Tales from the Trail

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.

He said that the agency was reviewing its compliance and that “we will correct any errors and we will see to it, once again, that justice is our primary goal.”

In October a federal jury found Stevens guilty of seven counts of lying on a Senate disclosure form to conceal $250,000 in gifts and home renovations from an oil executive and other friends.

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.

Can Ted Stevens thrust Palin back into the national spotlight?

ANCHORAGE – Gov. Sarah Palin has gone home to Alaska, but her return to the national political stage may come sooner than the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign.

If Republican Sen. Ted Stevens maintains his slim lead over Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, it could once again thrust Palin into the spotlight. The 84-year-old Stevens could be re-elected for an eighth term despite being convicted of corruption last month. His conviction prompted calls for his resignation from Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Palin, his running mate. Stevens has vowed to fight on even though a convicted felon has never served in the U.S. Senate.

The conviction came a week before election day — too late to replace the longest-serving Republican on ballots in Alaska. If Stevens wins the election and then relinquishes his seat, that’s when things could get interesting.

Stevens’ conviction likely makes re-election harder

WASHINGTON – Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens is an icon in Alaska where he has provided plenty of federal dollars and even has the airport in Anchorage named after him. But that might not enough to help the 84-year-old senator — the longest-serving Senate Republican in U.S. history – to win re-election next week.

“Just because they name the airport after you, doesn’t mean they won’t throw you out of office,” said Nathan Gonzales of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.

Stevens, who was found guilty on all seven counts of lying on Senate disclosure forms to hide more than $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts from the head of Alaska oil services company VECO Corp., already had been facing a tough race against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich in an political environment that has favored Democrats.