US Politics

  Calling Cheney'S BluffJune 25, 2007 13:22 Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel has come up with the right response to Dick Cheney's attempt to suggest that the Office of the Vice President is not part of the executive branch.

The House Democratic Caucus chairman wants to take the Cheney at his word. Cheney says his office is "not an entity within the executive branch," so Emanuel wants to take away the tens of millions of dollars that are allocated to the White House to maintain it.

The root of the controversy is in a fight that the vice president has picked with the National Archives, which is charged with keeping tabs on how the offices of the president, the vice president and their appointees handle classified documents.

Under federal legislation enacted in 1995, members of the executive branch must work with the Archives to preserve classified documents. The law was backed up, at least in part, by an executive order issued four years ago by President Bush. But Cheney and his staff have refused for five years to file reports that are required as part of the oversight process. Why? Because the vice president -- that's the vice president -- claims he is not exactly a member of the executive branch.

So what is Cheney? Because the vice president serves in the frequently ceremonial position of president of the Senate, Cheney's office now claims that he is a member of the legislative branch -- and thus unburdened by any responsibility to cooperate with the Archives.

Forget the fact that the Constitution clearly defines the vice presidency as an executive position.
  'Enemy Combatants' Memo Illustrates Cheney'S PowerJune 25, 2007 09:50 Just past the Oval Office, in the private dining room overlooking the South Lawn, Vice President Dick Cheney joined President Bush at a round parquet table they shared once a week. Cheney brought a four-page text, written in strict secrecy by his lawyer. He carried it back out with him after lunch.

In less than an hour, the document traversed a West Wing circuit that gave its words the power of command. It changed hands four times, according to witnesses, with emphatic instructions to bypass staff review. When it returned to the Oval Office, in a blue portfolio embossed with the presidential seal, Bush pulled a felt-tip pen from his pocket and signed without sitting down. Almost no one else had seen the text.

Cheney's proposal had become a military order from the commander in chief. Foreign terrorism suspects held by the United States were stripped of access to any court - civilian or military, domestic or foreign. They could be confined indefinitely without charges and would be tried, if at all, in closed "military commissions."

"What the hell just happened?" Secretary of State Colin Powell demanded, a witness said, when CNN announced the order that evening, Nov. 13, 2001. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, incensed, sent an aide to find out. Even witnesses to the Oval Office signing said they did not know the vice president had played any part.

The episode was a defining moment in Cheney's tenure as the 46th vice president of the United States, a post the Constitution left all but devoid of formal authority. "Angler," as the Secret Service code-named him, has approached the levers of power obliquely, skirting orderly lines of debate he once enforced as chief of staff to President Gerald Ford. He has battled a bureaucracy he saw as hostile, using intimate knowledge of its terrain. He has empowered aides to fight above their rank, taking on roles reserved in other times for a White House counsel or national security adviser. And he has found a ready patron in George W. Bush for edge-of-the-envelope views on executive supremacy that previous presidents did not assert.

Over the past six years, Cheney has shaped his times as no vice president has before. This article begins a four-part series that explores his methods and impact, drawing on interviews with more than 200 men and women who worked for, with and in opposition to Cheney's office. Many of those interviewed recounted events that have not been made public until now, sharing notes, e-mails, personal calendars and other records of their interaction with Cheney and his senior staff. The vice president declined to be interviewed.

 
  Could Bloomberg Mount A Viable Independent Bid In '08?June 20, 2007 16:49 Improbable? Yes. But impossible? Maybe not.

So goes the evolving political wisdom about whether a third- party presidential bid by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg would be viable.

On Tuesday, when the billionaire businessman turned politician announced he was formally leaving the GOP to become an independent, he sent tremors through the nation's political chattering classes.

No third-party presidential candidate has ever won the White House, let alone a former mayor of New York. Yet no other third party candidate has ever had Mr. Bloomberg's unique combination of qualities: $4 billion to $5 billion in the bank, a solid record in high elective office, and a penchant for doing the seemingly impossible.

"At some point in American history – I'll be dead probably – ... we are going to have an independent president," says Larry Sabato, political analyst at the University of Virginia. "The conditions necessary are present for 2008: a very unhappy electorate with neither party producing a candidate who can bring people together. So it's not impossible." But it is improbable, he adds.

And other political analysts agree.

It isn't because Bloomberg doesn't have charisma. The short, divorced, Jewish father of two has proven he has plenty of that, winning fans in working-class Queens and on the upscale Upper East Side .
  NYC Mayor Bloomberg Leaves GopJune 19, 2007 22:17 With an increasingly cacophonous buzz that he's contemplating an independent run for president despite public pleas to the contrary, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg took a clear step toward that third-party bid on Tuesday by changing his party registration from Republican to "unaffiliated."

"I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead our City," Bloomberg said in a statement, referring to how the one-time Democrat famously changed his party registration once before to run for mayor as a Republican. "A nonpartisan approach has worked wonders in New York: we've balanced budgets, grown our economy, improved public health, reformed the school system and made the nation's safest city even safer."

A Bloomberg aide tells ABC News there is a four-part test for the mayor to decide whether or not he'll get into the race after the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees are chosen next spring.

First, both party's nominees need to have unfavorable ratings at least in the 40s. Second, 70 percent of the nation needs to think the country is headed in the wrong direction, as is the case currently. We're there right now. Third, at least 60 percent of those polled need to have their minds open to a possible third-party bid. Lastly, 20 percent to 25 percent need to be open to the notion of President Mike Bloomberg. If those four criteria are met, Bloomberg will throw his hat into the ring.
  Senate Hopefulls Critical Of Endangered Species ActJune 18, 2007 08:24 Several of the Republican candidates seeking appointment to Wyoming's vacant US Senate seat attacked the Endangered Species Act.

Bill Paddleford of Jackson described the act as "an example of very good intentions gone awry."

Former state House speaker Randall Luthi described the act as "a failure." Luthi says the federal government should give greater deference to the states when it comes to species management and should collaborate with private landowners instead of dictating to them.

And no candidate expressed a desire to hasten an American military withdrawal from Iraq. State Representative Colin Simpson of Cody said leaving too early would only hurt America's position in the Middle East and around the world. Brian Gamroth of Casper said setting a timeline for military withdrawal simply would give our enemies a timeline for their own takeover.

The state Republican Central Committee will meet in Casper tomorrow (Tuesday) to select three nominees for the seat vacated by the death of Republican Senator Craig Thomas. Governor Freudenthal will have five days to select a temporary replacement.

 
  Bush Plunges To New Low In PollJune 14, 2007 23:25 US President George W Bush’s approval rating plunged to a new low of 29 percent in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and the NBC News poll, the journal reported on Thursday.

With the public disenchanted by his Iraq strategy, and in the wake of a White House defeat on a landmark immigration bill, Bush hit his lowest level in six years as president in the WSJ and the NBC poll — the previous low approval rate was 34 percent in December 2006..

Two-thirds of Americans say they disapprove of how he is leading the country, up from 61 percent also last December.

Likewise, only two Americans in 10 said in the new poll that they feel the country is headed in the right direction, compared to 22 percent just two months ago and 29 percent in December. A high of 68 percent said the country is on the wrong track, 12 points higher than six months ago.

The dismal news for the White House was underscored by equally bad news for Bush’s Republican Party 17 months before presidential elections: 49 percent of those surveyed for the poll said the Democrat Party most closely reflects their beliefs, against 36 percent who felt that about the Republicans.

That was the Republican Party’s lowest showing in the two decades of the WSJ and the NBC poll, the journal said.

To underscore that, 52 percent of the 1,008 adults surveyed said they would prefer a Democrat in the 2008 race, while only 31 percent said they would choose a Republican.

 
  Judge Won'T Delay Libby'S ImprisonmentJune 14, 2007 23:22 I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby began making prison arrangements Thursday after a federal judge refused to delay the former White House aide's 2 1/2-year sentence in the CIA leak case.

Despite the promise of an emergency appeal, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney met with probation officials to arrange for his surrender sometime in the next few weeks.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton was never persuaded that Libby deserved to have his sentence delayed. The judge cited the "overwhelming" evidence that Libby lied to investigators and obstructed Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's inquiry into the 2003 leak of a CIA operative's identity.

"Unless the Court of Appeals overturns my ruling, he will have to report," Walton said as Libby sat stoically and his wife wiped tears from her eyes.

Libby, the highest-ranking White House official to be sent to prison since the Iran-Contra affair, will soon receive a federal inmate number and a notice from the Bureau of Prisons telling him where and when to show up.

Walton's ruling is more than just a legal setback for Libby. It also means more questions for President Bush about whether he will pardon the former aide. Libby's allies have called for a pardon, saying the loyal Republican was the casualty of a political investigation. A delay in the sentence would have meant more time for Bush to consider the request.
  Dozen Top Legal Scholars Line Up For Libby AppealJune 11, 2007 11:05 A dozen of the country's most respected constitutional scholars have leapt to I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's aid, asking a federal judge if they could try to convince him about critical legal questions that favor letting Libby remain free while he appeals his conviction in the Valerie Plame leak case.

Within hours of Friday's filing from the scholars, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton wrote back. In the teeny-tiny print of a footnote, he said he was delighted to know that such a distinguished group was available to help argue on behalf of criminal defendants on "close questions" of the law.

Walton promised he'd ring them up very soon when -- instead of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff facing the threat of the slammer -- there might be poor defendants who need big legal minds to avoid incarceration.

Walton sentenced Libby last week to 30 months in prison and will hold a hearing on Thursday to consider whether Libby can remain free while his case is appealed.

 
  Vote On Gonzales Marks Juncture In ProbeJune 11, 2007 08:48 By his own admission, he may have misled the public in describing his role in firing eight U.S. attorneys.

A top aide probably violated civil service laws by injecting politics into the hiring of career prosecutors at the Justice Department.

And his bedside manner leaves something to be desired.

But Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales is nonetheless expected to survive today when the Senate takes up a no-confidence vote on his performance.

Now, the question is where a Democratic-led investigation of Gonzales' two-year tenure at the department goes from here, and whether it is losing steam.

"Purely a symbolic vote," White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said on "Fox News Sunday." "What you've got here is a Senate that's had a great deal of difficulty delivering on any of its promises."

The vote marks a crucial juncture in a congressional probe that has raised questions about whether the mission of the Justice Department has been politicized under Gonzales.

The investigation began with the dramatic testimony of a group of U.S. attorneys fired last year — and evidence suggesting that the White House and Justice Department conspired to replace them to affect public corruption and voting cases that would benefit Republicans.

Monica M. Goodling, a former Gonzales aide, testified under a grant of immunity that she considered the party affiliation and campaign contributions of applicants for career positions at the department an apparent violation of the Hatch Act, which prevents federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity.
  Startling Republican NumbersJune 06, 2007 16:10 There are some startling numbers on Scott Rasmussen's weekly national poll on the Republican race for president. Rudy Giuliani continues to be in first place, but with 23 percent of the vote, the lowest percentage he's gotten all year. Roughly tied for second place are Fred Thompson (17), Mitt Romney (15), and John McCain (14). I wouldn't put too much stock in the fact that Thompson is second and McCain fourth; the numbers are a statistical tie. More interesting is the trend over the course of the year. For the following table I've averaged Rasmussen's results for each month (with the numbers reported May 1 counted as April numbers, since that's when the interviewing took place).

These numbers confirm my intuitive sense of the flow of the race. Giuliani surged in February and March, then fell back as Thompson's name appeared on the list. The lead he has now is anything but commanding. Thompson, who raised his first money yesterday, clearly is competitive. Romney has been on an upswing, but of limited scope. McCain has been falling, but not precipitously; he had a slight uptick in May, not statistically significant but coinciding with his spirited defense of the surge in Iraq.

My sense is that the numbers in the Republican race are considerably more fluid than those on the Democratic side; the national poll numbers seem to indicate this. Republicans this cycle, like Democrats in 2003-04, clearly have the sense that their party is in grave danger of losing and are seeking a candidate who they think can win. That has helped Giuliani. But the poll numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire, where Romney has averaged a slight lead, and South Carolina, where McCain has had a slight lead, indicate that Giuliani may have a rough path to the nomination. As for the contest in Florida> on January 29, Giuliani starts off with a lead that looks a lot like his lead in national polls, which is not surprising considering that Florida is too large for effective retail campaigning and no one was concentrating on it much until it shifted to the January 29 date.
  Libby Sentenced: 30 Months In Jail Because "Truth Matters"June 05, 2007 13:05 I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby stood before federal district court Judge Reggie Walton. It was finally the moment for Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff to speak. The sentencing hearing was coming to an end; Walton was about to pronounce the punishment Libby would face for having obstructed justice in the CIA leak case. Libby, who did not testify during the trial, thanked the court for showing him and his defense team consideration during the proceedings. He told the judge, "It is...my hope the court will consider...my whole life."

That was it. No apology. No expression of remorse.

Then Walton sentenced Libby to 30 months in jail and a $250,000 fine. Libby didn't flinch. His wife, Harriet Grant, cried. Notable conservatives in the front row of the crowded courtroom--Mary Matalin, Barbara Comstock, and Victoria Toensing--appeared shocked.

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had asked Walton to incarcerate Libby for 30 to 37 months. At the hearing, prior to Walton's ruling, Libby's defense attorneys--Ted Wells and William Jeffress Jr.--contended that Libby should get off with probation. They threw several arguments at the judge. First, they claimed that the toughest sentencing guides should not be applied to Libby, echoing an argument put forward by Libby's champions in rightwing circles: Nobody was ever charged with leaking the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, so the whole case was not such a big deal. Walton did not bite. Citing appeals court decisions, he noted that in an obstruction of justice case it's the investigation that counts, not the ultimate outcome of the investigation. "Your position," Walton told Jeffress, "would seem to promote someone aggressively engaging in obstruction behavior."

 
  Rep. Jefferson Indicted By Grand Jury In Bribery ProbeJune 04, 2007 15:53 A Federal Grand Jury in Alexandria, Virginia today indicted Louisiana Representative William Jefferson (D-New Orleans) on bribery charges relating to a probe into his accepting bribes in exchange for his assistance in securing business deals in Nigeria and other African nations.

Jefferson, who was in Louisiana Monday, declined to comment on the indictment handed down against him. If convicted, Jefferson faces over 230 years in prison based on the 16 charges levied against the Congressman.

Rep. Jefferson is charged with racketeering, soliciting bribes, wire fraud, money-laundering, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The bribery probe has been on-going for several years and in August, 2005, the FBI found $90,000 in cash tucked neatly away in Jefferson's freezer following receipt of a bribe in which authorities were monitoring his every move. Later, the case made headlines when the FBI attempted to serve a search warrant on the lawmaker's Capitol Hill office, but other members of the House objected and prevented the raid through the Justice Department, saying much of the information they may access was not related to the case and that as a lawmaker Jefferson held certain executive privileges that prohibit authorities from raiding those offices.

But after Monday's Federal Grand Jury indictment it appears that Jefferson, who won re-election despite the bribery probe overhanging his campaign, won't be pulling in any favors on Capitol Hill any time soon and with criminal charges being levied, Jefferson's executive privileges will no longer be able to be invoked.

Throughout the bribery probe, Rep. Jefferson has maintained his innocence but two others who were also indicted have since given in to prosecutors and plead guilty and have testified against Jefferson.

Brett Pfeffer, who served as an aide to Congressman Jefferson, was sentenced to eight years in prison for his role in accepting bribes on behalf of the lawmaker.
  Television Star To Launch Bid For White HouseJune 01, 2007 08:23 Fred Thompson, former senator and star of the television show Law & Order, has begun raising funds among Republicans to launch a dramatic bid for the White House.

The Tennessean is to announce his candidacy formally within weeks. He will portray himself as the conservative heir to President Ronald Reagan and present a potent threat to Republican front runners Rudy Giuliani and John McCain.

After months of contemplation, Mr Thompson, 64, finally revealed his hand on Tuesday when he made a conference call to more than 100 potential donors, asking them to raise at least $50,000 (£25,300) each to help fund his bid. Major contributors will be known as the "First Day Founders".

Hours later, Mr Thompson spoke at a Capitol Hill dinner for 28 people, hosted by the American Spectator magazine. It was attended by a number of America's most prominent conservative thinkers, and he used the occasion to lay out what amounted to a vision for the presidency.

Although careful not to pre-empt a public announcement, Mr Thompson outlined his philosophy of reforming the US tax system, protecting its borders, putting pressure on Iran, pushing for success in Iraq and asking Americans to sacrifice more in the global war on terror.
  Close Bush Advisor ResignsJune 01, 2007 08:14 Dan Bartlett, one of the closest aides of US President George W. Bush, is to resign for personal reasons, the White House said Friday.

Bartlett, who is counselor to the president responsible for all aspects of strategic communications planning and the formulation of policy, will step down on July 4, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

In a statement, Bush said Bartlett's contribution to his presidency had been "immeasurable."

"I value his judgment and I treasure his friendship," Bush said of Bartlett, who first began to work with the president 14 years ago during his tenure as governor of Texas.

Bartlett, who was Bush's former communications director, is married with three young sons. Before joining Bush's campaign team, he worked for Karl Rove and Company, a political consulting firm based in Austin, Texas.

Rove is a key Bush advisor and political guru who has been dubbed "Bush's brain" for his influence over White House policy.

Bartlett's departure is another blow to Bush, who has lost several close allies in recent weeks, while other loyalists are under fire from Congress.