The Situation: Friday, April 7
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.
DHS official resigns
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Posted 7:38 p.m. ET
Brian Doyle, the Homeland Security spokesman charged with soliciting a minor via the Internet, resigned Friday as more details came to light about an alleged previous workplace incident involving pornography.
Doyle, who turned 56 Friday, remains in a Montgomery County, Md., detention center awaiting extradition to Polk County, Fla., where he is charged with seven counts of solicitation of a minor and 16 counts of transmitting pornographic material to a minor.
CNN has learned disciplinary action was taken against Doyle at a previous job with Time Magazine's Washington bureau, after he allegedly used company computers to view pornography. Several friends and former co-workers said the company suspended him, though one knowledgeable source said Doyle took a leave of absence. He was given a formal warning and was required to undergo mental health counseling as a condition of returning to work, the sources said.
The pornography in the Time incident did not involve juveniles, the sources said.
Time Magazine's internal investigation began when an employee complained of finding offensive pictures on her office computer, the sources said. The activity was traced to Doyle, they said, at which time the complaint was dropped and colleagues signed a petition in support of Doyle.
Time Magazine refused to comment other than to confirm Doyle was employed there for 26 years.
After taking a buy-out in 2001 along with many other AOL Time Warner employees, Doyle worked at the Transportation Security Administration before moving the the Department of Homeland Security, where he served as deputy press secretary.
Doyle's attorney, Barry Helfand, told CNN Friday he is seeking to have Doyle undergo a psychiatric examination. Helfand earlier described Doyle as being "very, very depressed" and said he was affected by the deaths of his parents and two siblings.
The Morning Grind
Posted: 10:05 a.m. ET
RX political fight
The state of the economy and the Iraq War will be the top two issues for voters in the midterm elections, but both parties will also be talking about the new Medicare prescription drug plan over the April recess.
The primary target audience is seniors, a coveted voting bloc that traditionally turns out for both the midterm and presidential elections.
With a May 15 deadline to sign up for the plan looming, GOP leaders have armed rank-and-file Republicans with talking points to promote the program and House Republicans have scheduled more than 200 sign up events during the April recess.
"What we're urging all seniors to do is to sign up and sign up now for this important benefit," House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said. "And there are lots of choices out there, which does make it difficult, but those choices are helping to drive down the premiums cost for these plans, much lower than anything that we anticipated."
Democrats charge that the program is confusing, benefits the pharmaceutical companies and they pledge to change it if they win the majority in November. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said her colleagues will be using the time back in their districts to whip up support to pressure President Bush to move the deadline for signing up back to December.
"Our members will ... be addressing the countdown to May 15 when President Bush's prescription drug tax will be placed upon seniors who do not sign up for the prescription drug bill," Pelosi said. "We have a bill that is very complex in its nature. Because it is complex, some people have not been able to find the right program initiative to sign up for."
A review of early campaign television commercials shows that prescription drugs will be one of the main issues Democrats highlight in the run-up to the November elections. So far, about $2.8 million has been spent on television ads that are either dedicated to or make mention of the prescription drug issue, according to TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group, CNN's consultant on television advertising spending.
Incumbents such as Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin) as well as Democratic House candidates Francine Busby in California and Steve Kagen in Wisconsin have discussed the issue in their campaign commercials. And Evan Tracey, TNSMI/CMAG's chief operating officer, predicts spending will increase as we draw closer to November.
"Significant spending behind this issue shows me that a lot of polling and focus grouping so far shows this message may be effective in 2006," Tracey said. "Expect to see millions of dollars spent on this issue in the coming months."
Stuart Rothenberg, publisher of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, said Democrats believe they can benefit politically on the confusion and "portray Republicans as more interested in big business than the little guy.
"Let's face it, the drug companies have already been demonized," said Rothenberg, who also writes a column for Roll Call. "So linking them to office holders and candidates is a good way to undermine their appeal."
In addition to the prescription drug issue, Democrats will also be highlighting their recently unveiled homeland security plan as well as their energy strategy, while Republicans will be talking about the economy, the war on terror and GOP healthcare initiatives, according to copies of each party's talking points provided to the Grind. National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (New York) holds a 10:30 a.m. ET press conference on the midterms at NRCC headquarters.
A handful of Senators will also be using the recess to visit key states as they each weigh possible presidential bids in 2008. A review of travel schedules shows that Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) will be visiting New Hampshire, Florida, Arkansas, Ohio, Minnesota and Iowa over the next week. Tomorrow, Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia) addresses the South Carolina Republican Convention, while Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) delivers the keynote speech at the Michigan Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) speaks at Brown University in Rhode Island. On Monday, Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) tours Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-California) district. Joining the Senators on the 2008 campaign trail over the next week include former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina), Georgia and Iowa; Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), Michigan; former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D), Missouri; and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia), South Dakota and New Hampshire.
McCain, one of the early favorites for his party's nomination, continues to receive criticism for his decision to embrace former arch enemy, Rev. Jerry Falwell. McCain, who is scheduled to deliver the commencement address at Falwell's Liberty University next month, has brushed it off by saying he holds no grudges. And this appears to be paying off. Falwell tells CNN's John King that he thinks McCain is the Republican Party's best shot at keeping the White House in 2008.
"For those of us social conservatives, he is at this moment, by far, the strongest candidate we could field against Hillary Clinton," Falwell said. And King notes that Falwell has offered to help McCain build a bridge back to conservative groups that did not support him in the 2000 presidential contest.
The close of summer 2008 will be busy time for the media as both presidential nominating conventions will be separated by a mere few days. The Republican National Committee announced yesterday that their convention will be held Sept. 1 through Sept. 4. The Democratic National Committee previously announced their convention would run from August 25 through August 28. It is rare, but not the first time the Democratic and Republican conventions were held back-to-back, CNN's Robert Yoon reports. The most recent example was in 1956 and it also occurred in 1916 and 1912.
President Bush addressed the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast this morning, and in a last minute addition to his schedule, he will speak about the economy and the release of the employment report at about 9:40 a.m. ET. Bush then holds an on-the-record, but off-camera briefing with financial reporters. CNN's Steve Redisch notes that the administration's economic team will hold 21 events throughout the country today to talk up the economy.
And as of this morning the Senate remains deadlocked on immigration reform legislation that could force Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) to shelve the bill until after the Senate returns from its April recess.
Political Hot Topics
Posted: 10:05 a.m. ET
BUSH AUTHORIZED LEAK, SAYS FITZ FILING: President Bush authorized White House official I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to disclose highly sensitive intelligence information to the news media in an attempt to discredit a CIA adviser whose views undermined the rationale for the invasion of Iraq, according to a federal prosecutor's account of Libby's testimony to a grand jury. The court filing by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald for the first time places Bush and Vice President Cheney at the heart of what Libby testified was an exceptional and deliberate leak of material designed to buttress the administration's claim that Iraq was trying to obtain nuclear weapons. The information was contained in the National Intelligence Estimate, one of the most closely held CIA analyses of whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the war. Washington Post: Bush Authorized Secrets' Release, Libby Testified
"NEW CRITICISM" ON ISSUE THAT HAS "WEAKENED HIM POLITICALLY": A former aide's testimony that President George W. Bush approved selective leaks of classified information to rebut Iraq war critics has triggered new criticism of Bush on an issue that already has weakened him politically. While Bush doesn't face legal jeopardy from the statements of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, as outlined in court documents filed in the Central Intelligence Agency leak investigation, Democrats and other critics quickly seized on the testimony as evidence that Bush hasn't told the public the full truth. "The American people deserve the truth," Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, said at a news conference yesterday at the Capitol... Even some Republicans said they were concerned about the effect of the new disclosures. "Those that believe this is a huge story now have a reason to believe it is an even huger story," said David Frum, a former speechwriter for the president. Bloomberg: Bush's Role in Iraq Arms Intelligence Leak Sparks New Criticism
NEW LOW IN AP-IPSOS: President Bush's approval ratings hit a series of new lows in an AP-Ipsos poll that also shows Republicans surrendering their advantage on national security -- grim election-year news for a party struggling to stay in power... Just 36 percent of the public approves of Bush's job performance, his lowest-ever rating in AP-Ipsos polling. By contrast, the president's job approval rating was 47 percent among likely voters just before Election Day 2004 and a whopping 64 percent among registered voters in October 2002. As bad as Bush's numbers may be, Congress' are worse. Just 30 percent of the public approves of the GOP-led Congress' job performance, and Republicans seem to be shouldering the blame. AP via Yahoo! News: Bush, GOP Approval Ratings Find New Lows
SENATE IMMIGRATION DEAL "MIGHT UNRAVEL" OVER RECESS: Senate leaders reached agreement Thursday on a broad, bipartisan compromise that would put the vast majority of the nation's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship, but its prospects for passage grew more uncertain as Republicans and Democrats clashed late into the night over parliamentary procedure. Both sides said that without a quick resolution of the differences they would not have a vote on the final legislation before Congress leaves for its spring recess on Friday, raising the possibility that the painstakingly negotiated compromise might unravel as it is exposed to intense political scrutiny during the two-week Congressional break. New York Times: Senate Deal on Immigration Falters
WIRETAPS WITHIN U.S.? Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales suggested on Thursday for the first time that the president might have the legal authority to order wiretapping without a warrant on communications between Americans that occur exclusively within the United States. "I'm not going to rule it out," Mr. Gonzales said when asked about that possibility at a House Judiciary Committee hearing. The attorney general made his comments, which critics said reflected a broadened view of the president's authority, as President Bush offered another strong defense of his decision to authorize the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without warrants on international calls and e-mail messages to or from the United States. New York Times: Gonzales Suggests Legal Basis for Domestic Eavesdropping
MD BECOMES 5TH STATE TO APPROVE STEM CELL FUNDING: A growing number of states are creating programs to aid human embryonic stem cell research in the absence of congressional support for the promising but controversial work. Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich, a Republican, signed a bill Thursday to spend $15 million for stem cell research. Maryland is the fifth state since 2004 to approve spending taxpayer money on such research. California, Connecticut, Illinois and New Jersey also have approved state-funded research programs. At least four other states are debating bills or ballot initiatives to promote stem cell research, says Alissa Johnson of the National Conference of State Legislatures... The efforts aim to get around President Bush's policy that allows federal funding for research only on stem cell lines that existed on Aug. 9, 2001. USA Today: States stepping in to underwrite stem cell science
GIULIANI SPEAKS AT AL QAEDA TRIAL: Former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani yesterday told the jury in al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui's death-penalty trial that the memory of people jumping from the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001, "comes to me every day." "I saw several people -- I can't remember how many -- jumping. There were two people right near each other. It appeared to me they were holding hands," Mr. Giuliani said during the second phase of the penalty trial... His emotional testimony was followed by that of retired New York firefighter Anthony Sanseviro, whose co-worker and friend Danny Suhr died after he was hit by a body falling from one of the towers. Washington Times: Giuliani testifies to Moussaoui jurors
TIME TO RENEW VOTING RIGHTS ACT: Legislation to renew three provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act is expected to be introduced sometime this month, prompting debate across the nation as some conservatives and elected officials argue the sections are outdated and unfair. Set to expire next year are requirements that certain states and counties, including four in California, clear any changes to their election process with federal authorities and have federal observers present if there is evidence voters have been intimidated. Also expiring is a requirement that any county with a significant non-English-speaking population provide bilingual ballots. Other sections of the 1965 act that ban literacy tests and other practices that can be discriminatory will not expire. San Francisco Chronicle: Campaigns begin on Voting Rights Act
BIRD FLU IN BRITAIN: Tests are being carried out on more birds after Britain's first case of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu was found in a dead swan in Scotland. Scottish rural affairs minister Ross Finnie said they were dealing with the case in "proportion" and did not want to "turn a drama into a crisis". Experts are warning the swan is unlikely to prove an isolated case. Surveillance zones are being enforced around Cellardyke, Fife, where the dead swan was found eight days ago. Mr Finnie told a press conference: "One thing we are trying very hard to do, to borrow that insurance phrase, is 'not turn a drama into a crisis'." He also said Scotland's First Minister Jack McConnell would continue a visit to New York rather than returning in "haste". BBC: More birds tested for deadly flu
McKINNEY APOLOGIZES: Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.), long a lightning rod for Republican attacks, yielded to pressure from her party's colleagues yesterday and apologized to the House for her role in an altercation with a Capitol Police officer. Flanked by several fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus and a few white colleagues in the House chamber, McKinney tried to put the March 29 episode behind her even as a grand jury began reviewing allegations that she hit the officer in the chest with her cellphone. She said she wanted to "express again my sincere regret... There should not have been any physical contact... I am sorry that this misunderstanding happened at all, and I regret its escalation. And I apologize." Washington Post: McKinney Apologizes Over Scuffle With Officer
TX-22 WILL BE OPEN UNTIL NOVEMBER: Gov. Rick Perry said Thursday that he will be in no hurry to call a special election to replace U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, who this week announced his intention to quit Congress in June and have his name removed as the Republican nominee on the November ballot for the Sugar Land district. Perry, also a Republican, said he does not have power to call a special election until he is formally notified that DeLay has vacated his post. So unless the 11-term lawmaker accelerates his timetable, residents of the 22nd Congressional District will likely go without representation in Washington for the remainder of the year. "If I don't get [DeLay's resignation] by close of business tomorrow, the election will be in November," Perry told reporters outside the Governor's Mansion. Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Perry sees no need to call election
JEB'S REMARKS WON'T GET HER DOWN: U.S. Senate candidate Katherine Harris, trying to reinvigorate her sagging campaign with a new staff and $3 million, refused Thursday to get bogged down by more bad news. Less than four hours after Gov. Jeb Bush said he had "concerns" about her bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, Harris issued an upbeat retort. Then reporters began asking about alleged campaign-finance violations by her assistant treasurer in a previous race. So she sacked him... But Bush's remarks shows Harris still needs to win over leaders of her own party. Bush, who last summer encouraged state House Speaker Allan Bense to run, suggested that he feels a responsibility as the state's top elected Republican. "I am the party leader," the governor told reporters. "I've got concerns. A campaign can't be about her, it's got to be about Bill Nelson and the future of our state... I gave her that exact advice and it's gotten worse since." Miami Herald: Harris puts own spin on governor's doubts
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