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The Situation: Monday, October 10

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.

New Orleans beating case






George W. Bush
Capitol Hill
Harriet Miers

Posted: 3:00 p.m. ET
From Terry Frieden, CNN America Bureau

Civil Rights attorneys at the Justice Department are presently "monitoring" the New Orleans beating case, which is being handled by state and local officials.

Although the Justice Department is not now actively investigating the incident, and has received no formal referrals to do so, Justice officials are not ruling out possible involvement later if warranted.

"We will continue to monitor this matter as it unfolds," said a senior Justice Department official.

Three New Orleans police officers pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of battery in the beating of a 64-year-old man over the weekend -- an incident that was largely captured on videotape by two news organizations.

The three officers were released on bond. They have been suspended from duty while the incident is investigated.

New York threat assessment

Posted: 1:57 p.m.
From Kelli Arena, CNN America Bureau

Law enforcement officials said Monday they have thoroughly investigated claims by an informant about an attack on transit systems in New York City and have not been able to corroborate any of the information.

Government sources said three men in Iraq who were identified as possibly being involved in the plot and who were captured last week have been interviewed and polygraphed and did not know anything about such a plan.

What's more, intelligence suggesting that an individual who allegedly was going to be part of the plot made his way into the United States has also not been corroborated. One official reiterated to CNN, "We still do not know if such a person even exists."

Law enforcement sources said the predominant thinking is that the source of the original intelligence picked up what they called "bogus chatter."

They said the source has provided some accurate information in the past and therefore his latest tip needed to be thoroughly checked out.

Government sources said New York will remain on high alert out of an abundance of caution.

Law enforcement officials said there has been consistent intelligence in the past suggesting that New York's transit systems remain a desirable target for terrorists.

The Morning Grind

Posted: 9:15 a.m. ET
From Molly Levinson, CNN Political Unit

When the cat's away...

Congress is in recess, President Bush heads to the Gulf Coast today, and there are plenty of mice playing in Washington. One thing's for sure on this Columbus Day, whether you're working or not, in town, or at home for the week of recess - this is no holiday Monday as far as the headlines are concerned.

Stories this morning on pains within the Republican party: "For GOP, Election Anxiety Mounts (Washington Post)," "Half of Senate Republicans doubt Miers (Washington Times)," "GOP Feels Sting of Candidates' Rejection (LA Times)." Plus rising questions about GOP prospects in 2006, compounding a White House problem with conservatives and underscoring the difficulties that the Bush administration faces to get the support it needs to confirm Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Grind caught up early this morning with a Republican operative familiar with the GOP recruiting process for the 2006 midterm elections who admitted, "the political environment now is not good, to discount that would be pollyannaish." But the operative went on to argue that whatever the failings of National Republican Senatorial Committee and it's chair Sen. Elizabeth Dole (mentioned today in the Washington Post), the Republican National Committee will "have the monetary resources to bring to bear" in 2006.

Finger-pointing is due to "some pressure" felt by the NRSC "in terms of fundraising and recruiting," says the operative. But, the GOPer cautioned, "getting into a protracted internal blame game doesn't really seem in the interest of anyone in the end. It doesn't seem in anyone's interest when it comes to making sure Republicans have best candidates in 2006." The operative argues that recruiting difficulties like those that the NRSC faces in states like Florida are "natural in a political cycle" and that in November 2006, the current lagging NRSC recruiting and fundraising will be lost in "40 yards and a cloud of dust." No surprise, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Phil Singer disagrees, saying, "The way to gauge the campaign committees' success during the first year of the two year election cycle is to look at their recruitment efforts and fundraising. On both counts, Senate Dems are cleaning the GOP's clock."

Meanwhile, Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers was in Texas this weekend. A senior White House official told CNN's Dana Bash that Miers was there to "go through her papers and documents" and to collect information for the Senate Judiciary questionnaire. Despite Sen. Mitch McConnell's statement on CNN's Late Edition, "I think at the end of the day the support in the Senate for Harriet Miers in the Republican conference in the Senate is going to be rock solid," there were continued questions over Miers on Sunday shows from Senators of both stripes, including Republican Judiciary Committee Chair Arlen Specter. Specter defended Miers on ABC's "This Week," but not without a caveat, "But when you deal in constitutional law, you're dealing in some very esoteric complicated subjects that require a great deal of background. And that kind of background doesn't come unless you are in the field or unless you're really studying it."

Additional questions today over what exactly Focus on the Family president James Dobson knows about Harriet Miers and how he knows. Yesterday's shows repeated calls by Senators Schumer, Leahy, Specter to understand and added a new element: a possible Judiciary committee hearing to ask Dobson questions. Said Sen. Schumer on ABC, "if there is something which bears upon a precondition as to how a nominee is going to vote, I think that's a matter that ought to be known by the Judiciary Committee and the American people." One top Judiciary committee aide told the Grind this morning that "it is too early to say if [Dobson] would be a witness in front of the committee," but that "There are a couple of possibilities including having staff question him." The aide went on to add, "given comments from Sen. Specter and the Democratic members, it could be a possibility," that Dobson would be called in front of the committee.

Also today: President Bush, on his 8th trip to the Gulf Coast, attends a dinner with local officials in New Orleans this evening.

Sen. John McCain will endorse Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today at an event at 12:30 PT, joining him for several events including a town hall meeting with women at 2:30 PT.

Political Hot Topics

Posted: 8:50 a.m. ET
From Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau

DOBSON MAY GET SUBPOENAED: James Dobson, the influential founder of the conservative evangelical group Focus on the Family, has said he is supporting Harriet Miers's nomination in part because of something he has been told but cannot divulge. He has not disclosed the source of the information, but he has acknowledged speaking with Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, about the president's pick before it was announced. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) said in an interview on the CBS News program "Face the Nation" that he already believed the Judiciary Committee should call Mr. Dobson as a witness. "This is not a game of wink and whisper," Mr. Schumer said. "This is serious business." New York Times: Endorsement of Nominee Draws Committee's Interestexternal link

27 GOP SENATORS HAVE DOUBTS: Nearly half of Senate Republicans say they remain unconvinced that Harriet Miers is worthy of being confirmed to the Supreme Court, according to a survey conducted by The Washington Times. As with the nomination of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the vast majority of senators say they will not announce their final decisions about the nomination until after Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, which are expected sometime next month. What's troubling for President Bush, however, is that 27 Republican senators -- almost half of his party's members in the chamber -- have publicly expressed specific doubts about Miss Miers or said they must withhold any support whatsoever for her nomination until after the hearings. Washington Times: Half of Senate Republicans doubt Miersexternal link

GOP RECRUITING PROBLEMS FOR '06: Republican politicians in multiple states have recently decided not to run for Senate next year, stirring anxiety among Washington operatives about the effectiveness of the party's recruiting efforts and whether this signals a broader decline in GOP congressional prospects. Prominent Republicans have passed up races in North Dakota and West Virginia, both GOP-leaning states with potentially vulnerable Democratic incumbents. Earlier, Republican recruiters on Capitol Hill and at the White House failed to lure their first choices to run in Florida, Michigan and Vermont. Some Republican operatives privately point to what they regard as a lackluster performance by Sen. Elizabeth Dole (N.C.) as chairman of the NRSC. Washington Post: For GOP, Election Anxiety Mountsexternal link

LA TIMES ALSO TAKES NOTICE: A confluence of problems that are driving down Bush's public approval ratings high gas prices, ongoing violence in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, the ethics problems hounding Rove and GOP congressional leaders is also making it harder to persuade Republicans to seek Senate seats in 2006, strategists say. "The wind is not at our back, it's in our face," said Glen Bolger, a GOP pollster. "If you're a candidate making an assessment about challenging an incumbent, having wind in your face is clearly a negative factor in the decision." Los Angeles Times: GOP Feels Sting of Candidates' Rejectionexternal link

MCCAIN WON'T SETTLE FOR VEEP: Sen. John McCain was in Staten Island raising money for incumbent Borough President candidate James Molinaro yesterday but it was the Arizona Republican's White House ambitions that had folks buzzing. McCain, a Vietnam vet held prisoner by the Communists, told the Daily News he is seriously considering a run in 2008. "But I'd like to wait until after the 2006 elections until we make a decision," he said at the $200-a-head fund-raiser at the Excelsior Grand. He also seemed to humorously rule out accepting a vice presidential post in the future: "I spent all those years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, kept in the dark, fed scraps, why the hell would I want to do that all over again?" New York Daily News: McCain may run in '08; won't be VPexternal link

BLOOMY ON PACE TO SPEND MORE THAN $100/VOTE: Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg has poured $46.6 million of his own cash into his campaign for a second term, including nearly $20 million on advertising, according to finance reports. The media mogul with a $5 billion fortune, which makes him the 40th richest American on Forbes magazine's list this year, spent $74 million on his first run for mayor equal to about $100 per vote. With the election less than five weeks away, he is on track to break that record spending spree: In 2001 at this time, he had spent about $29 million. AP via Yahoo! News: NYC Mayor Spends $47M on Re-Electionexternal link

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