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The Situation: Wednesday, Sept. 28

Editor's Note: The Situation Report is a running log of dispatches, quotes, links and behind-the-scenes notes filed by the correspondents and producers of CNN's Washington Bureau. Watch "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer on CNN 3 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.

Jury duty scam

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George W. Bush
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Hurricane Katrina

Posted 4:32 p.m. ET
From Terry Frieden, CNN America Bureau

The FBI and court administrators are warning the public of an apparent identity theft scheme in which scam artists are telling citizens they have been selected for jury duty and need to supply credit card numbers and other personal information.

Courts in Cleveland, Ohio and Omaha, Nebraska are among a handful of federal judicial offices that have reported complaints from citizens who received the phony calls.

As many as a dozen complaints have been received by state courts across the United States, the officials said.

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts first became aware of the problem in August and issued an initial warning. The most recent complaints were reported by the FBI office in New Haven, Connecticut, indicating the scam is continuing, FBI officials said.

An FBI headquarters statement Wednesday said the perpetrators pretending to be court employees have phoned unsuspected citizens saying before they report to jury duty they must disclose their Social Security number, date of birth, and credit card numbers. Citizens who refuse are then threatened with fines.

The Morning Grind

Posted: 8:50 a.m. ET
From Molly Levinson, CNN Political Unit

Holding our breath

There are few events left where Suspense works well in Washington, D.C., a town with so many people with so many answers to questions. Close elections, of course, are one. And one of the others, as we've learned over the past months, is a nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite a million theories on who President Bush will choose to nominate for Sandra Day O'Connor's seat, we won't know until we know. But we can play the educated guessing game like everyone else, and admit the suspense is killing us.

As it happens, Suspense is also giving both parties, a spectrum of interest groups, and a good number of U.S. Senators a window of opportunity to express how they feel, and be listened to. On the conservative fringe, there are rumblings about staying home for the Midterms if Bush's pick isn't conservative. And on the fringe of the left (which seems to, in this case, make up much of the quilt), Filibuster threats. DNC Chairman Howard Dean, though he doesn't have a vote, is out there today in the Washington Post almost begging those who do vote to stay the course, "If we lose, better to go down fighting and standing for what we believe in, because we will not win an election if the public doesn't think we'll stand up for what we believe in."

The Senate votes on Judge John Roberts tomorrow, and he will almost certainly be sworn in to the Court tomorrow or Friday, as a new term begins on Monday. Current conventional wisdom is that Bush will announce his pick to replace O'Connor sometime at the end of this week or early next. A short list of names continues to circulate inside the Beltway, along with speculation that Mr. Bush will choose a woman, due to frequent comments from Justice O'Connor and First Lady Laura Bush about their support for another woman on the Court; or he will choose a Hispanic, because it would be history making; or he will choose a conservative to satisfy his base.

Meanwhile, the "She said" part of congressional hearings on what went wrong after Katrina happens today - the Senate Finance Committee will hear from Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. Yesterday's "He said" with former FEMA Director Michael Brown sparked more ire from Representatives in the House Committee when Mr. Brown, who said that he warned White House Chief of Staff Andy Card in advance of Katrina, insisted upon sharing the blame with a range of local, state and Federal officials. A fair amount of self-defense was involved in Mr. Brown's testimony, along with the what-went-wrong that he apparently continues to be paid by FEMA to provide. We'll also hear testimony today from Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and Alabama Governor Bob Riley at the Senate Finance Committee hearing.

President Bush will make a "Statement on the War on Terror" this morning at 10 a.m. in the Rose Garden. CNN's Dana Bash is hearing that Mr. Bush will talk for the first time about last weekend's killing of Abu Azzam, a senior al Qaeda leader. Prior to his speech, Mr. Bush will be briefed by Generals Casey and Abizaid, who are back from Iraq, along with Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Bush's statement comes amid some news organizations' reports of another photo scandal involving U.S. troops in Iraq.

** A county grand jury in Austin, Texas finishes its term today, and some observers say that there could be a possible indictment of House Republican leader Tom DeLay, in a long-running investigation about whether corporate money was illegally raised and used in the 2002 election.

** A new website will be unveiled today featuring Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid and focused on Democrats and 2006. The site, http://www.giveemhellharry.com/external link, which sports some cacti and a "western" motif, will be supported by "paid advertising including billboards in three key western states: Albuquerque, New Mexico; Phoenix, Arizona; and Helena, Montana," says a spokesperson.

** Also today, RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman speaks to the Republican National Hispanic Assembly at a Hispanic Heritage month reception. The event is closed press, but we can predict there will be at least some mention of the name Alberto Gonzales.

Political Hot Topics

Posted: 8:45 a.m. ET
From Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau

BLANCO ON THE HILL: Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco will appear before a Senate panel this morning, but she's already come out swinging against former FEMA head Michael Brown. Blanco takes strong exception to a charge by Brown that she waited until the eve of the storm to order an evacuation of New Orleans. She says Brown's comment clearly demonstrates what she says is the "appalling degree" to which he's "out of touch with the truth or reality." During testimony before a special House panel yesterday, Brown defended his handling of Hurricane Katrina. And he laid blame for what went wrong on Blanco, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and even the White House. AP via Yahoo! News: Blanco Goes to D.C. to Answer Brown Chargeexternal link

NOLA TOP COP STEPS DOWN: New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass, whose emotional media appearances since Hurricane Katrina made him one of the city's most recognizable figures nationwide, abruptly announced his retirement Tuesday. The stunning departure of the city's top cop roiled New Orleans leaders, and raised questions of whether Mayor Ray Nagin forced Compass from his job. Earlier this month, on Sept. 9, Compass said, "I want to be police chief here as long as I can and as long as Mayor Nagin will have me." New Orleans Times-Picayune: Compass Resignsexternal link

THROWING AROUND THE F-WORD AGAIN: The upcoming battle over a successor to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor threatens to plunge the Senate into another bitter confrontation over filibusters and the "nuclear option," with Democrats already threatening to use any means possible to thwart President Bush if he nominates someone they regard as too conservative. The roster of those threatening a filibuster includes liberal and moderate Democrats, supporters and opponents of John G. Roberts Jr., Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, and at least one of the seven Democratic senators who were part of the bipartisan "Gang of 14." Washington Post: Filibuster Showdown Looms In Senateexternal link

SEC LAUNCHES OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION INTO FRIST DEAL: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist faces a near-term ordeal unwelcome to anyone, particularly an ambitious politician: an official probe into his personal financial dealings by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC authorized a formal order of investigation of Frist's sale in June of HCA Inc. shares, people with direct knowledge of the inquiry said yesterday. The order allows the agency's enforcement unit to subpoena documents and compel witnesses to testify, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the order hasn't been made public. A formal order requires the approval of at least one of the SEC's five commissioners. Bloomberg News: Frist Faces Heat as SEC Orders Formal Inquiry Into Stock Saleexternal link

EXTREME MAKEOVER: WH EDITION: A desperate housewife in the White House? That was so pre-hurricane. Laura Bush has moved on to reality television. Mrs. Bush flew to Biloxi on Tuesday for a cameo on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," the blockbuster ABC show that usually does impromptu remodeling for disadvantaged homeowners but is now taking supplies to hurricane victims for segments to be shown later this year. She met with some of the victims, passed out clothing and listened intently to tales of destruction, with a film crew following her and a boom microphone hovering overhead. New York Times: Laura Bush Joins Hit Makeover Show as It Focuses on Storm Victimsexternal link

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