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Archive for March 2nd, 2007

A memorandum issued by Judge Reggie Walton implies that testimony by Vice President Dick Cheney may have helped former White House aide I. Lewis Libby’s acquittal prospects, CNN reports. The jury was excused early today, but the trial will resume on Monday, as Libby faces a five-count indictment, which includes lying and obstruction of justice charges, related to the investigation of the “outing” of former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson.

“The judge in the criminal trial of Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby is making it clear for the historic record that he thought the defendant would take the stand, and that the presumption figured strongly into his decisions about classified material he would have allowed into evidence,” CNN’s Paul Courson reports.

According to CNN, Walton “also suggests the defense could have improved the prospects for acquittal of their client had they called Vice President Dick Cheney to the stand.”

The jury was excused three hours early today after deliberating for eight days so far. One juror was dismissed for viewing or reading outside coverage of the case, so only eleven men and women remain on the jury.

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Army Secretary Resigns in Scandal’s Wake


WASHINGTON — Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey abruptly stepped down Friday as the Bush administration struggled to cope with the fallout from a scandal over substandard conditions for wounded Iraq soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Harvey’s sudden departure was the most dramatic move yet in an escalating removal of commanders with responsibilities over one of the military’s highest-profile and busiest medical facilities.

Hours earlier, President Bush ordered a comprehensive review of conditions at the nation’s network of military and veteran hospitals in the wake of the Walter Reed disclosures.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Harvey had resigned, but senior defense officials speaking on condition of anonymity said Gates had asked Harvey to leave. Gates was displeased that the officer Harvey had chosen as interim commander of Walter Reed _ Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, a former commander of Walter Reed _ has been accused by critics of long knowing about the problems there and not improving outpatient care.

On Thursday, Harvey fired the medical center’s previous commander, Maj. Gen. George Weightman, for failures linked to the outpatient treatment controversy. Many had speculated that Weightman would be relieved of command, but Harvey’s departure was a major surprise.

The Army announced Friday that Maj. Gen. Eric R. Schoomaker will be the new commander of Walter Reed.

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Libby Judge Grants Jury Early Leave


WASHINGTON — Jurors in the perjury trial of ex-White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby have much work to do and expect to deliberate into next week.

They asked U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton for a dictionary and more office supplies and asked to leave early on Friday for the weekend. Walton denied the request for the dictionary but told jurors they could take off at 2 p.m. Friday.

“So I assume they will not have a verdict tomorrow either,” Walton told lawyers as jurors finished their seventh day of deliberations.

Before bringing the jurors into court, Walton advised lawyers they “will not be happy about coming into court because they don’t think they are dressed appropriately.”

Earlier in the day, it appeared the seven women and four men were handcrafting their own visual aids to help sort out the complicated case.

Jurors asked for a large flip chart, masking tape, Post-it notes and pictures of the witnesses almost immediately after beginning deliberations last week. Late Wednesday afternoon, they emerged to ask the judge for large, easel-sized pages that can be stuck on walls.

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Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives have rallied around legislation that would bring US troops home from Iraq within 6 months if the Iraqi government does not lessen violence there, reports the Associated Press.

Rep. James Moran (D-VA) told the AP that the proposal, which he called “responsive to the will of the voters last November,” was discussed in a closed door meeting Thursday by Democratic members of the House committee that oversees military spending.

The proposed legislation would prohibit “the deployment to Iraq of troops with insufficient rest or training” and force President Bush to seek congressional approval for military operations in Iran, writes Anne Flaherty.

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Bush Acknowledges Gulf Coast Troubles


NEW ORLEANS — President Bush on Thursday acknowledged the deep frustration of Hurricane Katrina victims and said the federal government shares the blame for the slow recovery of the Gulf Coast.

He gave residents of the battered region a message: “The federal government still knows you exist.”

In stops across coastal Mississippi and Louisiana, Bush defended the federal allotment of $110 billion in relief aid. Of that total, less than half has been spent.

“If it is stuck because of unnecessary bureaucracy, our responsibility at the federal, state and local level is to unstick it,” Bush said at Samuel J. Green Charter School, which recovered from flooding.

The Bush administration’s initial response to the most destructive natural disaster in U.S. history was widely seen as a failure.

And the president is still dogged by criticism. Democratic lawmakers are pushing for more action.

“I committed to the people of this part of the world and the Gulf Coast that the federal government would fund recovery _ and stay committed to the recovery,” Bush said during his 14th trip to the region. It was his first visit since the one-year anniversary of the storm.

Much of New Orleans outside the tourist areas remains in shambles. Violent crime has soared and health care is limited. Many residents are thinking of getting out for good.

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Shortages Threaten Guard’s Capability

88 Percent of Units Rated ‘Not Ready’

Nearly 90 percent of Army National Guard units in the United States are rated “not ready” — largely as a result of shortfalls in billions of dollars’ worth of equipment — jeopardizing their capability to respond to crises at home and abroad, according to a congressional commission that released a preliminary report yesterday on the state of U.S. military reserve forces.

The report found that heavy deployments of the National Guard and reserves since 2001 for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for other anti-terrorism missions have deepened shortages, forced the cobbling together of units and hurt recruiting.

“We can’t sustain the [National Guard and reserves] on the course we’re on,” said Arnold L. Punaro, chairman of the 13-member Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, established by Congress in 2005. The independent commission, made up mainly of former senior military and civilian officials appointed by both parties, is tasked to study the mission, readiness and compensation of the reserve forces.

“The Department of Defense is not adequately equipping the National Guard for its domestic missions,” the commission’s report found. It faulted the Pentagon for a lack of budgeting for “civil support” in domestic emergencies, criticizing the “flawed assumption” that as long as the military is prepared to fight a major war, it is ready to respond to a disaster or emergency at home.

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Rep. Waxman On Missing Billions in Iraq

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