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  Mukasey Refuses Probe Of Bush AidesFebruary 29, 2008 22:03 Attorney General Michael Mukasey refused Friday to refer the House's contempt citations against two of President Bush's top aides to a federal grand jury. Mukasey said White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former presidential counsel Harriet Miers committed no crime.

As promised, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she has given the Judiciary Committee authority to file a lawsuit against Bolten and Miers in federal court.

"The House shall do so promptly," she said in a statement.

Mukasey said Bolten and Miers were right in ignoring subpoenas to provide Congress with White House documents or testify about the firings of federal prosecutors.

"The department will not bring the congressional contempt citations before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute Mr. Bolten or Ms. Miers," Mukasey wrote Pelosi.

Pelosi shot back that the aides can expect a lawsuit.

"The American people demand that we uphold the law," Pelosi said. "As public officials, we take an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect our system of checks and balances and our civil lawsuit seeks to do just that."

The suit had a political purpose too. Democrats have urged that the filing occur swiftly so that a judge might rule before the November elections, when all 435 House seats and a third of the Senate are up for grabs. Criticism of Bush's use of executive power is a key tenet of the Democrats' platform, from the presidential race on down.

The House voted two weeks ago to cite Bolten and Miers for contempt of Congress and seek a grand jury investigation. Most Republicans boycotted the vote.
  Mccain Seeks Distance From PastorFebruary 29, 2008 20:17 John McCain is refusing to renounce the endorsement of a prominent Texas televangelist who Democrats say peddles anti-Catholic and other intolerant speech.

Instead, the Republican presidential candidate issued a statement Friday afternoon saying he had unspecified disagreements with the San Antonio megachurch leader, John Hagee. Hagee endorsed him at a news conference Wednesday in San Antonio.

"However, in no way did I intend for his endorsement to suggest that I in turn agree with all of Pastor Hagee's views, which I obviously do not," McCain said in the statement.

His campaign issued the statement after two days of criticism from the Democratic National Committee, the Catholic League and Catholics United.

Democrats quoted Hagee as saying the Catholic Church conspired with Nazis against the Jews and that Hurricane Katrina was God's retribution for homosexual sin, and they recited his demeaning comments about women and flip remarks about slavery.

"Hagee's hate speech has no place in public discourse, and McCain's embrace of this figure raises serious questions about John McCain's character and his willingness to do anything to win," said Tom McMahon, executive director of the Democratic National Committee.

McCain was pressed on the issue Friday morning in Round Rock, Texas. Hagee "supports what I stand for and believe in," McCain said.

"When he endorses me, that does not mean that I endorse everything that he stands for and believes in," McCain said. "I don't have to agree with everyone who endorses my campaign."

He added that he was "proud" of Hagee's spiritual leadership of his congregation at the 17,000-member Cornerstone Church.

The Catholic League and Catholics United called on McCain to reject the endorsement.

  Bush Aide Resigns Over PlagiarismFebruary 29, 2008 20:14 A White House official who served as President Bush's middleman with conservatives and Christian groups resigned Friday after admitting to plagiarism. Twenty columns he wrote for an Indiana newspaper were determined to have material copied from other sources without attribution.

Timothy Goeglein, who has worked for Bush since 2001, acknowledged that he lifted material from a Dartmouth College publication and presented it as his own work in a column about education for The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne. The newspaper took a closer look at his other columns and found many more instances of plagiarism.

"The president was disappointed to learn of the matter and he was saddened for Tim and his family," White House press secretary Dana Perino said in a statement.

She said Goeglein had accepted responsibility and "has apologized for not upholding the standards expected by the president."

The White House sought deal with the embarrassing situation quickly, the same day the plagiarism was reported by a blogger, Nancy Nall, a former News-Sentinel columnist.

"His behavior is not acceptable and we are disappointed in Tim's actions," said White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore. "He is offering no excuses and he agrees it was wrong."

The News-Sentinel said an internal investigation found that 20 of 38 of Goeglein's columns published in the past eight years contained portions copied from other sources without attribution. Goeglein has submitted unsolicited, or guest, columns to The News-Sentinel for more than 20 years and he has never been paid for them, the paper said.
  Feds Indict Mccain Co-ChairmanFebruary 24, 2008 21:46 An Arizona congressman who is one of John McCain's 24 presidential co-chairmen was indicted Friday on fraud and extortion charges stemming from a shady land deal.

Republican Rep. Rick Renzi was indicted on 35 criminal counts, including conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and extortion for using his elected office to arrange a land swap.

Renzi denied wrongdoing, and his attorney said the congressman would "fight these charges until he is vindicated."

McCain appeared surprised when told of the indictment.

  Alabama Gop Disputes Former Campaign Worker'S ClaimsFebruary 24, 2008 21:32 A former Republican campaign volunteer in Alabama told CBS's "60 Minutes" of what she viewed as a secret five-year campaign to ruin former Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman, a claim airing tonight that was denounced as a fabrication by the state GOP.

Party officials say Jill Simpson, a Rainsville lawyer who has now left the Republican Party, was no more than a low-level volunteer for individual campaigns, if anything, and would not have had access to the kind of information she alleged on Sunday's "60 Minutes" episode.

In the program, Simpson made claims that she had not previously raised publicly, either in an affidavit that drew wide attention last summer or later in sworn congressional testimony.

She said then-White House political strategist Karl Rove asked her in 2001 to find evidence that Siegelman was cheating on his wife.

Simpson said it wasn't the first time that Rove -- who was active in Alabama politics before going to the White House – had asked her to find damaging information about opposing campaigns.

Rove declined to be interviewed by "60 Minutes" and by The Associated Press. But his attorney, Robert Luskin, denied Simpson's allegations, saying "'60 Minutes' owes Mr. Rove an apology for circulating this false and foolish story."

Simpson had not mentioned Rove directly speaking to her previously. In her earlier sworn statements, she said she heard party operatives running Republican Bob Riley's campaign for governor discuss political influence behind Siegelman's prosecution on corruption charges.

She describes conversations in 2002 and 2005 in which she claims Riley campaign officials suggested that Rove was pushing the Justice Department to pursue charges against the former governor to keep him off the ballot.

Siegelman, who narrowly lost to Riley in 2002, was convicted on federal bribery and obstruction charges in June 2006. He is serving a sentence of more than seven years.

Alabama Republican Party officials said Simpson was fabricating her stories. State GOP chairman Mike Hubbard, in a written statement, says the party staffers "can find not one instance" of Simpson volunteering or working on behalf of the Alabama Republican Party.

Also, he says, no one within the Republican Party leadership in Alabama has ever so much as heard of Simpson until she made her first wave of accusations.

Simpson's attorney, Priscilla Duncan, disputed that account and said Simpson could provide details of fundraisers and other activities she helped arrange. Duncan denies that Simpson is changing her story as she raises new allegations.

  Mccain Dodges Bullet, Faces Fiscal BombshellFebruary 23, 2008 20:48 For Arizona Sen. John McCain, it was a week he won't soon forget.

He spent much of it defending himself against charges that he did special favors for a female telecommunications lobbyist, whom his top aide had urged to stay away from the senator.

Then came a warning from the Republican chairman of the Federal Elections Commission that he may not be able to drop out of the presidential public financing system. If he can't, he could be outspent by the Democratic nominee by 10-to-1 - or more - before the GOP convention in September. Because of a dispute in the Senate over one of President Bush's nominees to the agency, the FEC lacks a quorum to hear McCain's case.

"It just puts McCain in a pickle," said Rick Hasen, an election law expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

  Ny Times Report Links Mccain To LobbyistFebruary 20, 2008 18:28 During John McCain's first presidential run eight years ago, advisers became concerned over the Arizona senator's relationship with a female lobbyist, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both denied they ever had had a romantic relationship, the paper reported on its Web site.

However, the report went on to say that even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist had McCain's advisers worried. Iseman was attending fundraisers with McCain, was often seen in his offices and in at least one occasion flew with him on one of her client's private jets, the Times said.

Staff members moved to block the woman's access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

"The lobbyist, a partner at the firm Alcalde & Fay, represented telecommunications companies for whom Mr. McCain's commerce committee was pivotal. Her clients contributed tens of thousands of dollars to his campaigns," the report said.

While the report said McCain repeatedly denied interview requests since December, he did send an e-mail to Bill Keller, the executive editor of the Times, to complain about the paper's inquiries.

McCain said that the relationship was not romantic and that he never showed favoritism to Iseman or her clients. "I have never betrayed the public trust by doing anything like that," he said in the e-mail.

  Defense Contractor Sentenced To 12 Years For BriberyFebruary 19, 2008 18:47 Brent R. Wilkes, a California defense contractor and prominent GOP campaign contributor, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison yesterday for lavishing a Republican congressman with money, prostitutes and other bribes in exchange for nearly $90 million in work from the Pentagon.

Wilkes, 53, was convicted in November of 13 felony crimes including bribery, conspiracy and fraud for giving the gifts to former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), who is serving an eight-year prison term for accepting millions in bribes from Wilkes and others.

The sentence by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns in San Diego was far smaller than the 25-year term federal prosecutors had sought or the 60-year term urged by federal probation officers. U.S. Attorney Karen P. Hewitt said nonetheless that Wilkes "has earned every day of the sentence he received" and that the prison term "reflects the egregiousness of the corrupt conduct."

Wilkes has steadfastly maintained his innocence since being charged a year ago, saying his dealings with Cunningham were legitimate and blaming wrongdoing on others. "I am a man who cares deeply for this community, for my family, for my country," Wilkes said in a brief statement to the court, the Associated Press reported.

The judge said he was troubled by Wilkes's failure to accept responsibility for his crimes. "If you were to do the right thing about this, today is the day to own up," the judge told Wilkes, according to the AP. "You have no sense of contrition. You had this corrupt relationship with the congressman and you profited from it."

  Mccain: Obama Should Take Public FundingFebruary 16, 2008 08:42 Here we go... campaign financing. Another Republican red herring...

Republican Sen. John McCain admonished Democratic Sen. Barack Obama for hedging on his promise to accept public funding if he wins his party's nomination or use his prolific fundraising operation.

"I made the commitment to the American people that if I were the nominee of my party, I would accept public financing," the likely GOP presidential nominee said Friday in Oshkosh, Wis. "I expect Senator Obama to keep his word to the American people as well. This is all about a commitment that we made to the American people.

"I am going to keep my commitment," he said. "The American people have every reason to expect him to keep his commitment."

Obama spokesman Bill Burton on Thursday called public financing "an option that we wanted on the table," but said "there is no pledge" to take the money and the spending limitations that come with it.

Obama told reporters on Friday that it would be "presumptuous of me to say now that I'm locking myself into something when I don't even know if the other side is going to agree to it."

McCain said that if Obama becomes the nominee and decides against taking public money, he might do the same.

"If Senator Obama goes back on his commitment to the American people, then obviously we'd have to rethink our position," McCain said. "Our whole agreement was that we would take public financing if he made that commitment as well. And he signed a piece of paper, I'm told, that made that commitment."
  Clinton, Obama In Tight Race For DelegatesFebruary 11, 2008 11:32 A string of recent victories and endorsements from key party insiders have Democratic presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton running neck-and-neck in the increasingly important battle for delegates.

Clinton holds a narrow 27-delegate lead over Obama, 1,148 to 1,121, down from her lead of more than 100 delegates a month ago, according to CNN's estimate.

A candidate must secure the support of 2,025 delegates to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination.

In the Republican race, Arizona Sen. John McCain maintains a comfortable lead in delegates over his main rival Mike Huckabee, despite the former Arkansas governor's wins Saturday in Kansas and Louisiana and a strong showing in Washington state.

Obama's surge in delegates is due primarily to his electoral victories on Super Tuesday and in contests held over the weekend, including Sunday's Democratic caucuses in Maine, which he won by a comfortable margin.
  Dick Cheney: 'Damn Right' We'D Do It All AgainFebruary 07, 2008 22:05 This morning, at the start of a three-day Conservative Political Action Conference, a Republican senator from Wyoming suggested that, “Today, the C in CPAC stands for Cheney.’’

Then Vice President Dick Cheney stood for a resounding standing ovation at this 35th annual assembly organized by the American Conservative Union – Cheney called the crowd of many young as well as older people filling a Washington hotel ballroom “the heart and soul of the conservative community.’’

Winning the wary hearts of this community is the challenge facing Sen. John McCain of Arizona today.

McCain has become the front-runner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, yet still confronts the skepticism of social conservatives rallying around former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas as well as supporters of former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. Both Romney and McCain will address this convention today, then Huckabee on Saturday.

Cheney, facing this convention for his last time as vice president, allowed that the Bush administration has but a year left – and President Bush will address the assembly on Friday.

“We’re not going to waste a moment of it,’’ Cheney told an adoring crowd here. “We’re going to revitalize America’s economy at a time of challenge, and we’re going to stay on the offensive in the war on terror.’’

The vice president made a pitch for making the president’s tax cuts permanent: “Letting the Bush tax cuts expire would be one of the largest government money grabs in American history, and we must not let it happen,’’ Cheney said.

And he made a pitch for the war.

“Guiding this nation through a time of peril is a very tough job, and the right man is in it,’’ the vice president said. “The absence of another 9/11 is not an accident. It is an achievement.’’

The crowd rose to its feet cheering Cheney on this.

“As the president has made clear many times, we are dealing with a strategic threat to the United States,’’ Cheney said.

He also made a pitch for the modernization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, including the administration’s demand of legal immunity for telecommunications companies assisting the government in surveillance of suspected terrorists.

“Those who act in good faith to defend this country… should not be hassled by lawsuits and trial lawyers,’’ Cheney said.

Cheney rigorously defended the interrogation of detainees in the war on terror, and insisted that it has been lawful.

“The United States is a country that takes human rights seriously… We do not torture,’’ he said. “America is a fair and a decent country… The war on terror is, after all, more than a war of arms and a test of will. It is a war of ideals.’’

Decisions about any draw-downs of troops in Iraq, he said, will be made by commanders there – “without regard to polls, elite opinion or flip-flops by politicians in Washington, D.C.’’

Cheney also offered a personal testament to the courage and determination of the president whom he has served for seven years.

“I have been proud to stand by him,’’ said Cheney, citing decisions which Bush has made as president. “And would I support those same decisions today? You’re damn right I would.
  More Than 20 Us States Hold Presidential Nominating Contests TuesdayFebruary 04, 2008 13:05 Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barak Obama will do battle in 22 Democratic contests around the country, including states with large numbers of delegates like California, New York and New Jersey.

The latest national public opinion polls show Obama gaining on Clinton and the race nearly even. But Clinton continues to hold narrow leads over Obama in most of the larger states voting on Tuesday.

Both candidates are relying on a last minute barrage of television ads and quick campaign visits to key states to urge their supporters to vote Tuesday.

Obama cast himself as the agent of change at a rally in Delaware.

"I can offer a clear and clean break from the failed policies of George W. Bush," he said. "I will not have to explain my votes in the past."

"My opponent has not had to go through that kind of baptism by fire," she said. "Let us not kid ourselves here. This is going to be open season once again, and we need to nominate somebody with the experience and fortitude and know-how to take whatever they send our way and send it right back."