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October 31, 2005, 7:00 P.M.

Bad Week for Bush and the Boys: The week of October 27, 2005 is a week the Bush administration would like to forget. The Miers nomination was withdrawn, the death toll in Iraq went over 2000, and I. Lewis “Scooter “ Libby was indicted by a federal grand jury for obstruction of justice, perjury (2 counts) and making false statements (2 counts). There is a hint of more charges to come, Rove is under the microscope and Cheney may be as well. And these are just the big things that went wrong for the President and his Posse this week.

Of course that fact that Karl Rove and Dick Cheney have yet to be indicted leaves little room for celebration when considered against the backdrop of Prosecutor Fitzgerald’s statement that the investigation is not yet complete. In reading the indictment, there is reason to believe that more indictments could be forthcoming when the new grand jury gets up to speed. The Libby indictment was issued on the last day of the term of the grand jury originally impanelled to hear evidence in the investigation of the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s name and status as a CIA operative to the press. Such a leak could constitute a violation of federal laws prohibiting the release of the names of covert agents, and as in this case, could cause serious damage to the intelligence gathering capabilities of this country.

The five count indictment, which is a document that spells out the charges against Libby, sets out in detail the role that Libby apparently played in outing Plame. Unfortunately, Libby could not be charged with the actual violation of the law against disclosing the secret identity of a spy because his lying and obfuscation made that impossible. This in no way diminishes the serious and unforgivable, even treasonous behavior of Libby and his cohorts in this case. In fact, the actions of Libby in attempting to thwart the investigation into the leak are as bad as or worse than the original act.

While in some cases perjury and obstruction charges reflect an occasional misstatement or lapse of memory, the factual analysis laid out in this indictment suggests much more. Of course the indictment is as yet only one side of the story, it seems to make a very strong case that Libby repeatedly made claims under oath that he had to have known were false. It is, however, the factual recitation in the indictment that has to be chilling the mood at the White House. Roughly half of the indictment talks about who Libby talked to and met with while he was giving false statements to the FBI and lying to the grand jury. In addition to the reporters Libby spoke with, he was also meeting regularly with his boss, the Vice President, and was informed of the fact that Ms. Plame (Joe Wilson’s wife) was a CIA agent by the Vice President.

Paragraph 22 and 23 of the indictment state:

22. On or about July 12, 2003, LIBBY flew with the Vice President and others to and from Norfolk, Virginia, on Air Force Two. On his return trip, LIBBY discussed with other officials aboard the plane what Libby should say in response to certain pending media inquiries, including questions from Time reporter Matthew Cooper.

23. On or about July 12, 2003, in the afternoon, LIBBY spoke by telephone to Cooper, who asked whether LIBBY had heard that Wilson's wife was involved in sending Wilson on the trip to Niger. LIBBY confirmed to Cooper, without elaboration or qualification, that he had heard this information too.

In the very next paragraph of the indictment, Libby’s conversation with Judith Miller, during which “ Wilson’s wife, and that she worked at the CIA” were discussed. It’s pretty clear that, after discussions with “other officials” on the plane, quite possibly the Vice President among them, Libby discussed the matter with Cooper and Judith Miller and essentially confirmed Plame’s identity as a CIA agent. The disclosure was simply made in retaliation for Wilson’s rebuttal of the administration’s claim that Iraq was trying to purchase uranium in Niger as a justification for the invasion of Iraq that has now taken over 2000 lives. National security, human intelligence, future recruitment of agents and sources be damned.

Libby lied because of what is at stake here and it all comes back to the promise of security made by the Bush/Cheney team in 2004. There appears to have been a concerted effort to damage Wilson through his wife just as we had suspected all along. The real damage is incalculable, however, and it goes beyond damaging a political opponent. It is the elevation of politics above all else and it reflects poorly on our nation and our system of government. Hopefully there are more indictments to come. This one is a good start.

October 31, 2005, 9:30 A.M.

What do the Agua Caliente and the Mississippi Choctaw Indian tribes and the New Hampshire Republican Party have in common? Phone jamming appears to be the answer, given that the two tribes, both represented by Tom Delay associate Jack Abramoff, contributed $5,000.00 each to the New Hampshire party on the eve of the 2002 election. The donations coincide with a scheme to jam phone lines and disrupt a Democratic get out the vote effort.

This October 31, 2005 article from the Boston Globe, By Holly Ramer, Associated Press Writer, is worth a read.

CONCORD, N.H. --Democrats say three donations made to the New Hampshire Republican Party just before Election Day 2002 raise troubling questions about who paid for a scheme to jam phone lines set up to get voters to the polls.

Rep. Tom DeLay’s political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, gave $5,000 to the state Republican Party on Nov. 1, 2002, four days before the election in which Republican John Sununu won his Senate seat by defeating former Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.

Four days earlier, the state party received $5,000 each from two Indian tribes represented by Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist with close ties to DeLay. Together, the three donations nearly equal the $15,600 Republicans paid a telemarketing firm to make repeated hang-up calls to the Democratic phone banks.

DeLay recently stepped down as House majority leader after being indicted in Texas on conspiracy and money laundering charges. Abramoff also has been charged in an ongoing federal corruption and fraud investigation.

"It just so happens that the money came into New Hampshire just a matter of days before the phone jamming. Is it just a coincidence? I don’t know, but that’s a question I’d like to get an answer to," said Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan, who argues that the tribes would have no reason to spend money in New Hampshire. "What you have here is the sound of two scandals colliding."

The hang-up calls overwhelmed the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote phone banks and a ride-to-the-polls line for more than an hour on Election Day. Former state GOP director Chuck McGee and Republican consultant Allen Raymond pleaded guilty to taking part in the scheme and James Tobin, a former regional director for the Republican National Committee, is scheduled for trial in December.

Suspicious that other high-ranking GOP officials outside the state played a role, Democrats meanwhile have filed a lawsuit seeking more information about who devised and paid for the scheme. But the state GOP’s current chairman, Warren Henderson, said Thursday that the state party was thoroughly investigated and McGee was appropriately punished.

"No doubt, Kathy Sullivan will continue to find any angle she can to beat this dead horse, but the federal government already investigated this," he said.

Andrew Blum, a spokesman for Abramoff, had no comment Thursday. Calls to the Agua Caliente tribe and the Mississippi Choctaw tribe were not immediately returned.

Oh really, Mr. Henderson? You may be correct that the state Republican party was investigated, but this horse is far from dead. In fact, the Delay and Abramoff investigations make their connection to the phone jamming scandal very relevant. The question remains, what interest do those two tribes have in the outcome of a New Hampshire Senate race?

Of course, Delay and the national Republican Party saw an opportunity to pick up a seat in a close race. They diverted funds to New Hampshire to help Sununu win and the Abramoff connection has surfaced because of his role as a lobbyist for the very tribes that sent money to New Hampshire and which helped fund, either directly or indirectly, an illegal and despicable activity aimed at interfering with our right to vote. This investigation still has legs.

October 31, 2005, 9:00 A.M.

From bad to worse is the only way I can describe the latest Bush move in the drive to put a conservative ideologue on the US Supreme Court. As we suggested in our last post, Harriet Miers has removed herself from consideration for the Supreme Court. I’m sure that this was a difficult decision for her, but the way the confirmation hearings were shaping up, she spared herself a lot of embarrassment. Bowing out left the door open for Bush to appoint someone who has judicial experience and a strong conservative track record.

Now that the Miers nomination has been withdrawn, the President has nominated an extremely conservative 3rd Circuit Court Appeals judge, Samuel A. Alito of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. Alito is from Trenton New Jersey and he has been on the Third Circuit bench for about 15 years. He was appointed to the federal bench by Bush 41. Alito is the same judge who dissented in a 2-1 decision striking down a Pennsylvania law requiring a woman to notify her husband before getting an abortion.

This nomination is pure pandering to Bush’s extreme base. While the nomination is sure to draw attention away from other Bush trouble spots, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Libby, Delay, and possibly other, indictments, and the investigations of Bill Frist, just to name a few, I don’t see it getting much positive attention in the main stream. Alito is an ideologue cut from the same cloth as Scalia, and he should have no place on the court. In fact, Alito is so like Scalia that he is often referred to as “Judge Scalito” by 3rd circuit observers. Democrats have promised a brawl over confirmation. For my part, I hope Justice O’Connor changes her mind.


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