Not So Fast, Rahm

Bumped - Todd

On Sunday, Rahm Emanuel was pretty clear on This Week With George Stephanopoulos on whether there would be legal consequences for the architects of the Bush era torture policy:

President Barack Obama does not intend to prosecute Bush administration officials who devised the policies that led to the harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said Sunday.

Obama last week authorized the release of a series of memos detailing the methods approved under President George W. Bush. In an accompanying statement, he said "it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice, that they will not be subject to prosecution." He did not specifically address the policymakers.

Asked Sunday on ABC's "This Week" about the fate of those officials, Emanuel said the president believes they "should not be prosecuted either and that's not the place that we go."

Looks like he may have spoken out of turn.

On Sunday, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said on the ABC News program "This Week" that "those who devised policy" also "should not be prosecuted." But administration officials said Monday that Mr. Emanuel had meant the officials who ordered the policies carried out, not the lawyers who provided the legal rationale.

Three Bush administration lawyers who signed memos, John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury, are the subjects of a coming report by the Justice Department's ethics office that officials say is sharply critical of their work. The ethics office has the power to recommend disbarment or other professional penalties or, less likely, to refer cases for criminal prosecution.

The administration has also not ruled out prosecuting anyone who exceeded the legal guidelines, and officials have discussed appointing a special prosecutor. One option might be giving the job to John H. Durham, a federal prosecutor who has spent 15 months investigating the C.I.A.'s destruction of videotapes of harsh interrogations.


The fact is, holding the architects of the torture policy accountable is hardly a controversial notion; even Claire McCaskill put the impeachment of Judge Jay Bybee on the table on Fox News Sunday. By releasing these torture memos, the administration is not just passively fulfilling a campaign promise but is setting in motion the sorts of paths to accountability that California activists are pursuing by calling for the California Democratic Party to endorse Bybee's impeachment. Join them HERE.

Update [2009-4-21 16:16:2 by Todd Beeton]:The President himself weighed in on this today:

President Barack Obama left the door open Tuesday to prosecuting Bush administration officials who devised the legal authority for gruesome terror-suspect interrogations, saying the United States lost "our moral bearings" with use of the tactics.

The question of whether to bring charges against those who devised justification for the methods "is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws and I don't want to prejudge that," Obama said. The president discussed the issue of terrorism-era interrogation tactics with reporters as he finished an Oval Office meeting with visiting King Abdullah II of Jordan.

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Momentum To Impeach Judge Bybee Building

As Lucas wrote on Saturday, it is outrageous that the author of a 2002 memo authorizing torture is currently sitting in a lifetime appointment on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The good news is that there is a remedy: the US congress can and must impeach Judge Bybee. In the last 24 hours we've seen a growing chorus for impeachment including The New York Times editorial board and even Claire McCaskill put Bybee impeachment on the table on Fox News Sunday. Today, the Center For Constitutional Rights joined the fray.

Last week, President Obama released four torture authorization memos written by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) under the Bush administration that devised a legal framework for the justification of the Torture Program. The memos were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit the Center for Constitutional Rights helped file with the ACLU and other organizations.  

The memos were intended to provide legal cover for officials to carry out abhorrent, illegal and ineffective techniques that were approved at the highest levels of the Bush administration in violation U.S. and international law and the U.S. Constitution.

One of the principal authors was Jay Bybee, the former head of the OLC and today a federal judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. His flagrant contempt for the rule of law is utterly inconsistent with his judicial position and speaks directly to his competency to function in that office.  It is unacceptable for an individual who abused his status as a government lawyer and violated the law in conspiring with other members of the Bush Torture Team to sit as a federal judge, someone who hears and decides issues of constitutional import. At the time of his confirmation hearing, his role in the Torture Program was secret,  as was the program itself. Jay Bybee's actions constitute High Crimes and Misdemeanors by any standard.

CCR has a letter writing tool calling for Congressman Conyers to hold a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee to determine whether grounds exist for Bybee's impeachment.

Because Bybee is sitting on the 9th circuit court of appeals here in California, local activists are organizing to get the California Democratic Party on the record in favor of Bybee's impeachment as well. Courage Campaign joined that call today.

Jay Bybee is now a federal judge here in California, serving on the important Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco. He has not been held accountable for the lawbreaking he committed and enabled.

The California grassroots are determined to change that. Los Angeles Democratic activists John Heaner, Agi Kessler and Richard Mathews have sponsored a resolution calling on the House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against Jay Bybee.

The resolution says, in part:

Therefore be it resolved that the undersigned urge that the United States House of Representatives begin impeachment proceedings against Judge Jay Bybee of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, charging him with facilitating the authorization of torture while employed by the United States Department of Justice

Join my fellow California activists -- including Courage Campaign, the L.A. County Democratic Party, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles -- in pushing the state party to exert even more pressure on Congress to hold Bybee accountable for having been the architect of an imoral and illegal policy.

The CDP convention is this weekend in Sacramento.

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MN-Sen: Norm Coleman Makes His Appeal Official

As expected:

Norm Coleman has kept his word and filed a notice of petition to appeal his election-contest loss today to the Minnesota Supreme Court (pdfs available here). The former U.S. senator's petition will ask the state's high court to find fault with last week's election contest court ruling that Democrat Al Franken won Coleman's old Senate seat by 312 votes.

Coleman lawyers Ben Ginsberg and Jim Langdon told reporters by phone that the petition highlights alleged double-counting of votes and failure to count thousands of rejected absentee ballots. Among the arguments are equal-protection and due-process claims based on the U.S. Constitution.

If Team Coleman's premise that the rejected absentees they want opened would break for their guy seems a bit presumptuous to you, it did to a local reporter as well.

St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter Jason Hoppin asked what made Coleman think the ballots he wants opened and counted would break his way, when batches of ballots opened during the recount and the election contest trial favored Franken.

After commenting that "you guys like asking this question don't you, Jason?" Ginsberg said absentee ballots opened since the election have been more from precincts that favored Franken than Coleman. The ballots Coleman wants counted come from precincts that favored him, Ginsberg claimed.

"You just never know what any one ballot will hold," Ginsberg said.

Gee, ya never know! Yeah, that's a great reason to spend millions of dollars to deprive the state of Minnesota 50% of their representation in the Senate.

Al Franken's spokesman responded with an appropriate amount of incredulity:

Elias mocked Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg’s characterization of the petition notice filed today as an appeal for voter enfranchisement and due process.

Four of five Coleman claims actually call for disenfranchising voters, Elias said: “When it comes to disenfranchisement, no one holds a candle to the legal team assembled by Sen. Coleman.”

As for Constitutional claims, Elias siad, “Whatever process is due for Sen. Coleman, he has had.”

While the MN Supreme Court is not obligated to hold oral arguments, if they do hold them, they could begin as soon as 2 weeks from now and as late as two months from now. Team Franken is going to file a motion tomorrow requesting a schedule that would require briefs to be in no later than May 2. Oral arguments would proceed from there.

But hey, take all the time you need, Norm. We'll just keep raising money to elect progressives.

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MN-Sen: Dollar A Day To Make Norm Go Away Campaign Up Over $20K

On April 9th, Adam Green, formerly of MoveOn, posted a critique of the DSCC's online campaign to urge Norm Coleman to concede over at Open Left. What was most notable about the post was that in it, Adam suggested an alternative campaign.

What if, Adam asked, the DSCC sent an e-mail that looked more like this:

Today, we're launching "Norm's Democratic Dollar A Day." We're asking people across the country to donate $1 to the DSCC every day that Norm Coleman refuses to concede (up to 100 days max, in case he's completely delusional).

Click here to sign up!

Think about how this would change the game. If 1 million people signed up, and Senate Republicans up for re-election in 2010 saw the committee charged with defeating them getting $1 million each day that Coleman is obstinate, what do you think would happen?

Rather than simply list-build with no actual means by which to pressure Coleman to concede, Adam's idea was to create a mechanism whereby a warchest to help fund the campaigns of progressive Democrats would grow in direct relation to the length of time Coleman took to end his quixotic attempts to appeal the US Senate result. The more time he takes, the more money will be raised. Pretty great. No wonder so many commenters to the post urged Adam to implement it and no wonder that DFA joined with PCCC to do just that. As Senate Guru wrote here at MyDD, the Dollar A Day To Make Norm Go Away campaign launched yesterday.

The ask, from

Al Franken won.

But DC Republicans keep bankrolling Norm Coleman's continued court challenges. For them, it's worth the money to block the seating of Senator Franken.

But if thousands of us donate $1 to help progressives defeat Republicans in 2010 for each day Norm Coleman refuses to concede, we'll reverse the incentives for DC Republicans. They'll tell Norm, "Go away!"

Can you give a dollar a day to make Norm go away?

So far, in just more than a day, the campaign has raised more than $20,000 to help progressives get elected, a number that will grow the longer former Senator Coleman insists on depriving Minnesotans of a Senator. It was always going to be Republican pressure that got Norm to finally concede this thing but there was never a reason for Republicans to do so...

...Until now.

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Good Luck With That

Steve Schmidt, Rove protege and McCain campaign...err...architect...will (has already?) use a speech to The Log Cabin Republicans today to urge his party to embrace gay marriage.

From CNN:

"There is a sound conservative argument to be made for same-sex marriage," Schmidt will say, according to speech excerpts obtained by CNN. "I believe conservatives, more than liberals, insist that rights come with responsibilities. No other exercise of one's liberty comes with greater responsibilities than marriage."

Schmidt makes both policy and political arguments for a Republican embrace of same-sex marriage.

On the policy front, Schmidt likens the fight for gay rights to civil rights and women's rights, and he admonishes conservatives who argue for the protection of the unborn as a God-given right, but against protections for same-sex couples.

"It cannot be argued that marriage between people of the same sex is un American or threatens the rights of others," he says in the speech. "On the contrary, it seems to me that denying two consenting adults of the same sex the right to form a lawful union that is protected and respected by the state denies them two of the most basic natural rights affirmed in the preamble of our Declaration of Independence -- liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

"That, I believe, gives the argument of same sex marriage proponents its moral force," Schmidt will say.

Schmidt is clearly making both substantive and political arguments here: A. it's the morally superior position and B. if we don't get on board we'll keep losing. I agree with both of these arguments, of course, but, ummm....has he met his party? Conservative Republicans are notorious for cherry picking what's moral and what's not without any internal logic or consistency (abortion: bad; war: good; torture: awesome.) Add to that the fact that the Steve Schmidt/Meghan McCain wing (corner?) of the Republican Party is not exactly in ascendancy, although I do believe that in the longrun it is the only path for their survival. With this speech, Schmidt is casting himself as a leader and on the frontlines of rebuilding the party as one of tolerance and one that must have appeal to young people. To say he has his work cut out for him is an understatement.

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Netroots Nation New Media Summit: Evolution Of Journalism

I'm in San Francisco today for the Netroots Nation New Media Summit. Nancy Pelosi just spoke to us and thanked us for all we do and for our "relentless dis-satisfaction with the status quo." She repeated the call for healthcare reform this year and asked us for our help in making it a reality.

Right now, the first panel -- the evolution of journalism -- is about to begin. Panelists include Markos, Karl Frisch of Media Matters, Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone, Clara Jeffery of Mother Jones and Robin Sloan of Current TV.

In an era where traditional news outlets are losing an audience and online sources of news are gaining market share, how is the landscape of media evolving to survive?

Update [2009-4-17 15:50:30 by Todd Beeton]:Markos is saying essentially "good riddance, newspapers" because we're seeing the rise of people-powered citizen journalism, which is making professional journalists almost irrelevant. He's getting some pushback from Dickinson who has the benefit of representing a magazine that is actually thriving right now.

Frisch: The idea that blogs are evolving to replace conventional journalism is missing half the story. Traditional media is evolving itself. Indeed, and part of that evolution is appropriating blogs and partisan media.

Update [2009-4-17 16:13:23 by Todd Beeton]:Markos is asked about making money partially based on the content created by people not getting a piece of it. Markos: people are getting directly invested not because they're getting paid for it, but because they're passionate about it. They're providing content and in return, we're providing them a platform and a soapbox and a potentially global audience.

Update [2009-4-17 16:34:14 by Todd Beeton]:Clara Jeffrey is hitting back on the idea that citizen journalists who aren't in it for the money are by definition more virtuous than those who do make money at it. "No one goes into journalism to make money and have a great life! It sucks!" There definitely is a tension between online journalism and dead tree journalism here. Certainly, as Markos said, the blogosphere has grown out of the traditional media's market failure, so our very existence is premised upon professional journalists' failure. But that said, we shouldn't have a knee jerk reaction against professional journalists as though we're foes.

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CT-Sen: Dodd's Big Gun

How involved with the 2010 cycle will President Obama be? Well, he's already pledging to help the one Democrat who probably needs it the most in his re-election effort.

From The Boston Globe via The Scorecard:

The political perils for Dodd, who is being outpolled by each of three little-known Republicans, have grown so acute that President Obama weighed in yesterday with a strong endorsement and a pledge of personal support.

"I can't say it any clearer: I will be helping Chris Dodd because he deserves the help," Obama told the Globe yesterday in a phone interview from Air Force One, as he flew to Mexico on a diplomatic trip.

"Chris is going through a rough patch," Obama said. "He just has an extraordinary record of accomplishment, and I think the people in Connecticut will come to recognize that. . . . He always has his constituencies at heart, and he's somebody I'm going to be relying on and working very closely with to shepherd through the types of regulatory reforms we need."


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Perry Won't Say No To Secession

Yesterday, to gain some conservative cred and lay the foundation for support among the Texas grassroots for his 2010 re-election, Governor Rick Perry of Texas spoke to the teabaggers and during a Q&A seemed to put the secession of Texas on the table.

"Texas is a unique place. When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that. My hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention. We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot."

When asked to clarify, Perry issued a sort of denial that he okayed secession, claiming that all he said was the "we've got a great union" part. But then when asked point blank "do you really want to secede from the union" he didn't say "no." He literally wouldn't commit to remaining a part of the United States. Gee, I wonder why.

Glenn Beck on Fox News last night:

"I don't want to be too dramatic," Van Susteren said, "but it almost seems like Texas is looking to secede from the rest of the nation." Now there were cheers, applause and banner-waving."

Beck didn't disagree. He asked the cameras to get a shot of a large banner of the Texas flag with the words, "Texas Independence" on it. That prompted what were probably the loudest, longest cheers yet.

Bragging about how well he understands Texas (because he lived there for four years), Beck said, "These people love America (more cheers). They just think Texas does America best."

Glenn Beck on his radio show yesterday:

"You can't convince me that the founding fathers wouldn't allow you to secede. The constitution is not a suicide pact. ... [States] have a right to back out."

We know who rules the Republican Party.

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IL-Sen: Roland Burris Raised $845 in Q1

Nope, not missing any zeroes. I know it's not exactly news that there's no way Roland Burris will be the Democratic nominee for Senate from Illinois in 2010, but this is just too pathetic slash amusing not to share:

U.S. Senator Roland Burris, the controversial appointee to the seat once held by President Barack Obama, is holding his first campaign fundraiser since he took office this weekend--and the financial report he filed this week shows he could use some political donations.

Burris campaign officials on Thursday released a report showing the new senator raised only $845 from January through March and had $111,032 in debts from defending himself in ongoing ethics and perjury probes and travel.

Burris never has been a prolific fundraiser during his decades in politics. And his first three months on the job have been focused on a U.S. Senate Ethics Committee investigation and a Sangamon County perjury probe over his testimony before the Illinois House panel that recommended impeaching then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Yes, his first real fundraiser is this Sunday and it is hilariously billed as a gathering of "potential donors" and a "a friend and family thing." It's the real world equivalent of when Michael Scott asked his grandmother's investment club to invest in the Michael Scott Paper Company.

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Governor Paterson Introduces Gay Marriage Bill

As expected, Governor David Paterson today introduced a marriage equality bill in the New York state legislature.

Gay and lesbian couples should have the fundamental civil right to wed in New York State, just as partners of the opposite sex do, Gov. David A. Paterson said Thursday.

Paterson called on the Legislature to provide civil rights justice for gay and lesbian couples, saying their rights have been ignored for too long.

"What we have is not a crisis of issues, we have a crisis of leadership," Paterson said Thursday at his Manhattan office. "This is a civil rights issue. For too long . . . we have pretended that they have the same rights as their neighbors and their friends."

This bill would amend New York's domestic partnership law to confer full civil marriage rights to same sex couples.

This is not the first marriage equality bill to go through the New York legislature. In 2007, the state Assembly passed a similar bill introduced by Gov. Spitzer but the Senate, then controlled by Republicans, blocked it. Unfortunately, even now that Democrats have won control of the state Senate, word is that they don't have the votes to pass this bill...yet. That could change, of course. A lot has happened since 2007 including the addition of Connecticut, Vermont and Iowa to the list of states that have legalized gay marriage as well as the fact that New York's two US Senators have come out in favor of marriage equality. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand released this statement upon Paterson's introduction of the bill today:

:"New York and the nation are ready to start a new chapter. The time has come for full marriage equality. I commend the Governor for his leadership on this important issue. If Iowa can do it, so can we."

It's a measure of how far the movement for equality has come that politicians at the highest level are actually touting their support for it as they begin their runs for re-election, not avoiding it. More governors and senators should follow their lead.

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