Tales from the Trail

Blagojevich’s retrial postponed until April 2011

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich won a delay until April 20 of his scheduled retrial on corruption charges, which means the trial won’t be going on while Chicagoans vote for their next mayor.

Judge James Zagel of the U.S. District Court granted the defense request for a delay, saying the Democrat’s scaled-down defense team will have to “retool” when he is retried on nearly two-dozen corruption counts. Among the charges are that Blagojevich attempted to sell President Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat. USA-BLAGOJEVICH/

The first trial ended with Blagojevich convicted of lying to investigators while the jury deadlocked on 23 other counts, leading Zagel to declare a mistrial on those charges. A lone juror was reported to be the holdout among jurors intent on convicting him of additional charges, and prosecutors wanted to retry him in early January.

Testimony spared Obama administration officials any embarrassment, though former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel apparently held discussions about the Senate seat with Blagojevich.

Emanuel resigned earlier this month and is laying the groundwork for a campaign for mayor of Chicago, with the election to replace the retiring Richard Daley taking place Feb. 22.

Michelle Obama joins stump on behalf of Democratic hopefuls

michelle_2010First Lady Michelle Obama shook off the rust and hit the campaign trail – at least the campaign fundraising circuit – ahead of the November midterm elections.

Praising her husband’s accomplishments in just a year-and-a-half in office, she urged supporters to “have his back” by getting out the vote for fellow Democrats so he can pursue promised change with a friendly Congress.

Republicans are expected to make inroads in the November mid-term election.

“This is my first day out on the campaign trail. In fact, I haven’t been on the trail since a little campaign a couple of years ago,” Obama told a well-heeled crowd attending a $750-a-plate fundraiser for U.S. Senate hopeful Alexi Giannoulias.

Washington Extra – Goldilocks Geithner

Not too hot, not too cold, just right.geithner18

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner performed a delicate balancing act on the Hill today. On the one hand, Geithner had to tell an increasingly angry Congress that he was serious about trying to persuade China to revalue its currency, the yuan. On the other, he wanted to head off the kind of unilateral action from Congress that could provoke a trade war, and endanger the administration’s efforts to engage Beijing on a whole slew of issues.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer raged that “China’s currency manipulation is like a boot to the throat of our recovery,” and accused Geithner of being the only person in the room who did not believe China was manipulating its currency.

“I share your frustration,” was the first part of Geithner’s message to Congress, acknowledging that the pace of the yuan’s appreciation had been too slow. But leave the response to us was the other, unspoken part of the message today. The administration would use the upcoming G20 summit in Seoul in November to try to mobilize other world powers to pressure China for trade and currency reforms, Geithner vowed, adding officials were looking at all the tools at their disposal to “encourage” the Chinese to move more quickly.

Tips from juror for Blago retrial

Patrick Fitzgerald take note — when you retry Rod Blagojevich, keep it simple.BLAGOJEVICH-ILLINOIS/

That’s the advice of the foreman of the hung jury that was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on 23 counts in the corruption case against the ousted Illinois governor.

Jury foreman James Matsumoto told NBC’s “Today Show” that prosecutors should re-try the case. Asked what advice he had for U.S. attorney Fitzgerald, Matsumoto said:

Obama joins call-in to back his pick in Colorado primary

President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged people in Colorado to support his pick to run for U.S. Senate in their state, jumping into a close Democratic  primary race in which the other  candidate is  backed by former President Bill Clinton.obama_bennet

Obama has put his weight behind current Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, who was appointed to take over the seat vacated by Ken Salazar, whom Obama selected to be secretary of the Interior at the beginning of his term.

“He’s been a breath of fresh air in a town with a lot of hot air,” Obama told a telephone conference call with Bennet and listeners, who quizzed the freshman Senator about the attack ads he has endured. Obama said this was par for the course in politics.

Senator Byrd’s final poetic moment in the chamber he served

USA-CONGRESS/BYRD

It was a poetic moment for the Senate.

Senator Robert Byrd’s flag-draped casket  was carried into the chamber where he had fiercely protected Senate tradition, rule, and decorum during more than half -a-century of pressing for the needs of his constituents in West Virginia.

His body lay in repose on the Senate floor in front of the wooden desks where he helped shape U.S. history and displayed his oratory skills.

The last time such an honor was bestowed was in 1959, the year that Byrd joined the Senate.

U.S. value-added tax still a pretty toxic idea

White House Economic Economic Advisor Paul Volcker stirred up debate over the United States possibly adopting a European-style value added tax to help bring federal deficits under control, saying recently that it “was not as toxic an idea” as it has been in the past.USA-FED/

Well the idea is still pretty toxic in the U.S. Senate.

The Senate on Thursday voted 85-13 to adopt an anti-value-added tax resolution sponsored by Arizona Republican John McCain as part of its consideration of legislation that would restore lapsed jobless benefits.

The resolution has no force of law, but it gives a pretty clear sense that senators don’t like the idea of a value-added  tax.

Dueling Carly Fiorina websites do battle

The California Democratic Party launched a website parodying former Hewlett-Packard Co chief Carly Fiorina’s credentials to run as the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from California.

POLITICS-FIORINA-SENATE/Fiorina was the driving force behind HP’s controversial 2002 acquisition of Compaq Computer, turning the Silicon Valley pioneer into a behemoth with billions in annual revenue in line with that of IBM, although she was ousted three years later owing to the firm’s poor performance.  She wants to run to unseat liberal Democrat Barbara Boxer later this year.

If she secures her party’s nomination, Fiorina, 55, would likely be the underdog against Boxer, who has served four terms in the Senate and has an edge in Democratic leaning California.

Healthcare and the holidays

It’s Christmas Eve and there is a lot more stirring than just a mouse.  In Washington, D.C., the U.S. Senate just voted to approve a wide-ranging healthcare overhaul bill with Democrats and Republicans divided as they have ever been.

All 60 DemocrUSA/ats voted for the legislation while 39 Republicans opposed it (Republican Senator Jim Bunning was absent), ending a month-long marathon debate in the Senate with the first Christmas Eve vote in more than a century (1895).

In what some could interpret as a sign of just how important this legislation is to President Barack Obama’s agenda, his vice president, Joe Biden, presided over the session serving in his dual role of president of the Senate.