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Wednesday, March 07, 2007
CNN Political Ticker AM
For the latest, breaking political news, check for updates throughout the day on the CNN Political Ticker. All politics, all the time.

Compiled by Stephen Bach
CNN Washington Bureau

Making news today...


  • "A question occupied the jurors in the trial of Lewis 'Scooter' Libby as they sat through 14 days of testimony and deliberated for 10 more days: Why is Libby the only person on trial?" (USA Today)

    "In legal terms, the jury has spoken in the Libby case. In political terms, Dick Cheney is still awaiting a judgment." (New York Times)

    The conviction "capped a four-year, politically charged investigation but did not seal Libby's fate or resolve some of the lingering questions in the CIA leak case." (AP)

    It also " shatters George W. Bush's 2000 campaign vow to 'uphold the honor and the integrity' of the presidency and intensifies his second-term political woes." (Bloomberg)

    "FREE SCOOTER!" (New York Post front page headline)

  • "A Democratic probe into the firings of eight U.S. attorneys implicated yesterday a senior staffer for Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), the third GOP congressional office to become caught in the quickly escalating controversy in as many days." (The Hill)

  • Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) campaign "is mounting a stealth effort to change Republican presidential nomination rules in California to allow independents to vote in the Feb. 5 primary... The impact could be huge -- and potentially damaging to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney." (Washington Times)

  • It was his "second public mea culpa in two weeks over politically sensitive errors in judgment," the Boston Globe reports. What's getting new MA Gov. Deval Patrick into trouble now? Find out in Hot Topics below!

    President's Schedule:

  • The President meets with Bob Dole and Donna Shalala, the co-chairs of the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors, 10 am ET in the Oval Office.

    SPECIAL NOTE: President Bush will give a preview of tomorrow's trip to Latin America when he sits down with CNN en Espanol's Juan Carlos Lopez at 11:45 am ET to tape an interview in the Map Room.

    At 1:35 pm ET, POTUS and FLOTUS go to DAR Constitution Hall, where the president will speak to political appointees and government employees.

    Also on the Political Radar:

  • Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates testifies at a 9:30 am ET meeting of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee,
    "Strengthening American Competitiveness for the 21st Century."

  • King Abdullah II of Jordan addresses a joint session of Congress at 11 am ET.

  • Citizens Against Government Waste releases their 2007 Congressional Pig Book - "the little pink book that makes politicians squirm" - at an 11 am ET presser at the Phoenix Park Hotel.

  • Tiger Woods and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem hold an 11 am ET news conference at the National Press Club to announce details of a new tournament to be played in Washington in July.

    At 1:30 pm ET, Woods will be on the Hill to photo-op with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Minority Leader John Boehner.

  • Rep. John Murtha's (D-PA) subcommittee on Defense Appropriations holds a 1:30 pm ET hearing on Walter Reed infrastructure. Witnesses include Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody, and Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, M.D.

  • Sens. Joe Biden (D-DE), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Chris Dodd (D-CT), and Fmr. Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) attend a 2008 South Carolina Presidential Primary Kick-Off Reception at the Hyatt Regency Washington, 6 pm ET.

  • The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

    =================================================================
    Political Hot Topics

    (Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)

    THE "CLOUD OVER THE VICE PRESIDENT": For weeks, Washington watched, mesmerized, as the trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. cast Vice President Cheney, his former boss, in the role of puppeteer, pulling the strings in a covert public relations campaign to defend the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq and discredit a critic. "There is a cloud over the vice president," the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, told the jury in summing up the case last month. Mr. Cheney was not charged in the case, cooperated with the investigation and expressed a willingness to testify if called, though he never was. Yet he was a central figure throughout, fighting back against suggestions that he and President Bush had taken the country to war on the basis of flawed intelligence, showing himself to be keenly sensitive to how he was portrayed in the news media and backing Mr. Libby to the end. New York Times: Questions About Cheney Remain

    WHY JUST LIBBY? A question occupied the jurors in the trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby as they sat through 14 days of testimony and deliberated for 10 more days: Why is Libby the only person on trial? "There was a tremendous amount of sympathy for Mr. Libby on the jury. It was said a number of times: 'What are we doing with this guy here? Where's (White House adviser Karl) Rove? Where are these other guys?'" juror Denis Collins said Tuesday. "I'm not saying we didn't think Mr. Libby was guilty of the things we found him guilty of. It seemed like he was, as (Libby attorney Theodore) Wells put it, he was the fall guy." USA Today: Jurors wonder why others weren't also on trial

    WHAT'S NEXT FOR FITZ? Patrick Fitzgerald has been living a dual life. As the top federal prosecutor in northern Illinois, Fitzgerald has solidified a reputation as a no-nonsense corruption buster--"Eliot Ness with a Harvard degree," as a friend once described him. In his other job, as the Justice Department's special counsel investigating the leak of a CIA operative's identity, Fitzgerald, 46, has stood in the spotlight of Washington partisans, praised and pilloried over the prosecution of Lewis "Scooter" Libby. On Tuesday, the career prosecutor scored the highest-profile victory of his career with Libby's conviction for obstructing justice and lying to a grand jury. Chicago Tribune: 'Day job' awaits controversial top prosecutor

    DEM LEADERS IMMEDIATELY ASK FOR "NO PARDON" GUARANTEE: Democratic leaders yesterday called on President Bush to guarantee no pardon for Lewis "Scooter" Libby, hours after the former senior White House aide was convicted on four felony counts for lying to federal investigators who were looking into the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity. Vice President Dick Cheney, Libby's former boss, appeared before GOP senators at their weekly policy luncheon without addressing the jury's guilty verdict on four out of five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements, according to several lawmakers present. Libby's legal team vowed to appeal, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wasted no time in hailing the verdict and challenging the White House. The Hill: Dems to Bush: Don't pardon Libby

    "STILL TINKERING" BUT LARGELY SETTLED ON CONDITIONS: House Democratic leaders were still tinkering with a $100 billion-plus Iraq War spending bill Tuesday, but largely have settled on a measure that puts several conditions on the president's use of the money while seeking to draw support from wavering Democrats and Republicans by allowing votes on multiple amendments and including money for veterans' care. Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.), a member of the Progressive Caucus opposed to further funding the war, said Democratic leaders presented "nuanced changes" to Democrats at their regular full Caucus meeting, but that "no firm language" has been shown to the Members yet. Roll Call: Deal Near on Iraq Funding

    "SOME ENCOURAGING SIGNS," BUT "TOO EARLY TO THE JUDGE SUCCESS" OF SURGE: President Bush yesterday touted positive early results of his troop "surge" in Iraq and urged patience with the plan, though the administration says privately it knows it has only a short time to produce substantive results. "It's too early to judge the success of this operation. The strategy is going to take time," said Mr. Bush in a speech to the American Legion's national convention in the District. "Yet even at this early hour, there are some encouraging signs." Mr. Bush told his audience that while "the struggle in Iraq may be hard this should not be a time for despair." The crowd of several hundred mostly-older veterans laughed at the president's jokes and cheered him on, but their largest applause a standing ovation came when the president said Congress should not restrict or cut off funding for the war. Washington Times: Bush lauds 'surge' results

    "THIS IS THE KATRINA OF 2007": Democrats are using the uproar over Walter Reed Army Medical Center as their latest cudgel to batter President Bush for his Iraq war policies as the administration shows signs it fears political damage from the revelations. Reports of patient neglect and shoddy outpatient rooms at the hospital have brought Army brass to Capitol Hill to explain and apologize. Bush's handling of the war has been widely unpopular with voters, and reports about Walter Reed come on the heels of his decision to send more troops to Iraq — which has also met a negative response from the public. Democrats are stepping up their anti-war rhetoric and casting Walter Reed as the latest Bush administration failure in planning for the war and other contingencies. "This is the Katrina of 2007," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., comparing the hospital scandal to the 2005 hurricane that left Gulf Coast residents stranded for days without federal assistance. AP via Yahoo! News: Walter Reed uproar refuels Iraq debate

    DOLE, SHALALA TAPPED FOR WALTER REED COMMISSION: President Bush yesterday named former senator Robert J. Dole and former secretary of health and human services Donna E. Shalala to co-chair a bipartisan commission that will examine the care that wounded U.S. troops receive after they return from the battlefield, one more among several high-level investigations spawned by recent revelations of squalor and bureaucratic woes facing veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The review will encompass troops' reintegration into civilian life back home. Bush also announced that he has asked the secretary of veterans affairs to lead a Cabinet-level interagency task force to deal with immediate shortcomings in helping veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Washington Post: Dole, Shalala to Lead Troop-Care Panel

    FMR PROSECUTORS RECOUNT "IMPROPER TELEPHONE CALLS AND THINLY VEILED THREATS": Six fired U.S. attorneys testified on Capitol Hill yesterday that they had separately been the target of complaints, improper telephone calls and thinly veiled threats from a high-ranking Justice Department official or members of Congress, both before and after they were abruptly removed from their jobs. In back-to-back hearings in the Senate and House, former U.S. attorney David C. Iglesias of New Mexico and five other former prosecutors recounted specific instances in which some said they felt pressured by Republicans on corruption cases and one said a Justice Department official warned him to keep quiet or face retaliation. Washington Post: Prosecutors Say They Felt Pressured, Threatened

    HASTINGS AIDE IMPLICATED: A Democratic probe into the firings of eight U.S. attorneys implicated yesterday a senior staffer for Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), the third GOP congressional office to become caught in the quickly escalating controversy in as many days. During testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, former U.S. Attorney John McKay said that Ed Cassidy, then-chief of staff to Hastings, called him in 2004 to ask whether he was investigating allegations of voter fraud after a Democrat won the Washington state governor's race in a third recount. At the time, McKay was serving as the chief federal law enforcement officer in Seattle. McKay was one of seven U.S. attorneys fired by the administration in early December; another, H.E. "Bud" Cummins III, was relieved of his post last June. The Hill: Senior aide implicated

    OFFICER WAXMAN INVITES GSA CHIEF TO TESTIFY: A powerful House committee chairman released new details yesterday about a widening investigation into allegations of "improper conduct" by the chief of the U.S. General Services Administration. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), head of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said his investigators had obtained information that raises "further questions" about GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan's efforts to give a no-bid job to a longtime friend and professional associate. Waxman also revealed new allegations that Doan "asked GSA officials in a January teleconference how the agency could be used to help Republican candidates," in possible violation of federal law. He invited Doan to testify before his panel on March 20. Washington Post: Waxman Seeks GSA Chief's Testimony

    McCAIN LOBBYING FOR A GOLDEN STATE RULES CHANGE: Sen. John McCain's campaign is mounting a stealth effort to change Republican presidential nomination rules in California to allow independents to vote in the Feb. 5 primary, party and campaign officials in the state have told The Washington Times. The impact could be huge -- and potentially damaging to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, currently the most acceptable to traditional-values voters among the three top-tier Republican presidential candidates. "If California changes its delegate selection rules to allow independent voters to participate in the Republican primary, it would be very helpful for McCain and for Rudy Giuliani, who historically have done very well among independent voters," Federal Election Commissioner Michael E. Toner said. Washington Times: McCain seeks independents' primary votes

    NYT TURNS SPOTLIGHT ON OBAMA STOCK PURCHASES: Less than two months after ascending to the United States Senate, Barack Obama bought more than $50,000 worth of stock in two speculative companies whose major investors included some of his biggest political donors. One of the companies was a biotech concern that was starting to develop a drug to treat avian flu. In March 2005, two weeks after buying about $5,000 of its shares, Mr. Obama took the lead in a legislative push for more federal spending to battle the disease. The most recent financial disclosure form for Mr. Obama, an Illinois Democrat, also shows that he bought more than $50,000 in stock in a satellite communications business whose principal backers include four friends and donors who had raised more than $150,000 for his political committees. A spokesman for Mr. Obama, who is seeking his party's presidential nomination in 2008, said yesterday that the senator did not know that he had invested in either company until fall 2005, when he learned of it and decided to sell the stocks. He sold them at a net loss of $13,000. New York Times: In '05 Investing, Obama Took Same Path as Donors

    DODD, BIDEN, RICHARDSON FRUSTRATED WITH "SECOND-TIER" LABEL: Call it the second-tier lament. At a recent house party in the early voting state of New Hampshire, Democratic presidential candidate Chris Dodd became exasperated as he talked about being overshadowed by front-runners Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. "At one point, if I'd stood here with 25 years experience in the U.S. Senate, that would have been the end of it," Dodd said. The presidency, he added, was no place for "on-the-job training." Another Democratic hopeful, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, was similarly frustrated campaigning in Iowa last week. Iowans, he said, "resent that the media has created a myth that two candidates are the only serious ones." Dodd, Richardson and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden have stellar resumes, decades of experience and an inviting style on the campaign trail. So far, though, this presidential race has been dominated by the celebrity treatment of Clinton and Obama - and to a lesser extent John Edwards - leaving the second-tier hopefuls struggling to be more than blips on the national political radar. AP via Yahoo! News: 2008 Dems seek fair share of spotlight

    ANOTHER MEA CULPA FOR MA GOV: Facing an uproar that is shaking even his own supporters, Governor Deval Patrick said yesterday that he made a mistake when he called a top executive at Citigroup, which has operations that are regulated by the state, to vouch for a controversial lending firm. "I regret the mistake," Patrick said in a statement issued late yesterday, his second public mea culpa in two weeks over politically sensitive errors in judgment. Two weeks ago, Patrick placed a call to former US Treasury secretary Robert E. Rubin, now a top executive at Citigroup, interceding on behalf of owners of Ameriquest Mortgage, which was seeking urgent financial assistance from the giant firm. When questioned by the Globe late Friday, Patrick defended the call, saying that he was not acting in his role as governor and that he simply offered a reference at the request of a top official at ACC Capital Holdings, which owns Ameriquest and other financial firms. In yesterday's statement, Patrick backed down from his adamant stance that the call was appropriate, but reiterated that he was not compensated by the owners of Ameriquest Mortgage and does not have a financial interest in the company. Boston Globe: Patrick says he erred in call to firm
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