The Situation: Tuesday, November 22
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 4 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. ET to 8 p.m. ET weekdays.
The Morning Grind
Michael Scanlon is expected to testify against fellow lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
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Posted: 9:13 a.m. ET
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) will ask a Texas judge today to dismiss charges he violated state campaign finance laws.
DeLay's lawyers will argue the alleged crimes were not illegal in Texas at the time. DeLay and two of his political associates are accused of breaking state campaign finance law by funneling $190,000 in corporate contributions to candidates. DeLay is seeking a speedy trial and an acquittal of the charges would allow him to resume his role as the second highest ranking Republican in the House.
DeLay's appearance in court comes 24 hours after one of his former aides appeared in a Washington courtroom to plead guilty to corruptly influencing public officials and cheating former clients. Michael Scanlon's plea agreement is expected to help the federal government as it builds a case against lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Abramoff and Scanlon allegedly defrauded several Indian tribes they were representing and also bribed public officials to achieve their goals.
Federal prosecutors accused Scanlon in court papers of conspiring to "corruptly offer and provide things of value, including money, meals, trips and entertainment, to federal public officials in return for agreements to perform official acts" benefiting Scanlon and a person identified in the court documents only as "Lobbyist A," CNN's Terry Frieden reports. One government official told CNN that Lobbyist A is Abramoff, who has not been charged in connection with the probe.
Scanlon has been cooperating with federal prosecutors for five months and he has agreed to repay $19.7 million in restitution to his former clients. The one-time DeLay aide acknowledged in court the tribes were not told that $19 million of the $80 million Abramoff and Scanlon billed them went to hidden kickbacks.
Court papers also detailed a "stream of things of value" given to an unnamed congressman, identified in the court documents as Representative No. 1 -- a "lavish" trip to Scotland to play golf, tickets to sporting events, campaign contributions to the representative and his political action committee -- all in exchange for a series of actions by that representative. The Justice Department would not identify which congressman is the one mentioned. But government sources said the unidentified lawmaker is Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House Administration Committee. Brian Walsh, Ney's spokesman, released a statement yesterday denying any wrongdoing.
"Any allegation that Representative Ney did anything illegal or improper is false," Walsh said. "This plea agreement mentions a number of unsubstantiated allegations, but in fact, many of the things suggested to have occurred did not actually take place. Whenever Representative Ney took official action, actions similar to those taken by elected representatives every day as part of the normal, appropriate government process, he did so based on his best understanding of what was right and not based on any improper influence.
"All that this plea agreement shows is that Mr. Scanlon had a deliberate, secret, and well-concealed scheme to defraud many people, and it appears, unfortunately, that Representative Ney was one of the many people defrauded," Walsh added.
Scanlon could face up to five years in prison, but prosecutor Mary Butler said the government wants to determine Scanlon's degree of cooperation before sentencing.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) joins a growing list of Democrats and Republicans to offer assessments on Iraq in a major policy address. Obama will appear before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations at 1 p.m. CT to discuss "Moving Forward on Iraq." Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware) told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York yesterday that he believes the U.S. should gradually remove its troops from Iraq.
The debate over Iraq reached a boiling point between the two political parties last week after Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq over a six-month period. While Murtha's proposal drew scorn from the White House and several of his GOP colleagues, the Pennsylvania Democrat has received a much more favorable reception back home. The combination of a distinguished military career and an ability to deliver federal dollars to his western Pennsylvania district is shielding Murtha from critics.
Even a Republican official in Murtha's district told the Grind that he believes Murtha would easily win reelection next year.
"I think Jack is a good guy," said Robert Gleason, chairman of the Cambria County Republican Committee. "He has helped our community. He has been the king of appropriations. He has gotten a lot of great things here. This town would be a ghost town without him."
Still, Gleason said not all of Murtha's constituents are happy with the Congressman's comments. "To a man, the (people) I have spoken to are pretty upset about it," said Gleason.
The nation's capital will get into the holiday spirit today when President Bush spares a very lucky turkey with an official pardon. The Grind, too, will follow suit returning to its regular publication schedule next week. Happy Thanksgiving!
Political Hot Topics
Posted: 9:13 a.m. ET
SCANLON PLEADS GUILTY: A onetime congressional staffer who became a top partner to lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiring to bribe a congressman and other public officials and agreed to pay back more than $19 million he fraudulently charged Indian tribal clients. The plea agreement between prosecutors and Michael Scanlon, a former press secretary to then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), provided fresh detail about the alleged bribes. The document also indicated the nature of testimony Scanlon is prepared to offer against a congressman it calls "Representative #1" -- who has been identified by attorneys in the case as Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio). Washington Post: Abramoff Partner Pleads Guilty
NEY ON HOT SEAT: Documents released as part of Michael Scanlon's plea agreement in U.S. District Court revealed new details of trips, tickets to concerts and sporting events and campaign contributions that were allegedly provided to Ney and his staffers "in exchange for a series of official acts and influence." Ney's office denies that improprieties occurred and says many of the actions detailed in Scanlon's plea agreement never took place. The congressman has been subpoenaed by federal investigators and has started a legal defense fund. "All that this plea agreement shows is that Mr. Scanlon had a deliberate, secret and well-concealed scheme to defraud many people, and it appears, unfortunately, that Rep. Ney was one of the many people defrauded," said Ney spokesman Brian Walsh. Cleveland Plain Dealer: Corruption guilty plea raises heat for Ney
DeLAY BACK IN COURT: For the first time, U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay will appear with his co-defendants in court today to try to beat the conspiracy charges against him without a trial. The stakes are high for everyone involved: DeLay, R-Sugar Land, needs a quick knockout to keep alive any hope of reclaiming his post as majority leader in the House, where some Republicans are jockeying to replace him permanently in January. DeLay's co-defendants, John Colyandro of Austin and Jim Ellis of Washington, are hoping that getting the conspiracy charges dismissed would undermine other felony charges brought against them. Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle is trying to prevent the embarrassment of failing to successfully prosecute another national political figure. Austin American-Statesman: Much at stake in DeLay hearing Tuesday
"REVISIONISM OF THE MOST CORRUPT AND SHAMELESS VARIETY": Vice President Dick Cheney stepped up the White House attacks on critics of the Iraq war on Monday, declaring that politicians who say Americans were sent into battle based on a lie are engaging in "revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety." In remarks delivered at the American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Cheney briefly said he considered debate over the war healthy, and he echoed President Bush's recent praise of Representative John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has called for an early withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, as "a good man, a marine, a patriot." But the vice president quickly made clear that after a week of criticism of Mr. Bush on Capitol Hill, the White House would not relent in its campaign against critics of the war and those who say the administration manipulated the intelligence that led to it. New York Times: Cheney Sees 'Shameless' Revisionism on War
SWANN CONSIDERS PA GOV BID: Former Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swann told a crowd of business leaders, lobbyists and journalists Monday that Pennsylvania would be a better place if he were governor, but said he has not yet declared his candidacy and eluded some questions the way he once dodged tacklers. "I am still in the process of exploring" a candidacy, Swann said when asked about his political status at a downtown Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon. "But some people say if it walks like a swan, looks like a swan..." Swann has been raising money for a prospective campaign since he formed a political committee in February. Independent polls show him running neck-and-neck with former Lt. Gov. William Scranton III and ahead of two other prospective candidates for the 2006 Republican nomination, but trailing first-term Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell by more than 10 percentage points. AP via Yahoo! News: Swann Explores Running for PA Governor
TEEN MAYOR SWORN IN: Hillsdale now has a new leader. Eighteen-year-old Mayor Michael Sessions held his inaugural rally Monday night with his high school marching band following him through downtown and eventually to city hall. Hundreds gathered to cheer on their young mayor as he thanked everyone who helped him win the election as a write-in candidate defeating former mayor Douglas Ingles by just two votes. Around 8 p.m., the city council meeting started and soon after Sessions was sworn in as mayor to become one of just three teen mayors in the entire country. As hundreds of people including dozens of cameras from around the world looked on, Sessions led his first city council meeting. WTOL: 18-Year-Old Mayor Sworn In
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