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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

By Ed Stein

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Vice president, former AG, state senator indicted

By Christopher Sherman
Associated Press

McALLEN, Texas — A South Texas grand jury has indicted Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on state charges related to the alleged abuse of prisoners in Willacy County's federal detention centers.

The indictment, which had not yet been signed by the presiding judge, was one of seven released Tuesday in a county that has been a source of bizarre legal and political battles in recent years. Another of the indictments named a state senator on charges of profiting from his position.

Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra himself had been under indictment for more than a year and half before a judge dismissed the indictments last month. This flurry of charges came in the twilight of Guerra's tenure, which ends this year after nearly two decades in office. He lost convincingly in a Democratic primary in March.

Cheney's indictment on a charge of engaging in an organized criminal activity criticizes the vice president's investment in the Vanguard Group, which holds interests in the private prison companies running the federal detention centers. It accuses Cheney of a conflict of interest and "at least misdemeanor assaults" on detainees because of his link to the prison companies.

Megan Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Cheney, declined to comment on Tuesday, saying that the vice president had not yet received a copy of the indictment.

The indictment accuses Gonzales of using his position while in office to stop an investigation in 2006 into abuses at one of the privately-run prisons.

Gonzales' attorney, George Terwilliger III, said in a written statement, "This is obviously a bogus charge on its face, as any good prosecutor can recognize. Hopefully, competent Texas authorities will take steps to reign in this abuse of the criminal justice system."...(Click for remainder).

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Siegelman: New Revelations "More Frightening Than Anything That Came Before."

By Zachary Roth
TPM Muckraker

Former Alabama governor Don Siegelman says that new revelations about his prosecution amount to "outrageous criminal conduct in the US Attorney's office and the Department of Justice," and are "more frightening than anything that has come before." And he believes that his case is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of politicized prosecutions by DOJ.

Siegelman was reacting in an interview with TPMmuckraker to the news, first reported this morning by Time, that the US Attorney on his case, who had recused herself because her husband was a top GOP operative who had worked closely with Karl Rove -- and even run the 2002 campaign of Siegelman's gubernatorial opponent -- continued to advise prosecutors on the case.

At times while speaking to TPMmuckraker, Siegelman appeared to have trouble maintaining his composure. He called the news -- which came from a whistleblower in the US Attorney's office who passed on emails and other information to the House Judiciary Commitee -- "another shocking revelation in the misconduct of the US attorneys offices and the DOJ."

The news appears to contradict previous statements from DOJ on the matter. When Congress investigated the affair earlier this year, DOJ had said that the US Attorney, Leura Canary, had recused herself "before any significant decisions ... were made."...(Click for remainder).

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Admirals, generals: Repeal 'don't ask, don't tell'

By Brian Witte
Associate Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — More than 100 retired generals and admirals called Monday for repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays so they can serve openly, according to a statement obtained by The Associated Press.

The move by the military veterans confronts the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama with a thorny political and cultural issue that dogged former President Bill Clinton early in his administration.

"As is the case with Great Britain, Israel, and other nations that allow gays and lesbians to serve openly, our service members are professionals who are able to work together effectively despite differences in race, gender, religion, and sexuality," the officers wrote.

While Obama has expressed support for repeal, he said during the presidential campaign that he would not do so on his own — an indication that he would tread carefully to prevent the issue from becoming a drag on his agenda. Obama said he would instead work with military leaders to build consensus on removing the ban on openly gay service members.

"Although I have consistently said I would repeal 'don't ask, don't tell,' I believe that the way to do it is make sure that we are working through a process, getting the Joint Chiefs of Staff clear in terms of what our priorities are going to be," Obama said in a September interview with the Philadelphia Gay News.

Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Obama's transition team, declined comment.

The issue of gays in the military became a flash point early in the Clinton administration as Clinton tried to fulfill a campaign promise to end the military's ban on gays. His efforts created the current compromise policy — ending the ban but prohibiting active-duty service members from openly acknowledging they are gay.

But it came at a political cost. The resulting debate divided service members and veterans, put Democrats on the defensive and provided cannon fodder for social conservatives and Republican critics who questioned Clinton's patriotism and standing with the military....(Click for remainder).

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Team of Rivals

By Mike Luckovich

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Holder is Obama's top choice for attorney general

By Matt Apuzzo & Lara Jakes Jordan
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington attorney Eric Holder is President-elect Barack Obama's top choice to be the next attorney general and aides have gone so far as to ask senators whether he would be confirmed, an Obama official and people close to the matter said Tuesday.

Holder, a former U.S. attorney who served as the No. 2 official in the Justice Department under President Bill Clinton, would be the nation's first black attorney general.

An Obama official and two Democrats in touch with the transition team confirmed that Holder is Obama's top choice but the Obama official said the decision has not been finalized.

Holder did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday. Asked Monday by The Associated Press whether he expected to be nominated, he responded in an e-mail: "Who knows?"

In the past week, Obama aides have asked Senate Republicans whether they would support Holder. In particular, the aides questioned whether Holder's confirmation would be delayed because of his involvement in the 2001 pardon of fugitive Marc Rich by Clinton at the end of his presidency.

One person involved in the talks said the Obama team has received some assurances that, while the Rich pardon would certainly come up during hearings, the nomination likely wouldn't be held up. All spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the pardon "would be a factor to consider."
"I wouldn't want to articulate it among the top items but it's worthwhile to look at," he told reporters.

Asked if Holder would be a good choice for attorney general, Specter said it was too soon to say.

"I know something of Holder's work in the Clinton administration and that's about it," he said. "I'd have to take a much closer look at his record and talk to him and think about it."...(Click for remainder).

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Vote Count Indicates Alaska's Ted Stevens Will Lose Senate Seat

By Paul Kane
Washington Post

Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) defeated Sen. Ted Stevens, ending the tenure of the longest-serving Republican in Senate history, after the counting of more ballots yesterday gave him a larger lead than the number of votes still untallied, Alaska elections officials said.

Begich leads Stevens by more than 3,700 votes, according to the Alaska secretary of state. Gail Fenumiai, the head of the state's election division, said about 2,500 absentee votes from overseas and Alaska's most remote regions remain to be counted.

The Democrat's lead thus far -- 47.8 percent to 46.6 percent -- puts him beyond the margin of victory that would allow Stevens to call for a state-funded recount of the ballots. Begich had not yet declared victory last night, nor had Stevens conceded.

Stevens, who is in Washington for this week's lame-duck session, said yesterday that either his campaign or the Alaska Republican Party would definitely ask for a recount if the final margin fell within the needed 0.5 percent....(Click for remainder).

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It's Time to Give Voters the Liberalism They Want

Don't believe pundits who say there's a centrist mandate.

By Thomas Frank
The Wall Street Journal

It is possible, I suppose, that the pundits are right and the public didn't really mean it when it elected a liberal Democrat president and gave Democrats even larger majorities in both houses of Congress. Maybe America really wants the same nice, reassuring, centrist thing as always.

But it is also possible that, for once, the public weighed the big issues and gave a clear verdict on the great economic questions of the last few decades. It is likely that we really do want universal health care and some measure of wealth-spreading, and even would like to see it become easier to organize a union in the workplace, however misguided such ideas may seem to the nation's institutions of higher carping.

That was the sense I got when I met last week with officers of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Their mood was optimistic -- as well it should be, since labor unions spent some $450 million during the 2008 races, orchestrated massive voter outreach, and saw their candidates triumph.

What is coming, they believe, is not triangulation redux. This was, SEIU President Andy Stern told me, "a clear election not on small things." Mr. Obama "talked about what people wanted to hear about," as opposed to the culture wars. "We've redefined the center," Mr. Stern said. "Universal health care is now centrist."

Near the top of labor's agenda is the Employee Free Choice Act, a.k.a. "card check," the legislation that will make it easier for workers to form a union by signing cards instead of by secret ballot in the workplace. Mr. Obama was a co-sponsor of last year's version of the card-check bill and has vowed to sign it when it is finally passed by the incoming Congress.

Business interests, on the other hand, spent many millions in 2008 trying to make card check a liability for Democratic senate candidates. The strategy failed, and now they are gearing up in Washington for the coming confrontation, which one Chamber of Commerce official has already dubbed "Armageddon."...(Click for remainder).

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