US Politics

  Key Republican Senator Warner To RetireAugust 31, 2007 12:03 Sen. John Warner of Virginia, a leading Republican on military affairs who recently called on President George W. Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, on Friday said he would not run for re-election next year.

"I say my work and service to Virginia as a senator will conclude on the sixth of January 2009," Warner said. That is the last day of his current, fifth term in the Senate.

Warner, 80, delivered his announcement at the University of Virginia, where he received his law degree.

The former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who sponsored the 2002 Senate resolution approving use of force in Iraq, this month called on Bush to begin withdrawing some U.S. troops from Iraq.

Democrats are hopeful they might pick up Warner's seat in next year's elections and add to a slender majority in the Senate.

Reflecting on his career that will span 30 years in the Senate, Warner said, "Everything has gone well and I want to express my profound appreciation today for all that so many have done for me."
  Dodd, Clinton Pick Up First Big Union EndorsementsAugust 28, 2007 14:33 Democrat Chris Dodd picked up a key endorsement today, from the same union that helped propel John F. Kerry to the Democratic nomination in 2004.

The International Association of Firefighters said it will back the senator from Connecticut, who is striving to break out of the second tier of candidates and compete with Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards.

The 280,000-strong firefighters union can funnel volunteers and money to Dodd, particularly in the early voting states. The Associated Press reported that union president Harold Schaitberger was expected to announce the endorsement at a news conference in Washington Wednesday morning. Dodd and Schaitberger were then scheduled to travel together to Iowa for a full day of appearances Thursday, followed by joint campaign events in New Hampshire on Friday and Nevada on Saturday.

Earlier today, Hillary Clinton announced that she has the support of the United Transportation Union, the first endorsement by a national union so far in the 2008 campaign.

The union represents 125,000 active and retired railroad, bus, and public transit workers. "The UTU has a long history of picking winners early. Hillary will be a president that America’s working families can count on. Time and again, as a United States senator, she has stood with us," union President Paul Thompson said in a statement released by Clinton's campaign.

  On Way To Gonzales Vote, Craig's GOP Star ExtinguishedAugust 28, 2007 13:03 The Alberto R. Gonzales scandal may have indirectly claimed another victim yesterday: Sen. Larry Craig, the onetime rising Idaho Republican star who admitted yesterday to pleading guilty to disorderly conduct in an airport men's restroom.

Shortly after 1 p.m. EDT, June 11, Craig was in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, making a connection to Washington. Detained by police for 45 minutes that day, Craig made it back to the Capitol for an early Monday evening vote to support Attorney General Gonzales. Democrats, led by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), had forced a highly unusual, non-binding vote of no-confidence in Gonzales, and Republicans used procedural tactics to prevent the vote.

A loyal Republican member of Congress for more than 20 years, Craig voted "nay" on June 11 on the procedural motion, along with more than 35 other Republicans, successfully blocking the no-confidence vote on Gonzales.

Make no mistake, this is a major event in the political life of a politician who once envisioned himself as Senate majority leader. Unlike Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who had been in the Senate barely two years when he admitted a "sin" when his name ended up on the client list of the "D.C. Madam", Craig has been a major force in the Senate for almost two decades. On gun rights, Craig is a member of the board of directors of the National Rifle Association and has been the leading GOP voice opposing any efforts at restricting gun rights on the Senate floor for years. A co-chairman of the Congressional Property Rights Coalition, Craig's biography begins by touting how he was born and raised on his family ranch in Midvale, Idaho.
  Attorney General Gonzales ResignsAugust 27, 2007 08:36 $10 say he receives a blanket pardon in January 2009...

Alberto Gonzales, the nation's first Hispanic attorney general, announced his resignation Monday ending a nasty, monthslong standoff over his honesty and competence at the helm of the Justice Department.

Republicans and Democrats alike had demanded his resignation over the botched handling of FBI terror investigations and the firings of U.S. attorneys, but President Bush had defiantly stood by his Texas friend until accepting his resignation Friday.

"It has been one of my greatest privileges to lead the Department of Justice," Gonzales said, announcing his resignation effective Sept. 17.

Bush planned to discuss Gonzales' departure at his Crawford, Texas, ranch today.

Solicitor General Paul Clement will be acting attorney general until a replacement is found, said the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the announcement.

Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff was among those mentioned as possible successors. However, a senior administration official said the matter had not been raised with Chertoff. Bush leaves Washington next Monday for Australia, and Gonzales' replacement might not be named by then, the official said.

"Better late than never," said Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, summing up the response of many in Washington to Gonzales' resignation.
  Reps threaten NY Governors DadAugust 23, 2007 08:01 Republican state Senate consultant Roger Stone was booted by Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno today in the wake of accusations that he made a threatening phone call to Gov. Eliot Spitzer's 83-year-old father, Bernard.

In a statement, Bruno said Stone resigned today under pressure.

“He has agreed to resign and end his relationship with us at our request,’’ Bruno said. “We are not going to allow this incident to become a distraction or to be used as an excuse to hamper people from getting at the truth.’’

"I think it's appropriate,'' said Senate Investigations Committee chairman George H. Winner Jr., R-Elmira. "It was a distraction.''

Earlier, top Democrats had called for Stone, who has been paid $20,000 a month by the Republicans since June, to step down.

"The tape says it all,'' said June O'Neill, Chair of the New York State Democratic Party.

"If there's still any doubt out there that the Senate Republican 'investigation' is anything other than a blatantly partisan attempt to inflict damage on the Governor and his family, this tape should clear that up real quick," she said.

The tape and a transcript of a voice-mail message made on Aug. 6 was distributed Tuesday by the elder Spitzer's lawyer. On the tape, a voice that resembles Stone's -- and was traced to his apartment -- warned Spitzer in coarse and vulgar language that he would be dragged to Albany to testify before a Senate committee about controversial loans he made to his son in his unsuccessful race for attorney general in 1994.

  Spurning Criticism, Rove Blames DemocratsAugust 19, 2007 08:27 During the last eight years, Karl Rove has been lionized and vilified, heralded as making the unlikely election victories of President Bush possible and impugned as reaching too high from an unusually powerful White House perch.

In the eyes of his many detractors, he has helped to send the Bush presidency off track in the process.

But in an interview at an IHOP restaurant here, days after he announced his resignation as Mr. Bush’s top political adviser, Mr. Rove defiantly dismissed the rash of fresh critiques that have come his way in the last several days, blaming the Democrats for the divisive tone that has dominated Mr. Bush’s tenure and for which he has frequently taken the blame.

He said he had no regrets over what some even some allies have called his greatest missteps, like his trying and failing to pass a sweeping overhaul of the Social Security system at the start of Mr. Bush’s second term, and the degree to which he seemed to meld partisan politics and official White House policy in his dual duties as a deputy chief of staff and Mr. Bush’s top political strategist.

He strenuously argued with the dominant characterization of him as the Oz — or, with Vice President Dick Cheney, the co-Oz — behind the curtain of Mr. Bush’s White House and presidency, declaring, “I’m the facilitator,” who has merely helped Mr. Bush as he has sought to shape his own views.

Mr. Rove at the same time described himself as an aggressive and studious inside player at the White House who is still one of the four or five officials forming Mr. Bush’s tight-knit, inner circle, but has had to work hard for the position. He dismissed what he called “the idea that I am somehow this all-powerful figure inside the White House.”

  White House Spokesman Snow To QuitAugust 18, 2007 15:37 White House Press Secretary Tony Snow plans to leave his job before the end of the Bush administration in January 2009 because of financial concerns, a spokeswoman for President Bush said Friday.

Snow, who has cancer, plans to stay "as long as he can," White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said, and "will not resign before Labor Day."

Snow, 52, a former television commentator for News Corp.'s Fox News, makes $168,000 a year as White House press secretary. He is married and has three children.
  Hastert Stepping Down After This TermAugust 14, 2007 16:52 Rep. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who served as speaker of the House longer than any Republican in history, intends to retire next year at the end of his current term, party officials said Tuesday.

A formal announcement was planned for Friday.

Hastert's planned retirement is likely to set off a lively scramble between the two political parties for a House seat that he has held easily since 1986.

Hastert's decision has been expected since the GOP lost control of the House last November, costing him his powerful post. He had been speaker, second in the line of presidential succession behind the vice president, for eight years.

The officials who discussed his plans did so on condition of anonymity because there had been no public announcement.

Hastert's decision to remain in the House after his speakership was unusual.
  Rove Says He Was Not Forced To QuitAugust 13, 2007 07:20 Karl Rove said Monday his resignation as President Bush's senior political adviser was not forced and that he plans to spend his post-White House career writing a book and teaching.

Perhaps Bush's most powerful White House aide, Rove submitted his resignation to Bush on Friday, he told CNN's Suzanne Malveaux in an e-mail.

When asked for his reaction to those who say he's being "run out of town," Rove responded, "That sounds like the rooster claiming to have called up the sun."

Rove has been the target of congressional scrutiny as he and other White House staffers have been subpoenaed by Congress to testify in the case of several fired U.S. attorneys. Rove served as Bush's political adviser last year as Democrats won control of Congress and as the president failed to overhaul U.S. immigration law.

Both Rove and the president are expected to speak on the White House South Lawn at 11:35 a.m. ET before boarding Marine One. Then Bush and Rove will head to the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas. Rove intends to return to Washington over the weekend, according to a White House official.

Rove said the first thing he plans to do after leaving the White House is "go dove hunting in West Texas with family and friends, then drive my wife and the dogs to the beach."

A senior administration official described Rove's agony over the decision, and how "he and his family struggled" over it and why "this is a good as time as any."
  Iconic Senator, Alaska Politics Under Siege | Seattle Times NewspaperAugust 06, 2007 21:07 Sen. Ted Stevens' home sits on a quiet graveled street where black bears occasionally ramble and traffic is a rarity.

So his neighbor, Julie Pederson, was startled when a caravan of SUVs pulled up to the senator's shuttered home at midmorning last Monday, just as she finished preparations for a smoked-salmon brunch to honor a friend's birthday.

Men and a few women dressed in black poured out of the cars and surrounded the house. Pederson called a local trooper to report what was an FBI raid of a sitting U.S. senator's home.

The agents opened the door with the aid of a locksmith, and they didn't leave until about midnight as they sought evidence of a major campaign contributor's involvement in the remodeling of Stevens' home.

"I don't know how the senator feels about this," Pederson said. "But if this happened to me, I would feel so violated."

An extraordinary political drama is unfolding in Alaska as the FBI and federal grand juries investigate Stevens, the nation's longest-sitting Republican senator, and his son Ben Stevens, a former state Senate president whose office was twice searched by federal agents last year.

The wide-ranging public-corruption investigation started with bribery allegations in the Juneau statehouse. It now threatens one of the most powerful Republican politicians in Washington, D.C., and could reshape politics in the state.

"Our state needs to grow up and clean up," Alaska's GOP governor, Sarah Palin, said last week. "We need to prove to the rest of the nation that our government is as clean as our environment and ... that we can do it right."
  Partisan Tensions Boil Over In CongressAugust 04, 2007 10:28 The lights went out. The House voting machine crashed. And partisan battling exploded Friday on Capitol Hill, stalling key legislation and casting a lengthening shadow over Democrats' first year of total majority rule since 1994.

Throughout what was to be the last day before the summer recess, Democratic leaders scrambled to pass bills to shift U.S. energy policy, authorize surveillance of terrorism suspects and fund the Defense Department for the next fiscal year.

The energy bill, which would encourage greater use of clean fuels, and the surveillance measure, which would close a legal loophole hindering intelligence-gathering overseas, were seen as particularly vital. The Senate approved the surveillance bill late Friday.

But long-simmering tensions between Democrats and Republicans erupted in shouting and a GOP walkout in the House, and action on the measures there was put off until today — an unusual weekend session.

While the legislation is expected to pass, lawmakers from both parties bemoaned the bedlam and the collapse of decorum in the House late Thursday night.

"It's a toxic kind of atmosphere," said Rep. Bob Filner, an eight-term Democrat from San Diego who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Democrats took control of both congressional chambers in January after 12 years of almost uninterrupted GOP rule. Seven months later, they had hoped to go home for summer break with a few more legislative victories added to a report card that Republicans have derided as short on accomplishments.

Although the Democrats have succeeded in raising the minimum wage, passing new ethics rules and enacting long-delayed recommendations of the 9/11 commission, they are laboring to assuage public frustration that they have not done more.

  Ag Gonzales' Rise Was Swift, As His Fall May BeAugust 04, 2007 10:01 Alberto Gonzales has an admirable life story. One of eight children of immigrant parents, Gonzales has often said how he, as a boy, sold drinks and snacks in the stands at Rice University Stadium in Houston never dreaming he would go to college. His is the American dream, that a boy who grew up in a house without running water or a telephone can grow up to become, as Gonzales has, attorney general of the United States. But that American Dream story has turned into a bitter dose of controversy and criticism, much of it brought on by Gonzales himself.

Gonzales' already mounting troubles in regard to the firing of eight U.S. attorneys has gotten that much worse in recent days. Democrats are now calling for a special counsel to investigate whether Gonzales perjured himself. That has the potential to have the chief law officer of the nation being criminally prosecuted.

The trigger for this was Gonzales' word obfuscation before the Senate Judiciary Committee about a 2004 confrontation at the hospital bedside of former Attorney General John Ashcroft. The visit by Gonzales, then White House counsel, came after Ashcroft's deputy said he and the then-attorney general had refused to sign off on reauthorization of an eavesdropping surveillance program because it violated civil liberties. Justice Department officers had threatened to resign over the matter. The story puts Gonzales in the bad light of pressuring a sick and medicated man to knuckle under to White House demands for a program that would have infringed on Americans' civil rights. Gonzales, in trying to explain what happened, muffed the opportunity, saying the visit was about other intelligence programs, but without explanation.

On Wednesday Gonzales tried again, saying he had not lied to the committee, but attributing the uproar to confusion over surveillance programs. This did not soothe the anger from the Senate, where even Republicans have little tolerance for Gonzales now.
  Congress Votes To Tighten Rules On Lobbyist TiesAugust 02, 2007 21:01 The Senate gave final approval Thursday to a far-reaching package of new ethics and lobbying rules, with an overwhelming majority of Republicans and Democrats agreeing to improve policing of the relationship between lawmakers and lobbyists.

If President Bush signs the bill into law, members of Congress would face a battery of new restrictions. The legislation, approved by the Senate on a vote of 83 to 14, calls for bans on gifts, meals and travel paid for by lobbyists and makes it more difficult for lawmakers to capitalize quickly on their connections when joining the private sector.

The measure, which grew out of scandals that have tarnished the image of Congress, represents a cultural shift in the traditions of Capitol Hill. While proponents hailed the measure as the most significant reform since Watergate, open questions remained on how some provisions would be enforced and whether the measure would change lawmakers’ ability to secure pet projects known as earmarks.

Still, the legislation does require greater disclosure about how the projects are chosen, with an effort to shed light on backroom dealing at the root of scandals that landed four lawmakers in jail and contributed to Republicans losing control of Congress last year. The bill also requires lawmakers to disclose the names of lobbyists who raise $15,000 in contributions in a six-month period through the bundling of donations.

The measure also abolishes the practice of discounted rides on private planes, requiring senators as well as candidates for the Senate or the White House to pay full charter rates for trips. House members would be barred from accepting free trips on private planes.
  Alaska's King of PorkAugust 02, 2007 20:50 When someone like Senator Ted Stevens ends up with his house raided by federal agents, I'm left wondering why in the world people like him aren't satisfied with the hand they've been dealt when they've been dealt such a good one. Yet more than a dozen present and former members of Congress are currently under investigation.

Stevens, an Alaska Republican, makes $165,200 a year and gets a generous annual stipend for travel and expenses. He has experts to do his homework, aides to do his bidding, and people with planes panting to have him on board. He has an elegant house in the capital and a chalet in ski country in his home state. In Alaska, where an airport is named after him, he's doubled the state's take of federal money to more than $8 billion in the last decade. He's known far and wide as ``Uncle Ted.''

In Washington, Stevens, 83, the longest-serving Republican member of the world's most exclusive club, is more often called the ``King of Pork'' than Uncle Anything. Though admired for his shameless mining of the public trough, he's generally more feared than loved. One year, Alaska got more homeland security dollars than New York. ``I am guilty of asking the Senate for pork, and proud of the Senate for giving it to me,'' he once said.

Uncle Ted may now feel differently about federal dollars being spent on him in Alaska. On Monday, federal agents searched his house looking for evidence of who paid to turn it from a one- story home into a two-story home. Last year, they raided the residence of his son in a far-reaching probe of corruption in the state. There must be something in the ice there.
  Karl Rove'S ImmunityAugust 02, 2007 20:45 The presidential aide who acts with such impunity now has the ultimate protection: absolute immunity from congressional oversight, at least in the judgment of White House Counsel Fred Fielding.

White House political mastermind Karl Rove had been subpoenaed to testify this morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of the investigation into last year's still-unexplained firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

No one actually expected Rove to show up. But Fielding's assertion of executive privilege yesterday to block his testimony was nevertheless surprising in its breadth.

From Fielding's letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy: "Based upon the advice of the Department of Justice, the President . . . has requested that I advise and inform you that Mr. Rove, as an immediate presidential advisor, is immune from compelled congressional testimony about matters that arose during his tenure and that relate to his official duties in that capacity. Accordingly, Mr. Rove is not required to appear in response to the Judiciary Committee subpoena to testify about such matters, and he has been directed not to appear."

In support of his position, Fielding attached a letter from principal deputy attorney general Steven G. Bradbury, who bases his argument for Rove's immunity on a Nixon-era memo by then-assistant attorney general William H. Rehnquist. Rehnquist wrote in 1971: "The President and his immediate advisers -- that is, those who customarily meet with the President on a regular or frequent basis -- should be deemed absolutely immune from testimonial compulsion by a congressional committee. They not only may not be examined with respect to their official duties, but they may not even be compelled to appear before a congressional committee."

The Clinton Justice Department cited the same Rehnquist memo in 1999 when then-White House counsel Beth Nolan was subpoenaed by a House committee investigating President Clinton's grant of clemency to 16 members of a Puerto Rican terrorist group.
  Gonzales Admits Testimony 'Confusing'August 01, 2007 23:40 Attorney General Alberto Gonzales conceded Wednesday he used confusing language when describing national security efforts during recent Senate testimony, seeking to set the record straight about the government's terror surveillance program and clear questions about his credibility.

His letter to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stopping short of an apology, came as congressional Democrats agreed to give the government greater authority to spy on foreign terror suspects - but only temporarily and by limiting Gonzales' role in deciding how the power is used.

The Bush administration is urgently pushing Congress to revamp a 1978 law to detect terror plots overseas, but it has faced sharp criticism of the FBI's misuse of terror investigation tools and widespread skepticism about Gonzales' honesty.

Senators last week called for a special counsel to investigate whether Gonzales lied during his testimony about a 2004 dispute between the White House and the Justice Department over the legality of an unnamed classified national security program.

Meanwhile, the White House stood its ground against Congress and refused to let two of its political aides testify in an ongoing inquiry about the Justice Department's controversial firings of federal prosecutors last year.
  Florida Report Spurs Growing Distrust Of E-Voting MachinesAugust 01, 2007 23:39 A report commissioned by the Florida Department of State has found flaws in Diebold's e-voting software that could compromise the integrity of its optical scan and touch screen machines. Although Diebold corrected many flaws previously identified, significant vulnerabilities remain, found researchers at Florida State University's Security and Assurance in Information Technology Laboratory.

A flaw in the optical scan software, for example, enables a hacker to introduce an unofficial memory card into an active terminal before the polls open, according to the report. "This memory card can be preprogrammed to redistribute votes cast for selected candidates on that terminal, including swapping the votes for two candidates," it states.

"The attack can be carried out with low probability of detection, assuming that audit with paper ballots are infrequent and that programmed cards are not detected before use," the report continues.

Another vulnerability could allow a hacker to convert official, activated voter cards into smart cards that would enable ballot-stuffing attacks. "While polling place procedures may mitigate this attack, the attack might evade even rigorous policy enforcement," the report reads.

The report gives a pass, of sorts, to Diebold, cautioning that its findings are slanted to negative results: "We focus on flaws that are not completely fixed. Even where we describe flaws that are greatly improved, our focus is on any remaining weakness, as is our charter."

This is not the first time Diebold's e-voting machines have come under Florida's scrutiny and been found wanting. In some cases, Diebold tried to fix flaws, the report notes, but "the attempted fixes introduced regression faults."