Thursday, May 25, 2006

Well Played

Bob Owens, the Confederate Yankee, pulls together the whole Denny Hastert under investigation story and wraps it into a tidy package for consumption. His conclusion? A whole lot of people have been played - quite possibly by the ABC News report Brian Ross.

I really don't think there's anything I can add to CY's take. Ross has some explaining to do, especially with Hastert threatening legal action against ABC for publishing news reports that it knows to be false. Hastert's counsel has written demanding a retraction of the story:
Dear Mr. Westin, Stephanopoulos, and Mr. Ross:

At 7:25 p.m., the Statement of the Department of Justice confirmed:

“Speaker Hastert is not under investigation by the Justice Department.”

At 10:21 p.m., you wrote:

“Whether they like it or not, members of Congress, including Hastert, are under investigation,” one federal official said tonight.”

This statement is false, and your republication of it after actual knowledge of its falsity constitutes libel and defamation. ABC News’ continued publication of this false information, after having actual knowledge of its falsity, evidences a specific and malicious intent to injure and damage Speaker Hastert’s reputation by continued repetition of a known falsehood.

We will take any and all actions necessary to rectify the harm ABC has caused and to hold those at ABC responsible for their conduct.

Please advise regarding who will accept service of process to remedy this intentional falsehood.

Very truly yours,
J. Randolph Evans
Stefan C. Passantino
Counsel to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert
Someone is attempting to smear Hastert, despite the fact that the FBI and DOJ both say that Hastert is not being investigated. Of course, all of this takes the focus off the William Jefferson bribery scandal, where the FBI found $90,000 stuffed in Jefferson's townhome freezer. The FBI conducted searches of his residence and Congressional office, and the latter search got folks, including Hastert in a tizzy over perceived constitutional violations.

That's not to say that the Democrats have this figured out either. Nancy Pelosi is facing a revolt of her own.
Furious black lawmakers, rallying behind Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), were pulled back from the brink of open revolt against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in an emergency meeting with her Wednesday evening.

The meeting with a handful of CBC members was called after Pelosi wrote the embattled lawmaker, who is at the center of a massive bribery scandal, a curt note requesting his immediate resignation from the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Outraged that one of its members was being picked on even though he has not been charged with a crime, the Congressional Black Caucus had intended to issue a defiant statement against their leader but agreed after the meeting to pause, at least briefly, for reflection.

Earlier this week, Pelosi approached Jefferson and told him that she thought he should resign, according to a Democratic aide. Later, at the Democratic caucus meeting yesterday morning, she took him into a side room and told him that she had prepared a letter calling on him to resign the committee seat and that she would allow him one hour to withdraw gracefully before she sent it, according to the aide. In both instances, Jefferson remained defiant.

Pelosi’s one-sentence missive to Jefferson called on him to vacate his committee seat “in the interest of upholding the high ethical standard of the House Democratic Caucus.”

Jefferson promptly refused, calling her request “discriminatory” and “unprecedented,” and suggested that she was employing a double standard by failing to ask other lawmakers facing ethics questions to relinquish their committee assignments. Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) has come under fire for earmarks he secured through his seat on the Appropriations Committee.
Well, Mollohan should be forced to step down as well, though it appears that Jefferson's case is pretty solid - they have the video and tangible evidence ($90,000 in cold hard cash).

It's also interesting to note that the CBC is standing behind Jefferson; Jefferson was at the helm of the CBC when questions arose out of the CBC's handling of Katrina donations, including the speed at which the CBC disbursed the donations and who actually received the funds. There was some question that Jefferson was steering those funds to his lackeys.

Of course, Jefferson also commandeered a National Guard vehicle and crew to retrieve items from his New Orleans residence.

So, instead of focusing on real criminal activities, we're left with a media rushing to figure out whether there's anything there to a story about Hastert.

Nice. Well played.

Bush seals the items seized from Jefferson's office for a period of 45 days - as some kind of cooling off period? Interesting. Is Rove thinking that we'll have ourselves a nice mid summer surprise just when electioneering begins to heat up or is it just to let the GOPers off the hook by pushing the story into the middle of the summer?
Bush's move was described as an attempt to reach a cooling off period in a heated confrontation between his administration and leaders of the House and Senate.

"This period will provide both parties more time to resolve the issues in a way that ensures that materials relevant to the ongoing criminal investigation are made available to prosecutors in a manner that respects the interests of a coequal branch of government," Bush said.

In a statement, Bush said he recognized that Republican and Democratic leaders in the House had "deeply held views" that the search on Rep. William Jefferson's Capitol Hill office violated the Constitution's separation of powers principles. But he stopped short of saying he agreed with them.
Ah, to provide wiggle room for all those involved, especially Hastert and the other GOPers who climbed out on the roof ledge.

Orin Kerr thinks that Bush's action has no real effect on things, except as a nod to all parties to cool off, but the commenter there begs to differ.

Pejman Yousefzadeh notes that the DOJ and FBI got a warrant. And that was after efforts to resolve matters without resorting to a warrant.

LaShawn Barber has a pretty good roundup at the blogging reaction.

Steve Verdon, blogging at Outside the Beltway notes that the only folks trampling on the Constitution are Pelosi and Hastert, not President Bush or the DOJ in L'affair de corruption aka the Willie Jeff/Denny Hastert circus.

Others blogging: Blue Crab Boulevard, Daily Pundit, AJ Strata, and Memeorandum.

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