The Situation: Friday, May 12
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.
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Posted: 4:23 p.m. ET
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The Morning Grind
Posted: 11:35 a.m. ET
Pelosi has no plans for impeaching Bush
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) told colleagues and activists this week she would not pursue impeachment proceedings against President Bush should Democrats win control of the House in November.
After telling Democratic Members of her decision in a series of meetings over the past few days, she informed a small circle of party strategists and supporters in an e-mail last night.
"She is focused on Democrats' positive agenda for change," Brendan Daly, a Pelosi spokesman, wrote in the e-mail that was obtained by the Grind. "Despite Republican scare tactics, Democrats will not pursue impeachment, and she made that clear to her colleagues this week."
Jennifer Crider, a Pelosi spokeswoman, confirmed the e-mail's authenticity. "Democrats' positive agenda is about taking America in a new direction, not further the Republicans further divisive politics," she said.
In recent weeks, Democrats have become more vocal about their chances of winning back the House this year. Winning the majority would not only give them power to launch investigations into the administration but also the ability to launch impeachment proceedings against Bush for alleged abuse of power. Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) is a leading voice for this approach.
But Pelosi, who favors investigations, is distancing herself from the more draconian action of impeachment. Instead the California Democrat is promoting a "new direction for America - one that works for all Americans, not just the privileged few," according one of the talking points in the e-mail to strategists and supporters.
"During the first week we control Congress, we will put the focus on our bold initiatives to energize Americans," Daly declared in the e-mail before ticking off a number of proposals ranging from raising the minimum wage and lowering the cost of prescription drugs to implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations.
Ron Bonjean, a spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois), told the Grind Republicans are confident they will hold the majority in November and charged Pelosi was backtracking on the impeachment comment.
"The Minority Leader is giving Americans political doubletalk," he said. "She admitted last Sunday that the Democrats would investigate the President and indicated that would lead to impeachment."
While House Democrats are laying the legislative groundwork on the chance that they win in November, the current Congress is facing a handful of controversial issues. The Senate will turn its attention to stalled immigration reform legislation on Monday and seven influential Democrats are asking for another hearing on a judicial nominee.
On immigration, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) reached an agreement on how to proceed with the debate on the issue. Today, supporters of strict immigration laws roll into town for a rally on Capitol Hill. Members of the Minuteman Project gather at 11 a.m. ET in the Upper Senate Park to speak about their concerns. Members of this group are best known for staking out positions along the U.S. Mexico border and reporting the entry of illegal aliens.
Frist, Reid, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) received a letter from the Democratic members of the "Gang of 14" last night requesting another hearing on Judge Terrence Boyle. Boyle was nominated by Bush to serve on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and was reported out of committee last year.
"Since that time, new information regarding Judge Boyle has surfaced that we feel warrants a further exchange of information," the Democrats wrote the Senate leaders. "As members of the Senate who have a duty to cast a vote on judicial nominations, deliberations which are fully informed can only serve to benefit each of us in making the best possible decision on this nomination."
Back in the House, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) announced yesterday he will resign his seat on June 9. DeLay decided to step down after acknowledging it would be difficult for him to win another term as he battles charges that he broke Texas campaign finance laws and is frequently mentioned -- but not charged -- in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Before informing House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) of his decision, DeLay appeared at a Space Transportation Association Breakfast, CNN's Xuan Thai reports. DeLay spoke exclusively about space an indication that he hopes part of his legacy in the NASA district he represented for 11 terms was his commitment to space.
"When I leave Congress this summer I will leave with the space program in a stronger position than it has enjoyed for years," DeLay said. He also praised Bush for his commitment to space exploration.
This morning, Bush met with former secretaries of State and Defense at 9:45 a.m. ET. At 1:55 p.m. ET, the President speaks at the "Celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage Month and Presentation of the President's Volunteer Service Awards. This afternoon, Bush heads to Camp David.
A glance at the schedules for potential 2008 presidential candidates shows that Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) delivers his much anticipated commencement address at Liberty University tomorrow; Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia) attends several events throughout his state this weekend; Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney attends a business luncheon and then a political dinner in Michigan today; Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) attends his campaign training school in Evansville this weekend; retired Gen. Wesley Clark (D) is in Iowa stumping for Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) today; and former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina) attends a reception in New Hampshire for state Sen. Joe Foster (D) today and delivers the commencement address at the University of Maine tomorrow.
Edwards won a non-scientific online survey of potential 2008 Democratic candidates released by the South Carolina Democratic Leadership Council last night. He received 24 percent of the vote followed by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York), 18 percent. Former Vice President Al Gore and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack tied for third each with 9 percent of the vote.
"It is really not particularly unprecedented in that Edwards carried South Carolina in the 2004 primary," Phil Noble, director of the South Carolina Democratic Leadership Council, told the Grind. "He is still popular here. Not to say that others aren't and it could not all radically change very quickly once the campaign becomes serious, and it will. It is just an interesting first look, if you will, among a non scientific group of South Carolinians."
In Illinois, the race for governor is likely to get a little more crowded soon. So far, the race has been a low-key battle between a liberal Democrat and liberal Republican. Both are trying to avoid any connection with Pat Fitzgerald's corruption-fighting steam-roller. But now a potential third-party candidate, an African-American leader of a 10,000-seat mega church on Chicago's South Side, threatens to turn the race on its' head, CNN's Fuzz Hogan reports from Chicago. While Rev. James Meeks, who leads the Salem Baptist Church, has been a strong advocate for tax increases to help Chicago's struggling schools, he also would be the only major candidate to oppose both abortion and same sex marriage.
Meeks, a state Senator, tells CNN he will announce a slate of Independent candidates for statewide office next Saturday. He is laying the groundwork to launch his own gubernatorial bid.
"I've never seen a gubernatorial race where it seemed as if the core of both parties were not happy with their candidate or their choice," Meeks told CNN. "Seventy-five percent of the people stayed home during the primary, which means that neither party was able to interest people."
Meeks said he has put off an announcement until he could be sure he could win, and not just be a spoiler. He claims his own internal polling shows he would take votes away from Republican State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka as well as Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). Meeks said the polls shows Blagojevich is ahead in a two-way race, 47 percent to 40 percent. Once Meeks is added to the mix, he has equal impact, taking away 6 percentage points each from Blagojevich and Topinka. But, after the respondents were asked several 'push' questions, which reinforced Meeks' religious affiliation and his position on opposing abortion and same sex marriage, he took four more percentage points from Blagojevich and 9 from Topinka, leaving the race: Blagojevich-37; Topinka-25; Meeks-25. Thirteen percent of the respondents were undecided in any scenario, he said.
Meeks' entry would represent a problem for Blagojevich, whose advisers had been trying to convince Meeks to stay out of the race. But if Meeks' polling is correct -- and we don't know if it is -- it represents an equally troubling scenario for Topinka. This, on top of the fact that each candidate has been wounded by corruption investigations by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Former Gov. George Ryan (R) was convicted on corruption charges earlier this year, an embarrassment for Topinka, who was politically close to Ryan. Primary opponents used video of Topinka and Ryan dancing the polka. Fitzgerald also has ongoing investigations into the Blagojevich administration.
Next week's announcement is only the creation of the third party. Asked why he's not simply announcing his own gubernatorial candidacy, Meeks, said he wanted to ensure he got the required petition signatures to create the party and survive any petition challenges. But, he added, "we wouldn't be wasting our time" with this process if he didn't intend to run.
And we are sad to report that former U.S. Rep. Gillespie V. "Sonny" Montgomery (D-Mississippi), a decorated military veteran who successfully fought for more benefits for U.S. soldiers, died Friday morning. He was 85.
Grind Extra - Mother's Day Edition
Posted 11:35 a.m. ET
Some politicians give birth to political movements; others actually give birth. In honor of Mothers' Day this Sunday, the Grind would like to pay special tribute to that special breed of elected official who actually have added to their families while serving the people who elected them. We offer our first-ever Mothers' Day Quiz:
1) Who was the first member of Congress to give birth while in office?
2) Name the three senators or representatives who gave birth during the 104th Congress.
3) Who was the only governor to have given birth while in office?
4) Name two elected officials who have given birth to twins while in office.
5) Name a sitting female senator who adopted two children in 2001.
Submit your answers to email@example.com. The Grind reader with the most correct answers will win a very coveted collector's edition hard-cover CNN Reporter's Notebook from the 2004 presidential campaign. In the event of a tie, the prize will go to whichever entry was received in our inbox first. Time Warner employees, their family members, Ted Turner, and members of the Atlanta Thrashers hockey team are welcome to play, but ineligible for the prize. The winner will be announced in Tuesday's Grind. Google if you must, but you're only cheating yourself. Good luck and Happy Mothers' Day!
Political Hot Topics
Posted: 11:35 a.m. ET
ONE JUROR KEPT MOUSSAOUI FROM DEATH: Only one juror stood between the death penalty and Zacarias Moussaoui and that juror frustrated his colleagues because he never explained his vote, according to the foreman of the jury that sentenced the al-Qaeda operative to life in prison last week. The foreman, a Northern Virginia math teacher, said in an interview that the panel voted 11 to 1, 10 to 2 and 10 to 2 in favor of the death penalty on three terrorism charges for which Moussaoui was eligible for execution. A unanimous vote on any one of them would have resulted in a death sentence. Washington Post: One Juror Between Terrorist And Death
CONGRESS WANTS HEARINGS ON CALL DATABASE: A report on extensive government collection of Americans' telephone data roiled Congress yesterday, with many Republicans rallying to the president's defense while one key GOP chairman and many Democrats called for hearings, new restrictions and the possible subpoenaing of telephone company executives. The report, published in USA Today, heaped fuel on an already simmering debate over privacy rights versus anti-terrorism tactics. It threatened to complicate White House efforts to win Senate confirmation of Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden as CIA director. Washington Post: Lawmakers Call for Hearings
PRESIDENT RESPONDS TO REPORT: President Bush assured Americans that their privacy is "fiercely protected." "We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans," Mr. Bush said before leaving for a commencement address in Mississippi. "Our efforts are focused on links to Al Qaeda and their known affiliates."... Mr. Bush did not directly confirm or deny the existence of the N.S.A. operation but said that "as a general matter every time sensitive intelligence is leaked it hurts our ability to defeat this enemy." Seeking to distinguish call-tracing operations from eavesdropping, the president said that "the government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval." New York Times: Bush Is Pressed Over New Report on Surveillance
IS NSA DATA GATHERING LEGAL? The U.S. government's secret collection of Americans' phone records may not breach the Fourth Amendment's privacy guarantee, legal analysts said Thursday, but it could violate federal surveillance and telecommunication laws. More broadly, USA TODAY's report about the National Security Agency's deal with three major phone companies fed a debate over whether the Bush administration is going too far -- and setting dangerous precedents -- in trying to protect the nation from terrorism. "This may well be another example where the Bush administration, in secret, decided to bypass the courts and contravene federal law," said Georgetown University law professor David Cole. USA Today: Gathering data may not violate privacy rights, but it could be illegal
"IMPEACHMENT IS OFF THE TABLE": Seeking to choke off a Republican rallying cry, the House's top Democrat has told colleagues that the party will not seek to impeach President Bush even if it gains control of the House in November's elections, her office said last night. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) told her caucus members during their weekly closed meeting Wednesday "that impeachment is off the table; she is not interested in pursuing it," spokesman Brendan Daly said. Some House Democrats, including ranking Judiciary Committee member John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, have called for impeachment hearings into allegations that Bush misled the nation about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction and that he violated federal law by approving warrantless wiretaps on Americans. Washington Post: Democrats Won't Try To Impeach President
SENATE PASSES $70 BILLION TAX CUTS: The Senate voted 54 to 44 on Thursday to pass almost $70 billion in tax cuts, mostly for the nation's wealthiest taxpayers. The action ensures that virtually all of President Bush's tax cuts will be locked in place until after the next presidential election. The measure, which the House passed Wednesday, would extend Mr. Bush's tax cuts on stock dividends and capital gains by two years, until 2010, and shield about 15 million taxpayers for one year from an increase in the alternative minimum tax. The vote, largely along party lines, was a significant victory for Mr. Bush and beleaguered Republican leaders, who had viewed the tax cuts on stock market profits as a defining party issue and had credited them with jump-starting economic growth and reducing unemployment over the last three years. New York Times: Senate Approves 2-Year Extension of Bush Tax Cuts
SENATE AGREEMENT ON IMMIGRATION: Senate leaders reached an agreement yesterday on immigration reform legislation that would strengthen border security but also would allow millions of illegal aliens who have been in the U.S. for two years or longer to apply for citizenship. Derided by conservatives as "amnesty," the proposal could be amended but senators on both sides of the aisle say they doubt it will be dramatically altered... While yesterday's agreement will unstick the Senate bill, high hurdles remain in the House, which last year approved a much tougher bill that dealt only with strengthening the border and enforcing the federal immigration laws already on the books. Washington Times: Senators agree on 'amnesty' proposal
BOEHNER "RIDICULES" SENATE REPUBLICANS: House Majority Leader John Boehner dismisses recent legislative proposals on energy, immigration and spending as "stupid," "insulting" and "dead on arrival." Boehner's scorn isn't directed at his usual target, the Democrats: The proposals drawing the Ohio Republican's contempt come from members of his own party in the Senate. The harsh words reflect growing tension between House and Senate Republicans, a divide that may complicate efforts to strike compromises on legislation and retain the party's control of the House in the November elections. Bloomberg: Boehner Ridicules Senate Republicans as Party Tensions Rise
DeLAY WILL DEPART JUNE 9: Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) informed Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) Thursday afternoon that he will resign from the chamber on June 9, marking the end of a tumultuous 21-year career in Congress. "It has been a great privilege, a high honor, and one of my most treasured personal pleasures to have served with you and our colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives for more than twenty-one years," DeLay wrote to Hastert. "You have been a stellar example for our nation of personal courage and steadfast conviction, and I thank you for your leadership of this great institution as well as for your personal friendship. Roll Call: DeLay to Depart House on June 9
LEWIS DENIES REPORT HE'S UNDER INVESTIGATION: House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis yesterday insisted he has no knowledge of a Justice Department investigation into his ethical conduct and denied any wrongdoing as Capitol Hill was rife with rumors surrounding the California Republican. Mr. Lewis was responding to a Los Angeles Times report that federal prosecutors are examining his ties with a lobbyist and disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, another California Republican. The newspaper reported that subpoenas regarding Mr. Lewis were issued as part of the investigation into Cunningham, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion and to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. Cunningham, who served on the budget-writing appropriations panel, was sentenced to more than eight years in prison. "I have never, under any circumstances, told or suggested to someone seeking federal dollars for a project that they would receive favorable treatment by making campaign donations," Mr. Lewis said. He said he has not been contacted regarding any investigation. Washington Times: Lewis denies report on ethics probe
KY GOV FLETCHER INDICTED: Gov. Ernie Fletcher was indicted yesterday on three misdemeanor counts alleging that he directed an illegal conspiracy to place his political allies in state jobs at the expense of those who might oppose him. He is the first Republican governor since 1971 and the first of either party in Kentucky to be indicted. He entered office in 2003 on a pledge to cut "waste, fraud and abuse" in state government. The indictments charge Fletcher with one count each of criminal conspiracy, first-degree official misconduct and violating the prohibition against political discrimination. The official misconduct charge carries a penalty of up to 12 months in jail and a $500 fine. Louisville Courier-Journal: Fletcher angered by indictment
DEAN MISSTATES DEM LINE ON GAY MARRIAGE: Democratic chairman Howard Dean mischaracterized his party's platform on gay rights in an interview courting evangelicals, then set the record straight Thursday when an advocacy group called him on it. Dean told Christian Broadcasting Network News that the 2004 Democratic platform declares "marriage is between a man and a woman" -- just one of the points he made in reaching out to religious conservatives who are largely hostile to the party. But the platform does not define marriage that way, and his remarks prompted the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to return a $5,000 donation from the Democratic National Committee. Dean later acknowledged his misstatement, but the group sent back the money anyway. "We need for Governor Dean to demonstrate real leadership on our issues," executive director Matt Foreman said in an interview, "not to equivocate depending on the audience." AP via Yahoo! News: Dean Misstates Party Platform on Gays
"THE WIND HAS BEEN IN OUR FACES..." Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), the former Cabinet secretary and presidential candidate, has been chosen by her colleagues to head their efforts to keep the Senate in Republican hands against these forces and in spite of unease from fellow Republicans about whether she can overcome the obstacles thrown in her way. "No question, the wind has been in our faces for many months," said Dole, in a rare admission that the political landscape is far from perfect. Republicans have criticized the National Republican Senatorial Committee that Dole leads for recruiting disappointments, fundraising that has lagged behind the Democrats and an unsuccessful effort to push Katherine Harris, the Republican candidate for Senate, out of the Florida race. Chicago Tribune: Dole flies into political head wind
KINKY SUBMITS SIGNATURES: The politically improbable flipped to would-you-looky possible Thursday as author-singer-songwriter Kinky Friedman gave the state what his campaign said were nearly four times the voter signatures needed for him to land on the fall ballot for governor. Friedman, making his first try for office since a losing 1986 bid for Kerr County justice of the peace, tallied 169,574 signatures on petitions packed in 11 boxes. He noted that pundits never expected him to rally voter interest, conceding: "I was reserving my judgment." Friedman is not a balloted candidate yet. The Texas secretary of state's office expects to take five to six weeks to validate petitions. Austin American-Statesman: Texas possibly closer to Kinky for governor bid
NY AG CANDIDATE GIVES UP POLITICS AND A KIDNEY FOR HIS DAUGHTER: Assemblyman Richard Brodsky was on the floor of the Legislature four days ago when he got a call telling him his daughter would need a kidney urgently. Yesterday, the Westchester lawmaker ended his bid for higher office in favor of a higher calling - donating a kidney to his 14-year-old girl, Willie. "Life is full of wonderful opportunities, challenges to be met, things to be enjoyed, and occasions for service to community or family," Brodsky, 60, said after word came he would leave the race for state attorney general. "I'm now exchanging one extraordinary opportunity for another." New York Post: A Father First
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