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The Situation: Friday, November 4

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 civil rights chief

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Posted 5:59 p.m. ET
From Terry Frieden, CNN America Bureau

A 37-year-old native of Seoul, Korea, the son of a dishwasher, Friday became the nation's top civil rights official and the first immigrant ever to become an assistant attorney general. Wan Kim was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, which enforces the nation's wide range of federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, gender and disability.

Kim's father, Hak Soo Kim, came to the United States in 1971 with no money, lived at a YMCA in New York, and washed dishes at a restaurant until he had enough money saved to send for his wife nearly a year later. She arrived in New York and worked in a garment factory. Nearly two years later they were able to share an apartment with another Korean family, and sent for their children -- 5-year-old Wan Kim and his sister. Wan Kim became a naturalized citizen in 1978 at the age of 10. His parents later purchased a Jersey City, N.J., luncheonette and enrolled Wan Kim in a Catholic school, where he graduated valedictorian. He went on to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hopkins University and from the University of Chicago Law School.

Wan Kim spent 10 years as a federal prosecutor, assisting with the Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols prosecutions in the Oklahoma City bombing case. After a year with the Senate Judiciary Committee then led by Sen. Orrin Hatch, Kim was appointed deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights. When Alex Acosta left the top civil rights job this year to become U.S. attorney in Miami, President Bush nominated Kim to replace him.

Pakistan terror arrest

Posted 4:42 p.m. ET
From Pam Benson and Kevin Bohn, CNN America Bureau

Two U.S. counterterrorism officials confirmed on Friday the recent capture of Mustafa Setmariam Nasar during a recent raid by Pakistani authorities in the town of Quetta.

There have been reports that Nasar was connected to the 2004 terrorist bombings in Madrid and the July attacks in London. However, one U.S. official said there is "no evidence linking" Nasar to either of the attacks.

This official warned against "overstating" Nasar's importance. The official described Nasar as a "background" guy with "a number of terrorist contacts," but said he is not an al Qaeda operative. Nasar is best known for his writings, said the counterterrorism official. "We're better off that he's captured," the official added.

According to CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, Nasar has known Osama Bin Laden for a long time, but had a falling out with him a number of years ago. Nasar wrote a book in which he discussed setting up his own terrorist training camps in Afghanistan just prior to 9/11.

FBI Niger documents probe

Posted 3:15 p.m. ET
From Kevin Bohn, CNN America Bureau

The FBI is confirming it has closed its investigation into forged documents that purported to show former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was interested in obtaining uranium from Niger and has concluded they were not part of an effort to influence U.S. foreign policy.

In a July 20 letter, FBI Director Robert Mueller told the director of Italy's security service that its probe had ended. In the letter, Mueller thanked Italian officials for their help "in the FBI investigation to determine the origins of documents -- specifically whether the documents were part of an effort to influence U.S. foreign policy. The investigation discounted that motive, confirmed the documents to be fraudulent, and concluded they were more likely part of a criminal scheme for financial gain," FBI Assistant Director John Miller said in a statement.

A government official told CNN the FBI letter does not identify anybody by name, country or service as being responsible for the forgery. "We don't know who perpetrated" it, the official said. U.S. investigators, according to this official, did not find any evidence that would allow a prosecution on U.S. soil, such as the perpetrator or the victim being a U.S. citizen.

Former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson was sent to Niger in February 2002 to investigate the allegation of an Iraqi uranium purchase and determined no sale had taken place. However, the claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium in Africa to develop its weapons program was included in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address, setting off a political firestorm. The Bush administration later conceded the information was not true.

Dems' convention later in '08

Posted 1:24 p.m. ET
From Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit

The Democratic Party announced Friday that it will hold its 2008 presidential convention during the final week of August, a month later than in 2004, to help maximize its financial resources in the closing months of the campaign and avoid a conflict with the Summer Olympics.

Democrats have not yet chosen a city, but will form a commission around the first of the year to evaluate bids and eventually make recommendations to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, DNC spokesman Josh Earnest said.

"By accepting the nomination and the federal general election grant later, the Democratic ticket in 2008 will have all of the resources it needs to campaign aggressively in the last 68 days of the campaign," said Earnest.

The Democratic National Convention will be held Aug. 25 through Aug. 28.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts accepted the Democratic presidential nomination in July 2004 and with it the federal election grant for the general election. By accepting the federal grant money, Kerry was prohibited from spending funds he had amassed during the primary.

President Bush was able to continue to spend his primary funds up until he received the GOP nomination one month later. This gave Bush a cash advantage, because he had more money to spend in a shorter time frame once he accepted his federal election grant allocation.

So far, the Republican Party has not yet announced when it will hold its own nominating convention.

"It's early in the process," said Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

But modern history dictates that the party in control of the White House holds their convention last. The RNC will form its own host selection committee in January.

Bush not pressed in Argentina

Posted 10:42 a.m. ET
From Dana Bash, CNN White House Unit

This morning's event with the Argentinean president was billed as a "joint press availability."

Those of us in the White House press corps were brought into the room nearly two hours before it was supposed to start, primarily to get through the intense security.

However, as the event got closer, some Bush officials started telling us the Argentineans were balking at the concept of taking questions, and that the White House was trying to explain it was billed as a press conference.

A senior official tells CNN they were "negotiating until they walked down there. They walked out of meeting and it was off again after being on a few minutes before."

Another senior official said President Kirchner was determined just to make statements.

If you look at the tape, you can tell Bush is irritated, especially at the end where he knew he'd have to walk out without taking questions.

The White House says the president will take questions from travel pool after the next event.

The Morning Grind

Posted 9:30 a.m. ET
From Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit


The race for '08

President Bush was greeted by protesters this morning in Argentina, where he is attending the Summit of Americas. Back home, the president's popularity is not much better, according to two new polls.

The Washington Post-ABC News Poll says that 39 percent of Americans approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president, while 60 percent disapprove. The Associated Press-Ipsos poll registers Bush's approval rating at 37 percent, while his disapproval rating is at 59 percent.

Bush's low approval ratings comes as more than 20 Democrats and Republicans are either laying the early groundwork or are considering running for president in 2008.

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) continues to take steps towards a potential White House bid, at the same time he barnstorms across the commonwealth in an effort to convince voters to elect Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine as his successor.

Warner hosted a dinner with about 40 to 50 influential Democratic lobbyists and old friends at his Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, home in September, sources tell the Grind. Warner did not explicitly say he was running for president, but one of his guests, who shared details of the gathering with the Grind on the condition of anonymity, said it was implied.

"The talk was clearly about letting us know that he had pretty much made up his mind and he is going to give it a shot," said the guest, an influential Democratic lobbyist. "He talked about going on to bigger and better things."

The lobbyist said the dinner served two purposes for Warner. It gave him the "opportunity to tell some of his friends who might be flirting with other candidates about his intentions," as well as "introducing himself" to inside the Beltway Democrats. A Warner political adviser confirmed that the dinner took place, and said the governor "had them over to talk about Forward Together, and where he was headed next to continue to have a voice on the national debate about the direction of the country."

Forward Together is Warner's political action committee, which will serve as his full time political arm once he leaves office in January. As a popular Democrat governing a red state, Warner is often mentioned as a viable alternative to the handful of Democrats representing blue states, who are also considering the race. It is not clear how much the outcome of next week's gubernatorial election will have on Warner's future political aspirations. But a political consultant to one likely 2008 candidate suggested that Warner is driving the Kaine campaign and a loss to Republican Jerry Kilgore would likely have long-term negative consequences for Warner.

"Mark Warner has staked a lot of his political chips on the Virginia governor's race and if Kaine wins Warner will get a payout," said the consultant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "But if Kaine loses, it will set Warner back further than I think he anticipates."

The Democratic lobbyist disagreed. "If Kaine wins that will be huge," said the lobbyist. "But if Kaine loses, it doesn't hurt him at all."

Another Democrat said to be eyeing the 2008 presidential contest has dispatched a senior political aide to New Hampshire to work on the re-election campaign of Manchester Mayor Bob Baines (D). Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) is paying for Paula Zellner to work for Baines, who is being challenged in Tuesday's election by Alderman Frank Guinta. Zellner joins Geoff Wetrosky, an operative for Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), on the Baines campaign team. In addition to these staffers, several other possible 2008 candidates and surrogates have campaigned on behalf of Baines in recent months. Kerry, who is paying Wetrosky's salary, will visit Manchester on Saturday to campaign for the mayor. Former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina) is paying a staffer to work for the re-election campaign of state Sen. David Gottesman (D) and the state Senate caucus.

Meanwhile, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota), who made news earlier this week by calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, will be the keynote speaker Saturday at the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson Dinner.

In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) told CNN's Larry King last night that he might make another run for his party's presidential nomination in 2008. But McCain, who lost to then-Texas Gov. George Bush in the 2000 GOP primary, said he won't "seriously think about it" until the end of 2006.

"I'm going wait until after the '06 elections ... for a whole variety of reasons, including the fact that I'd like to know what the political landscape is after that election, and I'd like to see what the chances are," McCain said.

And finally a conservative campaign watchdog group filed a complaint yesterday with the Federal Election Commission against Sean "Diddy" Combs charging that the mega star violated campaign finance laws, CNN reports.

The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) alleges that Combs and his non-profit organization, Citizen Change, may have violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and the Internal Revenue Service Code when he rallied support for Democratic candidate John Kerry and called for the defeat of President Bush during last year's presidential election.

The complaint asks the FEC to investigate whether Combs used his "Vote or Die" campaign to advance "commercial activity, namely Combs' line of clothing and/or his clothing company."

It states that Citizen Change's address was listed as the same as Combs' business address and alleges that Combs could have used his company's corporate funds to illegally support Citizen Change's activities.

Comb's spokesman, Rob Shuter, said he was aware of the complaint but withheld comment until the complaint could be fully reviewed. The FEC has not decided whether it will investigate, according to NLPC President Peter Flaherty.

Political Hot Topics

Posted: 9:30 a.m. ET
From Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau

60 PERCENT DISAPPROVAL IN POST-ABC POLL...: For the first time in his presidency a majority of Americans question the integrity of President Bush, and growing doubts about his leadership have left him with record negative ratings on the economy, Iraq and even the war on terrorism, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows. On almost every key measure of presidential character and performance, the survey found that Bush has never been less popular with the American people. Currently 39 percent approve of the job he is doing as president, while 60 percent disapprove of his performance in office -- the highest level of disapproval ever recorded for Bush in Post-ABC polls. Washington Post: Bush's Popularity Reaches New Lowexternal link

...AND 37 PERCENT APPROVAL IN AP-IPSOS: President Bush's public support has eroded to its lowest level yet, with the Iraq war dragging on, a top White House aide facing felony charges and the White House rushing to replace a failed Supreme Court nominee. Concerned that the president has lost his footing, some Republicans have suggested Bush should shake up his staff. A new AP-Ipsos poll found the president's approval rating was at 37 percent, compared with 39 percent a month ago. About 59 percent of those surveyed said they disapproved. The intensity of disapproval is the strongest to date, with 42 percent now saying they "strongly disapprove" of how Bush is handling his job - twice as many as the 20 percent who said they "strongly approve." AP via Yahoo! News: Bush Public Support at Lowest Level Yetexternal link

KENNEDY WOULD BE NEW SWING VOTE: The confirmation of Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the US Supreme Court would make Justice Anthony Kennedy the court's swing vote, giving him decisive power on constitutional law governing abortion restrictions, affirmative action, campaign finance regulations, and government involvement with religion, legal scholars said. Kennedy, 69, would probably become the dominant figure on the bench, occupying the center position on a court otherwise balanced between four reliable liberals and four reliable conservatives, scholars said. As the swing vote, Kennedy would be able to pick which faction to make into a five-vote majority, essentially making his own views the law of the land. Boston Globe: With Alito, Kennedy would have pivotal roleexternal link

JUDGE PICKED IN DeLAY CASE: The judicial carousel in U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's conspiracy case almost spun out of control Thursday as the search for a judge beyond the hint of any political taint reached the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court. Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, a Republican, named Pat Priest, a retired Democratic judge from his hometown of San Antonio, to hear the case - but not before Jefferson's own multiple ties to DeLay's political operation were questioned. Jefferson waved off questions about those ties Thursday afternoon as he searched for a judge to hear the biggest political trial in Texas for this generation. Austin American-Statesman: In rapid motions, judge picked for DeLay caseexternal link

ROVE AVOIDS PROSECUTION (ON ILLEGAL VOTING): A Texas county official said Thursday he would not prosecute presidential adviser Karl Rove after investigating whether he voted illegally in the state. Kerr County Attorney Rex Emerson said he made the decision after reviewing a report from the county sheriff, who examined documents from Texas, Washington and Florida and interviewed several witnesses. "The facts indicate that Mr. and Mrs. Rove are Texans living in Washington, D.C., during Mr. Rove's service to the federal government," Emerson said in a statement. Emerson said there was no evidence of dual voting or falsified applications involving Rove, White House deputy chief of staff, and his wife, Darby. AP via Yahoo! News: Texas County Official Won't Prosecute Roveexternal link

BRINGING IN THE EX-WIFE... LOW BLOW? Gubernatorial candidate Doug Forrester aired a TV commercial that features a disparaging quotation about opponent Sen. Jon S. Corzine from Corzine's former wife. Corzine supporters Thursday questioned whether the advertisement, which aired Thursday, just five days before the election, broke a pledge by Forrester to avoid commenting on private matters. The 15-second spot displays a comment Joanne Corzine made to The New York Times for a story in Wednesday's editions in which she talked about her reaction to seeing Forrester's wife in an advertisement. "All I could think was that Jon did let his family down, and he'll probably let New Jersey down, too," she told the Times. AP via Yahoo! News: NJ TV Ad Quotes Corzine's Ex-Wifeexternal link

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