United States News Digest
Waxman Ups Pressure on Rice on Niger Uranium Hoax
On March 30, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice requesting that she appear before the committee to answer questions on the Niger uranium hoaxthe falsehood that showed up in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address, that Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase enriched uranium from Niger.
Waxman's latest request follows Rice's failure to answer a March 12 letter in which Waxman requested information and documents on the matter, including Rice's personal role in propagating the hoax in 2002 and 2003, when she was in the White House as National Security Adviser. Waxman concluded his March 12 letter, in which he had noted 16 prior requests for information, most of which went unanswered, by lecturing Rice on the system of checks and balances between the legislative and executive branches of government. "Ignoring Congressional requests for information, as you apparently ignored my inquiries," he wrote, "is not consistent with our Constitutional system of government."
Desperate GOP Tries To Shut Down Hearing on U.S. Attorneys
With the White House facing rapidly eroding support among its one-time Republican allies, some GOP dead-enders attempted to sabotage, and then shut down, a March 29 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the firing of U.S. Attorneys in which the sole witness was Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. These desperation moves parallel the White House's refusal to allow top White House aides to appear publicly and testify on the record and under oath in Congressional hearings.
First, with tremendous attention focussed on this hearing, and a packed hearing room, the Senate Republican leadership called a series of unnecessary roll-call votes on the defense supplemental appropriations bill, forcing Senators to run back and forth to the Senate floor, so that for the first hour or so of the hearings, there were only one to three Senators at the hearings.
Then, shortly after the afternoon hearing session began, a Republican Senator invoked a seldom-used Senate rule to prevent the hearing from continuing while the Senate was in session, which threw the whole proceeding into an uproar. After the hearing was able to reconvene again about half an hour later, committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said he had never seen this particular scenario used in his 33 years in the Senate.
After the morning session had concluded, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) declared, with good reason, that "the credibility of the Attorney General has been shattered by what happened in that hearing room." For despite Gonzales's denials of involvement in the decision to fire eight U.S. Attorneys, Sampson testified that he had discussed it with Gonzales at least five times, and that although he had made certain recommendations, the final decisions were made by Gonzales.
Of the committee's Republicans, there are now only twoOrrin Hatch of Utah, and John Cornyn of Texaswho fully defend the Administration. Two other normally die-hard Administration supporters, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and John Kyl of Arizona, were openly critical of the Administration's handling of the situation. Kyl said that, despite Arizona U.S. Attorney's policy differences with the Administration, "I expressed shock and dismay at the decision" to dismiss him, and Kyl tried to get top DOJ officials to reverse the decision. Sessions said that the invocation of the 5th Amendment by Gonzales's aide Monica Goodling "casts a cloud over the Justice Department," and pointed out that any police officer who did that would be off the force.
Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who was cut off when the hearing was abruptly shut down, complained about all the contradictory information coming out of the Administration, and said, "I'm glad we're having this hearing." And the ranking Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter, was furious at what he called the Justice Department's "abusing" of the Patriot Act, to "circumvent" the Senate by avoiding confirmation hearings for the replacement U.S. Attorneys. Specter, who called the Justice Department "dysfunctional," also insisted that he wants to hear from Karl Rove, whom the White House won't let testify before the committee.
The day before, during a hearing on the FBI's abuse of "National Security Letters," Leahy indicated that the Senate would be re-examining the powers that it granted to the Bush Administration in the Patriot Act. "Last year the Administration sought new powers in the Patriot Act to appoint U.S. Attorneys without Senate confirmation and to more freely use National Security Letters," Leahy said. "The Administration got these powers, and they have badly bungled both."
Global Warming Not on Democrats' Recess Agenda
The Congressional Democratic Majority is being told to hold town hall meetings on the majority's accomplishments of the first 100 days, like Iraq veterans' health care, the budget, Congressional oversight, and the war in Iraq. This was revealed by the leak of the April Recess Packet compiled by aides to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic Caucus chairman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois. It is of note that climate change is absent from the list of subjects to be discussed at the town hall meetings.
Cheney's Ohio Vote Fraud Under Closer Scrutiny
The Bush-Cheney Ohio vote fraud in the 2004 and 2006 elections is increasingly the focus of probes, prosecutions, and public hearings. The Ohio chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004, Kenneth Blackwell, was also Ohio's Secretary of State, controlling the state's notoriously rigged election procedures while the members of county boards of election served at Blackwell's pleasure. The Ohio state results swung the national Presidential outcome to Bush-Cheney. Now the Ohio fraudsters are being targeted for legal action and intense official scrutiny.
Ohio Republican Party Chairman William T. Bennett, who is a member of the Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) Board of Elections, and Sally Florkiewicz, his fellow Republican Board member, have both refused the demand of Ohio's new Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, that they resign. The Board's two Democrats complied and have resigned.
Subsequently Secretary of State Brunner has filed a complaint charging Bennett and Florkiewicz with misfeasance, nonfeasance, and violation of state law in both the 2004 and 2006 elections. The state attorney general has set up a legal-process hearing for Monday, April 2, at the Euclid, Ohio, City Hall Chambers, to present, before the public, evidence for their removal.
Among the charges to be aired is "failure to adopt adequate procedures for election recounts." That "failure" has already led to the felony conviction of two county election officials, Jacqueline Maiden and Kathleen Dreamer; they were sentenced March 13 to 18 months in prison for rigging a recount of 2004 Presidential election ballots. The Cuyahoga County judge in that case, Peter Corrigan, indicated he thought there was a bigger conspiracy among election officials, saying, "I can't help but feel there's more to the story." Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter was brought in from the outside as a special prosecutor to go after the Cuyahoga County cesspool.
Now the same Kevin Baxter will again be a special prosecutor in a new criminal investigation into the entire operation of the 2006 elections in Cuyahoga. Among the irregularities being probed are that officials allowed an unexplained cable connection to the computer that counted the votes, and election officials downloading results onto laptops for possible home access.
There were massive computer failures in the 2006 elections. William Bennett, current Republican state chair and Kenneth Blackwell's man on the Cuyahoga Election Board, was the one who pushed through the $20 million purchase of Diebold electronic voting machines. Bennett's forced removal from office will be the subject of the April 2 public hearing.
Hagel Raises Possibility of Impeachment
In an appearance March 25 on ABC's "This Week" With George Stephanopoulos, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NB), threatened that President George Bush could face impeachment if he continues to arrogantly ignore the wishes of the American people, and the actions of the U.S. Congress on Iraq. It was not the first time in recent days that Hagel has spoken of impeachment. In an interview with Charles Pierce, published in the April 2007 issue of Esquire magazine, Hagel said, "The President says, 'I don't care.' He's not accountable anymore. He's not accountable anymore, which isn't totally true. You can impeach him, and before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment. I don't know. It depends how this goes."
Asked by Stephanopoulos about that comment to Esquire, Hagel elaborated: "Well, any President who says 'I don't care,' or 'I will not respond to what the people of this country are saying about Iraq or anything else,' or 'I don't care what the Congress does. I am going to proceed,' if a President really believes that, then there are, what I was pointing out, there are ways to deal with that. This is not a monarchy." Pressed by Stephanopoulos if he was calling for Bush's impeachment, Hagel continued, "I didn't say that. I didn't call for it. I didn't predict it. What I was saying, I was laying out options here. No President can dictate to this country, nor should he. This is a constitutional form of government. We have three equal branches of government. No President is bigger than the other two. There are three coequal branches of government. Article I of the Constitution is not the Presidency. It's the Congress.
"So what I was pointing out, George, is that there are ways to deal with this and I would hope the President understands that. I mean, his comments this weekend, yesterday in his radio address were astounding to me. Saying to the Congress, in effect, you don't belong in this. I'm in charge of Iraq."
Hagel said he was referring to Bush's remarks about the House vote on Iraq supplemental funding, "and essentially dismissing them. Now, he can disagree, of course. I understand that. That's his responsibility. But to dismiss them, the Congress, by saying 'you don't have a role in this, you're irrelevant to this,' he's getting some bad advice and I would suggest they all go back and reread the Constitution."