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Updated: 1 hour 31 min ago

Leahy: Taylor’s Testimony ‘Undercuts’ White House Claims To Executive Privilege

Wed, 2007-07-11 14:20

During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the U.S. attorney scandal today, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chairman of the committee, asked former White House political director Sara Taylor, “did you speak with President Bush about replacing U.S. attorneys?” “I did not speak to the president about removing U.S. attorneys,” Taylor responded.

Taylor also acknowledged that she “did not attend any meetings with the “President where that matter was discussed” and that she was “not aware of a presidential decision document” in which the president decided to proceed with the firing plan.

In his closing comments, Leahy noted Taylor’s admission that she did not discuss the U.S. attorney firing plan with the President, saying it “seriously undercuts his claim of executive privilege if he was not involved.” “And that really shows, again, that the White House counsel’s broad instruction is not only unprecedented, but it’s unsound,” added Leahy. Watch it:

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Leahy then mused on the White House’s possible motivations for asserting such a broad interpretation of executive privilege:

So I ask again, what is the White House so intent on hiding? If the president didn’t make these decisions, well then who did and why did they? Was it Mr. Rove or was it, as some of us feel, to corrupt law enforcement for partisan advantage, which would bother me far more than political machinations if it’s corrupting law enforcement?

So we’ll continue our efforts. We’ll keep trying.

(HT: TP commenter Marcus Aurelius)

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Transcript: (more…)

Waxman to probe WH censoring of Surgeon General.

Wed, 2007-07-11 14:00

Today House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt requesting documents related to political interference with the work of the Office of the Surgeon General.

The text of the letter follows: (more…)

Boehner: Senators favoring withdrawal are ‘wimps.’

Wed, 2007-07-11 13:40

In an attempt to bring “solidarity among House Republicans,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) called the Senate Republicans favoring withdrawal “wimps” at a caucus meeting today. Boehner was then criticized by Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM), who said discussions of war “should always be taken seriously.”

Miers Marches To Bush’s Orders, Elects Not To Appear Before Congress

Wed, 2007-07-11 12:53

The attorney for former White House counsel Harriet Miers has said that she will not appear before the House Judiciary Committee in tomorrow’s hearing, electing not to pursue the course of Sara Taylor who chose to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

In a July 10 letter to Miers’ attorney, White House counsel Fred Fielding wrote:

We have been informed by the Department of Justice that Ms. Miers has absolute immunity from compelled Congressional testimony as to matters occurring while she was a senior adviser to the President. … Therefore, in view of this constitutional immunity, I respectfully request that you inform Ms. Miers that the President has directed her not to appear at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday, July 12, 2007.

Read the letter here.

Today, Miers’ counsel informed the House Judiciary Committee that, pursuant to Bush’s order to defy Congress’ subpoena, Miers will not appear tomorrow. Earlier, Miers’ lawyer had suggested she would appear at the hearing. As TPM Muckraker noted “Miers does in fact have a choice” to attend and answer questions, even though Bush has asserted executive privilege.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers issued the following statement:

“I am extremely disappointed in the White House’s direction to Ms. Miers that she not even show up to assert the privilege before the Committee,” Conyers said. “We understand that the White House has asserted privilege over both her testimony and documents, and we are prepared to consider those claims at tomorrow’s hearing.”

Congress can issue a contempt citation if Miers does not appear. Asked last Sunday if he would consider doing that, Conyers said, “Well, yes. It means moving forward in the process that would require him to comply with the subpoenas like most other people.” Marty Lederman explained the potential legal avenues Congress might pursue at that point.

Govt Website: Abortions Make Women Feel ‘Sad,’ Resort To ‘Drugs’ And ‘Alcohol’

Wed, 2007-07-11 12:37

Yesterday, NARAL discovered that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had revised a government website,, with biased and misleading ideological claims about abortion. From new website:

Some teen pregnancies end in abortion. Abortions can have complications. There may be emotional consequences, as well: some women say that they feel sad and some use more alcohol or drugs than before.

The previous version of the site contained factual information about the rates of teen pregnancy. But these new “facts” on the site are misleading. As the Guttmacher Institute’s May 2006 report noted:

[T]he APA [American Psychological Association] found that “women who are terminating pregnancies that are wanted or who lack support from their partner or parents for the abortion may feel a greater sense of loss, anxiety and distress. For most women, however, the time of greatest distress is likely to be before an abortion; after an abortion, women frequently report feeling ‘relief and happiness.’”

There is no “right” way to feel after an abortion, and it is not HHS’s role to highlight information implying that women regret having abortions. Women feel a “range of emotions after an abortion, such as relief, sadness, happiness and feelings of loss.” “It is outrageous that the department charged with providing Americans objective information about health is disguising unproven political rhetoric as sound science,” noted NARAL president Nancy Keenan.

This is not the first time has put forth misleading information. When the site launched in 2005, it told parents “to convince their teens to stop having sex by telling their children that they are ‘worth it.’” But no resources were provided for “parents whose teen remains sexually active, implying that these youth are not ‘worth it.’” It also referred to a “fetus” as an “unborn baby.”

Yesterday, Richard Carmona told Congress that when he served as Bush’s Surgeon General, he was often muzzled and censored from speaking out on key issues, such as stem cell research and women’s issues. “Anything that doesn’t fit into the political appointees’ ideological, theological, or political agenda is ignored, marginalized, or simply buried,” said Carmona.

UPDATE: In 2005, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) sent Leavitt a letter with reviews by scientific experts who concluded that’s content appeared “to have been guided by ideology.” He also noted that the website was not created by government scientists, as the administration claimed, “but rather through a no-bid contract to the National Physician’s Center for Family Resources, an obscure organization that has taken positions against scientific agencies on important matters of public health.”

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See the previous version of the website: (more…)

19 percent:

Wed, 2007-07-11 12:24

Number of Americans who “believe that the U.S. troop surge in Iraq was a success.” Just 38 percent of Republicans consider the President’s strategy successful.

Pentagon contracts put troops’ lives ‘at risk.’

Wed, 2007-07-11 12:14

A new Pentagon Inspector General report finds that “the Defense Department put U.S. troops in Iraq at risk by awarding contracts for badly needed armored vehicles to companies that failed to deliver them on schedule.”

CNN’s Ware: ‘Lieberman Has Taken An Excursion Into Fantasy’

Wed, 2007-07-11 11:25

After returning from a recent visit to Iraq, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has embarked on a campaign to give cheery reports about the Iraq war. His latest line: “We are winning.” Yesterday, Lieberman alleged that U.S. troops had successfully “chased out” the “enemy”:

[W]e’ve got the enemy, Al Qaeda, on the run. We’ve chased them out of Anbar province, where they were going to create the capital for the Islamist Republic of Iraq. We’ve chased them now to Diyala. All of this is possible because of the surge.

Last night, CNN Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware, who has been in Iraq for four years, mocked Lieberman’s claims, emphasizing that the U.S. now faces “a whole multitude” of threats that are becoming stronger:

COOPER: Is the enemy on the run in Iraq, Michael?

WARE: No, certainly not. And I think we need to be aware that it’s enemies. I mean, America doesn’t face just one opponent in this country, but a whole multitude, many of whom are becoming stronger the longer the U.S. occupation here, or presence here, in Iraq continues. So, unfortunately, I’m afraid that Senator Lieberman has taken an excursion into fantasy.

Watch it:

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Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) said yesterday: “I don’t know where Lieberman gets his opinions” on Iraq. Last weekend, violence around the country claimed 220 lives. Yesterday, the formerly secure Green Zone saw its “most intense mortar attack to date,” according to a statement from the U.S. embassy.

Transcript: (more…)

Echoing Gonzales, Taylor’s Testimony Rife With ‘I Don’t Know’ And ‘I Don’t Recall’

Wed, 2007-07-11 10:30

This morning, former White House political director Sara Taylor appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify about her involvement in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys last year. Due to the President’s assertion of executive privilege, Taylor was blocked from speaking about internal White House deliberations over the firing, and could only “respond to other questions from senators that do not breach White House confidentiality.”

Yet even under these restrictions, Taylor repeatedly avoided answering questions by claiming a faulty memory.

When Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) asked Taylor if she and Rove ever had a conversation about whether to remove a Wisconsin U.S. attorney, she answered, “I don’t know.” When Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked what criteria was used to remove U.S. attorneys, she said, “I don’t know the answer to that.” When Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked her to “describe” a political briefing she “gave at the Environmental Protection Agency”, Taylor responded, “I don’t recall that briefing.”

ThinkProgress created a compilation of Taylor’s many “I don’t recall” moments. Watch it:

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In her testimony, Taylor is demonstrating a memory worthy of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who “uttered the phrase ‘I don’t recall’ and its variants (’I have no recollection,’ ‘I have no memory’) 64 times” while testifying before Congress about the attorney scandal. She has joined the long list of administration officials with supposedly faulty memories when called to testify about their actions in office.

In March, Gonzales’s former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, said “I don’t remember” 122 times when asked about the scandal. When Government Services Administration chief Lurita Doan testified about possible illegal behavior under her watch, the only thing she could remember about her tenure was that “there were cookies on the table” at one of her meetings. DoJ official Bradley Schlozman nearly broke Gonzales’ “record of saying ‘I don’t recall.’”

Unfortunately, the spate of amnesia that has taken hold over Bush administration appointees has elicited more questions about the U.S. attorney scandal than it has resolved.

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Chertoff’s ‘gut feeling.’

Wed, 2007-07-11 10:18

Today, Homeland Security Chairman Bennie G. Thompson responded to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff’s remarks that he has a “gut feeling” that the nation faces a heightened chance of an attack this summer:

Words have power, Mr. Secretary. You must choose them wisely–especially when they relate to the lives and security of the American public. What color code in the Homeland Security Advisory System is associated with a “gut feeling?” What sectors should be on alert as a result of your “gut feeling?” What cities should be asking their law enforcement to work double shifts because of your “gut feeling?” Are the American people supposed to purchase duct tape and plastic sheeting because of your “gut feeling?”

Breaking: Webb amendment protecting U.S. troops fails.

Wed, 2007-07-11 09:09

Senate conservatives filibustered Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) amendment that would require troops to rest for as much or more time as they are deployed. Today, it failed to get the 60 votes needed (56-41) to move forward.

UPDATE: Bob Geiger has more on the vote.

President Bush makes little girls cry.

Wed, 2007-07-11 08:59

Yesterday at his town hall event in Cleveland, Jessica Hackerd, a “13-year old blonde-headed girl,” asked Bush what his “next step with the immigration bill” will be. “Mr. Bush’s sarcastic reply — a wry ‘yeah, thanks’ — drew laughter from the crowd of 400. But the attention caused young Jessica…to immediately tear up. ‘No, it’s a great question. No, I appreciate that,’ Mr. Bush said, as he saw Jessica’s reaction.”

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McCain dislikes wearing ‘gay sweaters.’

Wed, 2007-07-11 08:32

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) reportedly is complaining about his aides forcing him to wear “gay sweaters” in order to look younger:

According to one insider, the knit-picking was the crescendo of a tirade by the Arizona senator, in which he blistered aides about the minutiae of the campaign. … McCain reportedly declared his frustration with being told to don the perceived homosexual outerwear in order to look younger and more approachable.

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Sen. Snowe to co-sponsor Iraq withdrawal bill.

Wed, 2007-07-11 08:15

According to CNN, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has officially signed on as a co-sponsor to legislation withdrawing troops from Iraq by April 30, 2008. CNN’s Dana Bash reports:

Now this is significant because it makes it now just Olympia Snowe, but Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, two Republicans who are now going to vote with the Democrats on this. It is significant in terms of the symbolism of it, in terms of the fact it is indicative of what we have been seeing, the growing opposition to the President and to his war strategy. Prior there have been many, many votes on Iraq, many votes on the Democrats’ plans to bring troops home, but Republicans simply haven’t voted that way. … Olympia Snowe is saying she will.

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Petraeus Adviser: ‘Middle-Ground Options’ In Iraq Debate Are ‘Neither Safe Nor Productive’

Wed, 2007-07-11 07:37

In recent weeks, conservatives have begun distancing themselves from Bush’s failing policy in Iraq. Many of them — senators such as Richard Lugar, Pete Domenici, Lamar Alexander, and Elizabeth Dole — are finding political comfort in embracing the Iraq Study Group’s call to “change the mission” of U.S. troops in Iraq. Even the White House is considering support for the plan.

Speaking in favor of the ISG recommendations, co-chairman Lee Hamilton told NPR:

[O]ne of its merits surely was that it was bipartisan, and so far as I know, it’s the only bipartisan proposal out there. And I think it still does have a reasonable chance of bringing about a unity of effort which is required for the success of our policy in Iraq.

Stephen Biddle, a senior defense policy analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, cautions against adopting “a politically moderate ‘Plan B’ that would split the difference between surge and withdrawal.” Biddle, an adviser to Gen. Petraeus who has cautioned that escalation is “likelier to fail than succeed,” says the Iraq debate should put aside “popular centrist options” embodied in the Iraq Study Group recommendations.

Biddle writes that the ISG’s call to “shift the mission” of U.S. troops while maintaining an occupation of Iraq would cause even greater problems. “Without a major U.S. combat effort to keep the violence down, the American training effort would face challenges even bigger than those our troops are confronting today. … It is unrealistic to expect that we can pull back to some safe yet productive mission of training but not fighting — this would be neither safe nor productive.” he writes. Biddle continues:

If the surge is unacceptable, the better option is to cut our losses and withdraw altogether. In fact, the substantive case for either extreme — surge or outright withdrawal — is stronger than for any policy between. The surge is a long-shot gamble. But middle-ground options leave us with the worst of both worlds: continuing casualties but even less chance of stability in exchange.

Moderation and centrism are normally the right instincts in American politics, and many lawmakers in both parties desperately want to find a workable middle ground on Iraq. But while the politics are right, the military logic is not.

Biddle is right — the Iraq debate must focus on what to do about the current U.S. occupation of Iraq. The question is whether to reinforce the escalation or begin the full redeployment out of Iraq. “Centrist” options do not provide a solution, but rather political cover to maintain the status quo.

UPDATE: John Podesta, Lawrence Korb, and Brian Katulis write in a Center for American Progress memo that “progressives need to point out that some of the ISG’s recommendations are ambiguous and others have been overtaken by events.” They continue:

Rather, progressives should advocate a policy that allows us to strategically reset our military forces, our diplomatic personnel, and our intelligence operations by redeploying out troops in 12 months, partitioning our diplomatic effort to better deal with Iraq’s multiple conflict, rethinking our approach to Iraq’s government and its security forces, and redirecting our immense national power toward destroying those terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. The time is past for more half-way measures.

Hadley goes to Capitol Hill.

Wed, 2007-07-11 07:06

“Stephen Hadley was to visit Capitol Hill on Wednesday - one of many such forays in recent days — as the White House finalized a 23-page progress report on Iraq that concludes the government in Baghdad has made little progress in meeting reform goals laid down by Bush and Congress.” Robert Novak noted that last week, Hadley’s visits “failed” to “extinguish fires set by Sen. Richard Lugar’s unexpected break from President Bush’s Iraq policy.”

ThinkFast: July 11, 2007

Wed, 2007-07-11 06:02

Former White House aide Sara M. Taylor will refuse to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee today “about matters President Bush has deemed shielded by executive privilege, but she will offer to respond to other questions from senators that do not breach White House confidentiality.”

“I believe we are entering a period this summer of increased risk,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board yesterday. He indicated that his “remarks were based on ‘a gut feeling’ formed by past seasonal patterns of terrorist attacks, recent Al Qaeda statements and intelligence he did not disclose.” Keith Olbermann responds.

Sen. David Vitter visited a Canal Street brothel several times “beginning in the mid-1990s, paying $300 per hour for services at the bordello.” Attempting to defend Vitter against the solicitation of prostitution charges, the so-called “Canal Street Madam” whose operation was shut down by a federal investigators in 2001 said, “I want his wife to know he’s a good man.”

“Two senior Justice Department officials said yesterday that they kept Attorney General Alberto Gonzales apprised of FBI violations of civil liberties and privacy safeguards in recent years.” Gonzales told Congress: “There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse” after 2001. But Assistant Attorney General for National Security Kenneth L. Wainstein said, “I’m sure we’ve discussed violations that have occurred in the past.”

Baseball bats going extinct. At a baseball bat factory tucked into the lush tree country in northwestern Pennsylvania, the operators have drawn up a “three-to-five-year emergency plan” if the white ash tree, which has been used for decades to make the bat of choice, is compromised by the effects of global warming. (more…)

Bush Recycles Interminable Iraq-9/11 Myth To Resurrect Support For Failing Policy

Tue, 2007-07-10 20:29

This afternoon, President Bush recycled the false claim he has made many times prior to and since the Iraq war began, inciting fear that Iraq has some connection to 9/11.

Prior to the war, Bush referred to Saddam Hussein “often in the same breath with Sept. 11,” reinforcing “an impression that persists among much of the American public.”

Today, Bush engaged in a similar rhetorical maneuver. “The same people that attacked us on September the 11th is a crowd that is now bombing people, killing innocent men, women and children, many of whom are Muslims,” Bush said.

Watch it:

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“It was the second time in two weeks that Bush has made the link in an apparent attempt to transform lingering fear of another U.S. terrorist attack into backing for the current buildup of U.S. troops in Iraq.” While many in the media gloss over such false statements, Jonathan Landay of McClatchy Newspapers debunked it, just as he did frequently prior to the war. Landay wrote that Bush’s claim is misleading on two counts:

1) Prior To The War, Al Qaeda Was Not Operating In Iraq. “Al Qaida in Iraq didn’t emerge until 2004. While it is inspired by Osama bin Laden’s violent ideology, there’s no evidence that the Iraq organization is under the control of the terrorist leader or his top aides, who are believed to be hiding in tribal regions of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan.”

2) Even Now, Al Qaeda Is Not The Main Source Of Instability. “While U.S. intelligence and military officials view al Qaida in Iraq as a serious threat, they say the main source of violence and instability is an ongoing contest for power between majority Shiites and Sunnis, who dominated Saddam Hussein’s regime.”

False claims cultivated the war in Iraq, and unfortunately continue to sustain it.

FBI details data-mining efforts.

Tue, 2007-07-10 19:27

The AP reports, “The FBI is gathering and sorting information about Americans to help search for potential terrorists, insurance cheats and crooked pharmacists, according to a government report obtained Tuesday.”

Records about identity thefts, real estate transactions, motor vehicle accidents and complaints about Internet drug companies are being searched for common threads to aid law enforcement officials, the Justice Department said in a report to Congress on the agency’s data-mining practices. […]

The report, sent to Congress this week, marked the department’s first public detailing of six of its data-mining tools, which look for patterns to catch criminals. The disclosure was required by lawmakers when they renewed the USA Patriot Act in 2005. All but one of the databases — the one to track terrorists — have been up and running for several years.

Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act.

Tue, 2007-07-10 18:35

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office announced tonight that the House will vote later this week on a bill that would begin the responsible redeployment of U.S. troops within 120 days and complete redeployment by April 1, 2008. The Gavel has more details.