US Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist says he is not stepping down as the highest judge in the land and said he will continue heading the court as long his health permits. In a statement, he said bluntly, “I’m not about to announce my retirement. He said he released the statement “to put to rest the speculation and unfounded rumors. The 80 year old Rehnquist has thyroid cancer. He released the statement hours after being released from a Virginia hospital after being treated for two days with a fever.
Now to the Karl Rove/CIA scandal. Ambassador Joseph Wilson has accused the White House of running what he called a “smear campaign” against him and called on President Bush to fire Rove over the outing of Wilson’s wife, undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. Wilson spoke yesterday at a Capitol Hill press conference with New York Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer.
Wilson’s accusations came after the Chair of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman sent reporters an e-mail claiming to list “Joe Wilson’s Top Ten Worst Inaccuracies and Misstatements,” along with other messages challenging his veracity. The controversy spilled out into the corridors of Congress on Thursday, where lawmakers in the US Senate planned to devote 90 minutes debating legislation related to the matter. Senator Schumer, who has co-sponsored legislation calling for Rove’s top-level security clearance to be lifted, slammed Republican moves to question Wilson’s credibility, calling the attacks “unfair and un-American” and “Kafkaesque.” But Republicans are levying a countercharge that the Democrats are running a smear campaign against Rove.
The Washington Post is reporting that White House officials are privately saying that they are concerned that the investigation into the outing of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame will lead to an indictment of someone in the administration later this year. This comes as Democrats escalate their calls for the man known as “Bush’s brain” to be stripped of his security clearance and fired. There are also calls for Congressional hearings. One of those leading the charge in the House is California Democrat Henry Waxman.
A group of Democratic senators lead by Minority Leader Harry Reid put forth an amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill that would have denied security clearances to any federal official who has revealed the identity of an undercover CIA operative. The amendment read “No federal employee who discloses or has disclosed classified information, including the identity of a covert agent of the Central Intelligence Agency, to a person not authorized to receive such information shall be entitled to hold a security clearance for access to such information.” Republicans opposed the amendment, and countered with one of their own that attacked the number 2 Democrat Senator Dick Durbin for his attack on the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo where he compared it to a concentration camp and a Soviet Gulag. The amendment said “any federal officeholder that makes a statement based on a FBI agent’s comments which is used as propaganda by terrorist organizations thereby putting our servicemen and women at risk, shall not be permitted access to such information or to hold a security clearance for access to such information.” The Democrats’ amendment went down on a 53-44 party-line vote, while the Republicans’ amendment lost 64-33, with about 20 Republicans joining the Democrats in voting against it. Republican Sen. Susan Collins said “We should not be doing this. She said “This is exactly why the American public holds Congress in such low esteem right now.’’
And there is a new twist in the role of right-wing columnist Robert Novak, who first publicly named Valerie Plame. The New York Times is reporting that it has confirmed that Rove spoke with Novak as he was preparing his July 2003 article that exposed Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA operative. The paper says its source is “someone who has been officially briefed on the matter.” Rove has told investigators that he learned Plame’s name from Novak, as well as the circumstances in which her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, traveled to Africa to investigate possible uranium sales to Iraq. After hearing Novak’s account, The Times says Rove told Novak, “I heard that, too.” The previously undisclosed telephone conversation allegedly took place on July 8, 2003. The Times’ source says the call was initiated by Novak. Six days later, Novak’s column reported that two senior administration officials had told him that Wilson’s wife “had suggested sending him” to Africa. That column was the first time in which Plame was publicly identified as a CIA operative. Meanwhile, The Washington Post is reporting that Rove told investigators that he first learned about Plame from a journalist and that he later learned her name from Novak.
Karl Rove may not be resigning anytime soon, but another Republican facing a series of charges of ethical violations has announced he is retiring. California Republican Congressmember Randy “Duke” Cunningham, announced Thursday he will not seek reelection when his current term expires in 2007. Cunningham is under suspicion of trading access for assets with his friend Mitchell J. Wade, the founder of a defense firm called MZM Inc., which the AP reports did more than $65 million worth of intelligence-related defense work in 2004. In 2003, Cunningham sold his home in Del Mar to Wade for $1.6 million. The next year, Wade resold the home for a $700,000 loss, which caught the eye of federal prosecutors. That is just one of a string of allegations. Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said not seeking another term is not enough. She said “Rep. Cunningham’s conduct is so beyond the pale as to require nothing less than his immediate resignation. His constituents deserve a Member of Congress who can concentrate on the district’s issues, rather than one who will be spending his time focusing on his criminal defense.”
President Bush has once again refused to address the national convention of the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization, the NAACP which was held this week in Milwaukee. Instead, Bush sent the chair of the Republican national Committee, Ken Mehlman who apologized to the group for the so-called southern strategy of the GOP, appealing to white southern racists to win elections. Instead of attending the NAACP conference, Bush addressed the Indiana Black Expo, which presented him with a lifetime achievement award. It marked the fifth consecutive year Bush has turned down an NAACP invitation to speak, making him the first sitting president since Warren Harding to not address the group. President Bush’s father was booed when he addressed the group as Vice President in 1986 but still addressed the NAACP when he was elected president.
A federal appeals court has overturned the ban on imports of Canadian cattle, throwing out a lower court’s ruling that renewing the imports could spread mad cow disease in the United States. The imports were banned in May 2003 after a cow in Alberta, Canada was found to have mad cow disease. The unanimous decision overturns a Montana judge who blocked the USDA from reopening the border in March, saying it “subjects the entire U.S. beef industry to potentially catastrophic damages” and “presents a genuine risk of death for U.S. consumers.” The decision came a day after the U.S. Justice Department urged the appeals court in Seattle to reopen the border to imports. Justice Department attorney Mark Stern said lifting the ban was based on “good science” and would not result in the “infestation in American livestock.” But John Stauber, author of MadCow USA issued a statement saying “This court decision will not change the fact that neither Canada nor the USA have taken the steps necessary to stop the spread of mad cow disease.” He said “Until Canada and the USA follow the lead of other nations and put in place a real firewall feed ban, with safety testing of cattle before consumption, mad cow will continue to amplify and spread invisibly across North America.”
The Head of BBC TV News Roger Mosey is striking back at the FOX News Network after so-called terrorism expert Steve Emerson said on the O’Reilly Factor after the London bombings that “the BBC almost operates as a foreign registered agent of Hezbollah and some of the other jihadist groups”. Mosey points out that on the Fox website, there was an opinion piece called “How Jane Fonda and the BBC put you in danger”. In his statement, the BBC’s Mosey writes “I am writing this in a building which was bombed by Irish terrorists. My colleagues and I are living in a city recovering from the wounds inflicted last week. If I may leave our customary impartiality aside for a moment, the comments made on Fox News are beneath contempt.” Again, those the words of the head of BBC TV News Roger Mosey.
A federal jury in Vermont ruled Thursday that a man should be put to death for kidnapping and killing a supermarket worker, in the state’s first death penalty trial in nearly a half-century. The last execution in Vermont was in 1954.