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Powell Tells Of Dysfunctional White House, ‘We Weren’t Aware Of The Advice Cheney Was Giving’

Fri, 2007-06-29 07:27

In the stellar Washington Post exposé on Dick Cheney, the public learned that key presidential aides were often intentionally kept out of the loop on important decisions by the Vice President. For example, President Bush’s decision to try detainees in military commissions and strip them of their due process rights was not conveyed to Secretary of State Colin Powell:

“What the hell just happened?” Secretary of State Colin L. Powell demanded, a witness said, when CNN announced the order that evening, Nov. 13, 2001.

In addition, the Post reported that a Cheney-commissioned Justice Department memo that advocated the legal justification for torture was kept out of Powell’s sight:

On June 8, 2004, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell learned of the two-year-old torture memo for the first time from an article in The Washington Post.

Last night in an interview with Larry King, Powell criticized Cheney, saying, “[He] sometimes went directly to the president and the rest of us weren’t aware of what advice he was giving.” He also chastised the White House’s manner of doing business. “It was not a system where we routinely exposed all points of view,” he said. Watch it:

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In the interview, Powell reaffirmed his stated desire to close Guantanamo, arguing it is one of the reasons “we are losing around the world”:

The reason I am feeling so strongly about Guantanamo is that while we’re arguing these legal issues, we are getting killed in terms of our international reputation because of the place. And we are losing around the world. And what makes it even more difficult is some of the biggest thugs in the world and people that you want to press on moral issues and human rights issues hide behind Guantanamo and say don’t lecture us when you have Guantanamo.

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Supreme Court to hear appeal by Gitmo detainees.

Fri, 2007-06-29 07:07

AP reports:

The Supreme Court, reversing course, agreed Friday to review whether Guantanamo Bay detainees may go to federal court to challenge their indefinite confinement.

The action, announced without comment along with other end-of-term orders, is a setback for the Bush administration. It had argued that a new law strips courts of their jurisdiction to hear detainee cases.

In April, the court turned down an identical request, although several justices indicated they could be persuaded otherwise.

ThinkFast: June 29, 2007

Fri, 2007-06-29 06:05

“This year is on track to be the second warmest since records began in the 1860s and floods in Pakistan or a heatwave in Greece may herald worse disruptions in store from global warming.”

Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) signed the “Live Earth Pledge” created by Al Gore. The pledge demands “governments to cut global warming pollution by 90 percent in developed countries and by more than half worldwide by 2050.” On July 7, people attending the Live Earth concerts will also be asked to sign the pledge.

105: Number of full-time positions President Bush has filled with recess appointments. In contrast, President Clinton had used his recess appointment powers to install just 42 people in full-time jobs at the same point in his presidency.

Just as violence in Afghanistan is “heating up” with “civilian casualties rapidly escalating, the health-care system is breaking down, according to Afghan and international medical experts.” The International Committee of the Red Cross said it “faces a more restrictive environment than it has in two decades of work in Afghanistan.”

Yesterday, ousted U.S. attorney John McKay spoke out about his regret for initially supporting Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and telling “lawyer friends it was good news when Gonzales was confirmed”: “I said, ‘You’re gonna like this guy — he’s humble, he’s honest, he’s hard-working, and he’s smart. And he’s proved me wrong.’” (more…)

British police have disabled a car bomb

Fri, 2007-06-29 03:29

in the heart of central London. “The area was cordoned off while police examined what they described as a ‘potentially viable explosive device.’” The BBC reports “the timing was significant coming a day after Gordon Brown became prime minister, and with the second anniversary of the July 7 bombings approaching.”

Reid, Pelosi to announce ‘coordinated effort’ to end war.

Thu, 2007-06-28 19:33

The Politico’s John Bresnehan reports that tomorrow, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will “announce a new coordinated effort to force votes in July to end the Iraq war“:

Reid has already publicly declared that Senate Democrats will offer four Iraq-related amendments to the upcoming 2008 Defense authorization bill, including a proposal by Reid and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) to set a firm timetable to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by next spring.

Pelosi is planning to announce that the House will also vote on a bill setting a new withdrawal timetable of April 1, 2008, although the details of the proposal were still up in the air at press time, according to Democratic sources. The House will consider this proposal as a freestanding bill, said the sources.

Pelosi is also planning to force a vote on a proposal by Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, to repeal the 2002 use-of-force resolution for Iraq. […]

In addition, House Democrats will push proposals to prohibit the creation of permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, as well as a “readiness” initiative similar to that authored by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.).

Giuliani’s Attacks On Clinton Reveal Basic Lack Of Counterterrorism Knowledge

Thu, 2007-06-28 18:41

During a speech on Tuesday at Pat Robertson’s Regent University, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani indirectly blamed President Clinton for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He claimed that Clinton treated the 1993 World Trade Center bombing “as a criminal act instead of a terrorist attack,” which “emboldened other strikes” on U.S. targets. According to Giuliani, “The United States government, then President Clinton, did not respond.”

Giuliani himself knows this attack on Clinton is false. Just last year, before he became a presidential candidate, he said:

The idea of trying to cast blame on Clinton [for the 9/11 attacks] is just wrong for many, many reasons, not the least of which is I don’t think he deserves it.

More troubling than Giuliani’s false attacks, however, is that his speech at Regent revealed a fundamental lack of understanding of the basic history and practice of counterterrorism. Here’s some information that needs to be added to his national security reading list.

The United States “has long regarded [terrorist] acts as criminal,” according to the 9/11 Commission Staff Report. This practice continues even under Bush; last year, for example, Bush introduced a plan to “improve national legal and regulatory frameworks to ensure appropriate criminal and civil liability” for nuclear terrorists.

A June 1995 Presidential Decision Directive issued by Clinton for the first time emphasized concern about terrorism “as a national security issue,” not just a matter of law enforcement. Clinton’s directive declared that the United States saw “terrorism as a potential threat to national security as well as a criminal act and will apply all appropriate means to combat it.” For the last three years of his presidency, Clinton “raised the issue of terrorism in virtually every important speech he gave.”

Either Giuliani doesn’t understand counterterrorism or he’s not one to let honesty get in the way of a good political pandering opportunity.

Jordan Grossman

MSNBC anchor refuses to report on Paris.

Thu, 2007-06-28 17:40

MSNBC anchor Mika Brzezinski repeatedly refused to report on the Paris Hilton story yesterday morning. At one point, she even attempted to burn her cue cards. An emotional Brzezinski proclaimed, “I’m not doing it. I’m not doing the story.” At which point, host Joe Scarborough called for MSNBC to show video footage of Hilton. Watch it:

Voinovich Lashes Out At Hannity: ‘You’re Not Going To Intimidate Me,’ Then Hangs Up

Thu, 2007-06-28 16:19

Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) said recently that “talk radio is running America” and that “we have to deal with that problem.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said “hate radio” has hijacked the political discourse with its “xenophobic, anti-immigrant” rhetoric.

Yesterday, Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) released his frustration in a “hate radio” interview with Sean Hannity. “A lot of radio programs have really got out there and fired this thing up,” Voinovich said of the immigration debate. “And so people are really hot about it. And I’m getting calls from people that basically are intimidating me.” Voinovich told Hannity:

I’ve had people back home because of programs like yours said to me if you vote for this bill, it’s the end of your political career. I just want you to know and I want everybody else to know that you do not intimidate George Voinovich.

Fed up with Hannity’s efforts to turn the interview into a right-wing commentary, Voinovich lashed out, “I really don’t think it’s worthy to talk to you right now because you’ve got your mind made up.” Hannity then turned on Voinovich, telling him, “You’re running away because you can’t answer a simple question. … Oh, so I’m irrational because I disagree with you? You’re a mighty senator, ok I get it.” Voinovich then hung up.

Listen to the interview:

UPDATE: The right is outraged over Voinovich. Hot Air says he humiliated himself. KLo writes, “At least he didn’t cry.” Radio Equalizer asks, “How did these elected officials get so out of touch with reality?” And FrontPage calls him “Senator Embarrassment.”

Rumsfeld v. Bartlett.

Thu, 2007-06-28 16:11

Donald Rumsfeld, claiming he took the phrase “mission accomplished” out of a draft of President Bush’s speech:

“I took ‘Mission Accomplished’ out,” Rumsfeld said. “I was in Baghdad and I was given a draft of that thing and I just died. And I said, it’s too inclusive. And I fixed it and sent it back. They fixed the speech but not the sign.”

But Dan Bartlett says Rumsfeld is lying:

There was a comment Rumsfeld made in one of those books where he claimed that he took the phrase mission accomplished out of the speech itself but that he couldn’t get the banner pulled down. That’s just wrong. I went back and looked at every draft of the speech. That phrase was never in it.

Fred Thompson’s Made-For-Hollywood Terror Warning

Thu, 2007-06-28 15:19

Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN) has dealt first-hand with nuclear weapons — on the Hollywood big screen. In 2005, he starred as President Charles Ross in Last Best Chance, a docudrama about terrorists trying to smuggle nuclear weapons into the United States.

One of Hollywood’s favorite plots is the threat of so-called suitcase nukes, like the one featured in the show “24.” But these nuclear bombs cleverly concealed in suitcases don’t exist in real life:

Nuclear bombs cleverly concealed in suitcases don’t exist in real life. Even so, they have long been a popular Hollywood plot point. […]

Arms control expert Charles Thornton of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland calls the scenario “so highly unlikely as to be approaching fantasy.”

It appears that Thompson is allowing his Hollywood experience to shape his budding presidential campaign. During an event in South Carolina yesterday, Thompson raised the made-for-Hollywood scenario of terrorist Cubans smuggling in “suitcase bombs”:

In his speech, Thompson assailed “unbearable tax burdens,” called for restrained spending, and argued for a smaller federal government. He expressed his opposition to the immigration bill in Congress and decried the flow of illegal immigrants from Cuba, saying: “I don’t imagine they’re coming here to bring greetings from Castro. We’re living in the era of the suitcase bomb.”

Thompson should focus on the real nuclear threats to the United States. A 2004 CRS report for Congress explained:

Scenarios for smuggling a nuclear weapon across unguarded coasts or borders are similar to those for smuggling bales of marijuana, many of which are reportedly flown in, brought by small boats, or carried across land borders; the difficulty of patrolling the borders makes such scenarios feasible.

You can take the man out of Hollywood, but you can’t take the Hollywood out of the man.

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Reporter’s press pass ’snatched’ by Bush aide.

Thu, 2007-06-28 15:01

The Rhode Island Providence Journal reports:

Reporter Jarrod Holbrook had his White House press pass snatched today after he shouted “Mr. President” twice as President Bush greeted Air and Army National Guardsmen gathered on the tarmac at Quonset airport in North Kingstown.

A member of the president’s entourage pointed at Holbrook after he first tried to get Bush’s attention. The man then ripped the pass from Holbrook’s belt after he shouted to the president, who was less then 10 feet away, again.

Pelosi: ‘Hate Radio’ Hijacked Political Discourse With ‘Xenophobic, Anti-Immigrant’ Rhetoric

Thu, 2007-06-28 14:20

Last night, PBS’s Charlie Rose interviewed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). During their discussion, Rose asked Pelosi about her opinion of the immigration bill in the Senate (which was defeated today).

Pelosi praised several provisions of the bill, but strongly criticized the bill’s vehement opponents on the radical right — especially on talk radio. Pelosi objected to their tactics saying that “talk radio, or in some cases hate radio…just go on and on and on in a xenophobic, anti-immigrant” manner. Pelosi noted that when it comes to bashing undocumented immigrants, “all of a sudden, all these people of faith are just very unforgiving.”

Watch it:

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Pelosi’s characterization of the “xenophobic” and “anti-immigrant” dialogue on talk radio is well-documented. In recent weeks, Media Matters has highlighted several particularly egregious examples:

Bill O’Reilly asserted that supporters of the immigration bill “hate America” and “want to flood the country with foreign nationals, unlimited, unlimited, to change the complexion” of our society. [Link]

Michael Savage called a Hispanic advocacy group, National Council of La Raza, “the Ku Klux Klan of the Hispanic people” and said that La Raza “is the most stone racist group I’ve ever seen in this country!” [Link]

Neal Boortz argued in favor of the controversial border fence, stating, “I don’t care if Mexicans pile up against that fence like tumbleweeds in the Santa Ana winds in Southern California. … [J]ust run a couple of taco trucks up and down the line.” [Link]

Though conservatives may take up 91 percent of the talk radio airwaves, talk radio is not representative of the American people, who broadly supported the key components of the legislation. More information about the radically conservative bias in daytime talk radio HERE.

Ryan Powers

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Bush hits record low.

Thu, 2007-06-28 13:51

According to a new Fox News poll, President Bush’s approval rating is now at 31 percent, down from the previous low of 33 percent.

Hersh: ‘Bush And Cheney’s Wet Dream Is Hitting Iran’

Thu, 2007-06-28 13:01

In February, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh wrote a piece in The New Yorker revealing that the Bush administration was setting its sights heavily on Iran, planning for a “possible bombing attack“:

Still, the Pentagon is continuing intensive planning for a possible bombing attack on Iran, a process that began last year, at the direction of the President. In recent months, the former intelligence official told me, a special planning group has been established in the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged with creating a contingency bombing plan for Iran that can be implemented, upon orders from the President, within twenty-four hours.

On Tuesday, Hersh spoke more on the Bush administration’s focus on Iran at the Campus Progress National Conference. He said that President Bush and Vice President Cheney are ignoring the actual intelligence on Iran. The “intelligence community keeps on saying, ‘There’s no bomb there.’ And Cheney keeps on saying to the young briefing officers, ‘Thank you son, I don’t buy that.’” Hersh added, “George Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s wet dream is hitting Iran.” Watch it:

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Hersh also stated that Bush likes to compare himself to Winston Churchill. Sources close to the President have heard him “say things like, ‘It’ll be 20 years before they appreciate me. … Yes, I may be at 30 percent in the polls, but in 20 or 30 years, they’ll appreciate what I’ve done.’”

UPDATE: The video has been added.

UPDATE II: Check out the Campus Progress Blog for more updates from the conference.

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Snow responds to wiretapping subpoenas.

Thu, 2007-06-28 11:59

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas for documents related to the White House’s warrantless surveillance program. Today, White House spokesperson Tony Snow called the subpoenas “outrageous” and alleged that Congress was kept “fully informed all along the route:”

SNOW: [L]et’s just say it’s an outrageous request. What you have is a program that was briefed to members of Congress. Members of Congress were kept fully informed all along the route, as well as on the legal justifications and the legal findings behind them. … it is pretty clear that, again, members of Congress here are engaged in an attempt…to try to do what they can to make life difficult for the White House.

Snow’s claim is false. As ThinkProgress has noted, both former senator Bob Graham, who was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and his successor Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), said the briefings were inadequate and did not convey that the Bush administration would “abandon the FISA process and utilize warrantless intercepts of conversations.”

Federal Doolittle probe digging deeper.

Thu, 2007-06-28 11:48

“Federal prosecutors have recently contacted as many as a half dozen former aides to Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), seeking information from them in their investigation of the Roseville Republican’s association with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff,” the Sacramento Bee reports.

Congress debates defunding Cheney.

Thu, 2007-06-28 11:30

Earlier today the House debated Rep. Rahm Emanuel’s (D-IL) amendment to restrict the $4.75 million budget for the Vice President’s Office. On the House floor, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) sarcastically jabbed Cheney for violating “a number of rules, maxims, constitutional provisions,” while Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) argued that holding the vice president accountable would somehow “undercut the very underpinnings of the Constitution.” Watch both clips:

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A vote on the amendment was postponed until later.

UPDATE: Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH): “Of course you’re going to abolish the residence, and I assume you’re going to get a Katrina trailer to provide for the vice president.”

UPDATE II: TPMMuckraker has video of Emanuel.

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Legal Memo Confirms White House Led Effort To Target And Remove U.S. Attorneys

Thu, 2007-06-28 10:28

Today, White House counsel Fred Fielding released a letter informing Congress that President Bush will assert executive privilege over White House documents relating to the firing of U.S. attorneys. Fielding attached a legal memorandum written by Solicitor General Paul Clement, laying out the legal basis for the executive privilege claim.

Clement reviewed the documents that the Congress subpoenaed. In his letter, Clement reveals what investigators have suspected from the very beginning — that the White House was intimately involved in the attorney scandal. Upon examination of the White House documents, Clement writes:

Among other things, these communications discuss the wisdom of such a proposal, specific U.S. Attorneys who could be removed, potential replacement candidates, and possible responses to congressional and media inquiries about the dismissals.

The White House had “said that Mr. Bush’s aides approved the list of prosecutors only after it was compiled.” President Bush himself said that “the Justice Department made recommendations, which the White House accepted” regarding the removal of the attorneys.

On a related point, Marcy Wheeler writes that it is a serious conflict of interest for Clement to be advising Bush to assert executive privilege in the very same scandal that Clement is supposed to be investigating.

Paul Clement, as you’ll recall, is the guy currently in charge of any investigation into the US Attorney firings, since Alberto Gonzales recused himself some months ago. He’s the one who technically oversees the Office of Special Counsel investigation into whether politics played an improper part in Iglesias’ firing or the hiring of career employees in DOJ, he’s the one who oversees the joint Office of Professional Responsibility and Inspector General investigations into whether anything improper–including obstruction of justice–occurred in the hiring and firing of USAs. And now, he’s the guy who gets to tell the President that he doesn’t have to turn over what might amount to evidence of obstruction of justice in the Foggo and Wilkes case, among others.

Clement’s letter reveals the White House was deeply involved in selectively targeting attorneys for removal. These documents presumably reveal the motives of the White House in purging the U.S. attorneys. Now Clement is working to ensure those documents never become public.

UPDATE: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) raised these concerns in remarks this morning:

[T]he suggestion at the end of Mr. [Fred] Fielding’s letter that ‘we may all return to more productive activity on behalf of the nation.’ I think it is extremely productive to assure the people of the United States that their Department of Justice can be trusted. It is an enormous power, the power of federal prosecution, and if it is not wielded sensibly, and if it is not wielded honorably, and if it is not wielded without political purpose, we have a grave issue that demands our attention.

And then in the Solicitor General’s letter, here’s some interesting stuff. He’s reviewed the communications among the White House Counsel. Quote: “these communications discuss specific U.S. Attorneys who could be removed, potential replacement candidates, and possible responses to congressional and media inquires about the dismissals.” We’ve been wondering if this went into the White House. Clearly it does.

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Scooter Libby,

Thu, 2007-06-28 10:27

aka Inmate #28301-016. (Via TPMm)

Turley: Avoid Bush’s Executive Privilege Claim By Investigating NSA Program As A Crime

Thu, 2007-06-28 09:50

Yesterday, after years of White House stonewalling, the Senate Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas to the Bush administration for documents related to the warrantless domestic surveillance program.

Today, during a background discussion with reporters, senior Bush administration officials indicated that they would invoke executive privilege in order to deny the NSA documents to Congress, just as they did this morning concerning subpoenas related to the U.S. attorney scandal. “Our response to [the NSA] subpoenas will be the same as our response was before,” said an anonymous official.

But last night on MSNBC’s Countdown, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley claimed that Congress may be able to “get around the executive privilege in court” by saying “we are investigating a potential crime.” Turley said this was possible because warrantless wiretapping is “a federal crime” that “the president has ordered hundreds of people do.” Watch it:

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As Columbia University law professor Michael Dorf points out, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Nixon that, “where the President asserts only a generalized need for confidentiality, [executive privilege] must yield to the interests of the government and defendants in a criminal prosecution.”

Bush is invoking such “a generalized need for confidentiality,” according to a senior administration official this morning:

“This is not a mere exercise relating to a particular event. This is an exercise in an attempt to protect the prerogatives of the president for this president and for future presidents.”

Raw Story has more.

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