lobbyist donations. LINK
Sen. Clinton's $418,000 haul in lobbyist cash is second only to Sen. Santorum (R-PA).
Just before setting off for a tour of Kosovo, Wesley Clark told the Forward that NATO should intervene in Darfur. LINK
Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack yesterday signed a law that aims to offer "a solution to the problem of costly medical malpractice insurance" in Iowa. LINK
Federal Judicial nominees may not make headlines much longer reports James Rowley of Bloomberg. Sen, Susan Collins (R-ME) exclaims that there are many other more pressing issues that have "taken some of the steam out of what at times has been a vitriolic debate on judges." LINK
Don't Ask, Don't Tell:
Tony Giampetruzzi writes in the Boston Phoenix that Maine's two Republican Senators are being looked to as potential leaders in the fledgling Senate fight against Don't Ask-Don't Tell (which has 120 sponsors in the House), but some say that the Senators don't seem to know anyone has a problem with the law. LINK
Governor Jeb Bush says no to the NFL commissioner's job . . . sort of: LINK