Tales from the Trail

Former AG Gonzales: what I really meant to say was…

USA-GONZALES/Say what?

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales threw folks for another loop on Thursday by saying he doesn’t really support further investigation of CIA prisoner abuses after all.

That was after the earlier loop when he said he did not see a problem with investigating interrogation methods that ran over set boundaries.

He explained in a second interview with the Washington Times that what he really meant in his first interview was that he doesn’t really back the decision last week by current Attorney General Eric Holder to launch a review.

“I don’t support the investigation by the department because this is a matter that has already been reviewed thoroughly and because I believe that another investigation is going to harm our intelligence gathering capabilities and that’s a concern that’s shared by career intelligence officials and so for those reasons I respectfully disagree with the decision,” Gonzales told the newspaper.

(Sounds like the rollercoaster ride is back on the conservative track.)

Just three days ago, Gonzales said on the newspaper’s radio program “America’s Morning News” that the Bush administration set rules and parameters for interrogating terrorism suspects and that Holder appeared to only be focused on the 1 percent of those who went beyond the approved techniques.

Ex-Attorney General Gonzales backs CIA prison abuse probe

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has been under fire in some circles for naming a special prosecutor to investigate alleged abuses of prisoners by CIA interrogators or contractors, but on Tuesday he got some unexpected support from a former Bush administration official.

USA-MEXICO/DRUGSFormer Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who oversaw the Justice Department or was White House counsel during the period when some of the controversial interrogation techniques were authorized — such as lengthy sleep deprivation and repeated waterboarding – in a radio interview backed Holder’s decision to review the cases that went outside the limits set.

“We worked very hard to establish ground rules and parameters about how to deal with terrorists,” Gonzales said in an interview with The Washington Times’ “America’s Morning News” radio show.

Lionizing the Lion: tributes to Kennedy

KENNEDY/Tributes to Senator Edward Kennedy are pouring in after the 77-year-old pillar of the Democratic Party lost his battle with brain cancer. A schedule of events to remember the “Lion” of the Senate will be posted on www.tedkennedy.org as arrangements are finalized.

Here are some of the tributes and lessons learned from Kennedy’s statesmanship.

Crossing party lines: “The Kennedy name is synonymous with the Democratic Party.  And at times, Ted was the target of partisan campaign attacks.  But in the United States Senate, I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle,” President Barack Obama said. “He could passionately battle others and do so peerlessly on the Senate floor for the cause that he held dear, and yet still maintain warm friendships across party lines.”

New chapter on CIA interrogations: prosecutor picked

Even Attorney General Eric Holder calls it “controversial” — his decision to appoint a special prosecutor to look into prisoner abuse cases involving CIA interrogators and contractors. BUSH

He picked career federal prosecutor John Durham, who was already investigating the CIA’s destruction of interrogation videotapes. While he’s not exactly a  household name, the investigation has only just begun.

Other former special prosecutors were relatively obscure at the start and then launched into the limelight — remember Ken Starr of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal and Patrick Fitzgerald who investigated the outing of Valerie Plame.

Attorney General warns prosecutors after Stevens debacle

(UPDATE: clarifies first two paragraphs about Holder talking to prosecutors)

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had some pointed words for prosecutors on Wednesday after the fumbling of the corruption case against former Republican Senator Ted Stevens that the government ultimately had to drop because evidence was withheld from the defense team.

JUSTICEHe warned government lawyers at a conference that the case had threatened to undermine the Justice Department’s credibility for providing defendants all the material against them as required by law.

“Our adversarial system for criminal trials can only result in justice if the discovery process is conducted by the government fairly, ethically, and according to the rule of law,” Holder said at a National Black Prosecutors Association luncheon in Memphis.

Attorney General cracks tooth, misses trip to Aspen

Must be playing all that hardball by President Barack Obama’s administration.

Attorney General Eric Holder becomes the second Cabinet official to miss travel after breaking something. FINANCIAL/HOLDER

Holder, the country’s top law enforcement official, cracked a tooth last night and missed a trip to Aspen, Colorado, where he had been scheduled to attend the “Aspen Ideas Festival” on the eve of a long weekend for the Fourth of July holiday.

Eric Holder seems headed toward confirmation

WASHINGTON — What a difference a few days can make in the rough and tumble world of American politics, particularly in the U.S. Capitol. Just ask Eric Holder, President-elect Barack Obama’s pick to be U.S. attorney general. 
 
Last week, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell named Holder as the only one of Obama’s Cabinet nominees in possible trouble. 
 
There was Republican concern about Holder, particularly his decision, while President Bill Clinton’s deputy attorney general, to back a pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. 
 
But after receiving rave reviews at his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday, Holder seems certain to be confirmed. USA-OBAMA/HOLDER
 
Under questioning, Holder admitted he erred in the Rich matter, broke with the Bush administration to call waterboarding “torture” and vowed to run a Justice Department free of political meddling. He also promised to make fighting financial crimes a top priority. 
 
At least two Republicans said afterward that they intend to support him, which should provide enough votes in the Democratic-led Senate to clear any procedural roadblock. 
 
Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, reiterated his support for Holder, predicting he would be a strong attorney general. 
 
And on Friday, Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida came out for Holder after what he described as “a very productive meeting with him.” 
 
“I adhere to the principle that, assuming qualifications, a president gets to choose the members of his Cabinet,” Martinez said. 
 
“Mr. Holder answered a number of questions to my satisfaction,” Martinez said. “I intend to support Mr. Holder’s confirmation and urge my colleagues to do the same.”

Click here for more Reuters political coverage

Photo credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (Holder stands to be sworn in for his Jan. 15 confirmation hearing)

Swift confirmation seen for Obama’s attorney general pick

At least one key member of Barack Obama‘s Cabinet could be ready to be sworn into office just hours after Obama takes the oath as president on Jan. 20.

USA-OBAMA/ANNOUNCEMENTSenate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy says he’ll hold confirmation hearings early next month on Obama’s choice of Eric Holder to be the nation’s top law enforcement officer — attorney general.

Speaking to reporters after a private meeting with Holder, Leahy called the former Clinton administration deputy attorney general “a superb man” and “a prosecutor’s prosecutor.”

The First Draft: Wednesday, Nov. 19

Please sir, can I have some more? CEOs of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler make their case for a $25 billion bailout to the House of Representatives, one day after enduring a skeptical reception in the Senate. A vote could come as early as today, but Senate backers say they might not have the support they need.
 
Testimony to the House Financial Services Committee gets underway at 10 a.m.
    
In Chicago, President-elect Barack Obama continues to assemble his administration. Eric Holder, a former Justice Department official under President Bill Clinton, emerged yesterday as a possible pick for attorney general, while the Wall Street Journal reports that Clinton himself offered to submit his future charitable and business activities for ethics review if wife Hillary is tapped for Secretary of State.

Formal announcements could come on Friday, a source tells Reuters.   
   
In the Senate, Democrats have edged closer to a critical 60-seat majority after Anchorage, Alaska mayor Mark Begich declared victory over incumbent Republican Ted Stevens, a convicted felon. That gives Democrats control of at least 58 seats, with races in Georgia and Minnesota still hanging in the balance.
 
A recount in the Minnesota race between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken, a former comedian, begins today. Franken himself si making the rounds in Washington to raise money and huddle with his fellow Democrats.

For a change, the stock market is not expected to get off to a dismal start today. Hewlett-Packard’s reassuring quarterly results and profit outlook are expected to offset worries about the deeping global economic slump.
   
And finally, Happy World Toilet Day! The advocacy group Water Advocates says 2.5 billion people don’t have access to a toilet, leading to millions of preventable deaths each year from exposure to human waste. The group holds an event in front of the Capitol at 12:30 p.m. to draw attention to the problem.