Obama administration plays down Solyndra emails
The White House is dismissing new email evidence in the Solyndra investigation as trumped-up and "cherry-picked."
Reporters on Thursday peppered President Obama's spokesman Jay Carney with questions about new emails, released Wednesday, that appear to show that a major donor to Mr. Obama or his associates lobbied White House officials on the federal government's $535 million loan to the now-bankrupt energy company.
Mr. Carney would not concede that the emails were proof of any type of lobbying, or anything more than more GOP-led political witch hunts.
"I mean, what the episode in the last 24 hours shows I think reinforces the idea that this is becoming a political football in a partisan effort," Mr. Carney said. "They cherry-picked some documents and tried to make hay out of something that, when looked in its entirety, only reinforces what we've said, which is that there was no political influence in the decision-making progress — process that led to the loan guarantee for Solyndra."
"In fact, the meeting that they're referring to, as I'm sure you're aware, took place almost a year after the loan was approved," he continued.
The emails in question refer to billionaire fundraiser George Kaiser, whose Kaiser Family Foundation invested heavily in Solyndra, and Mr. Kaiser's efforts to win a second Department of Energy guarantee that the company sought but never received.
Ex-Gitmo prosecutor suing over firing
The former chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay is suing the Library of Congress for firing him after he wrote opinion columns in two newspapers criticizing the Obama administration's decision to try some suspected terrorists with military tribunals.
Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union argued Thursday in federal appeals court in Washington that retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis should be allowed to continue the lawsuit against the supervisor who fired him.
The government argues that Mr. Davis violated his responsibility as a high-level official at the Congressional Research Service, a division of the library that's responsible for producing objective nonpartisan reports to lawmakers, when he spoke out publicly against the administration's policy using a "provocative tone."
ACLU lawyer Aden Fine said Mr. Davis was not speaking as a library employee but as a private citizen with a constitutional right to free speech.
Mr. Davis left the military in 2007 after 25 years of service. In the final two years, he oversaw the prosecution of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, and that experience led him to think the system was flawed by a lack of defendants' rights and by political interference.
Carmona entering Arizona Senate race
Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona is plunging into politics and says he will run for the U.S. Senate in Arizona, giving Democrats a candidate they believe will appeal to moderate and independent voters.
Mr. Carmona served as surgeon general under President George W. Bush, but was highly critical of the administration after he left. Democrats have aggressively recruited him to run under their banner. He will attempt to succeed retiring Sen. Jon Kyl.
The 61-year-old Mr. Carmona moved back to Tucson after his surgeon general stint. He said he believes that Washington is broken and noted that his experience as a surgeon and deputy sheriff taught him to work with others to get results.
Obama Mideast adviser leaving his position
One of President Obama's top Middle East advisers is leaving the administration.
Dennis Ross played an important role this fall as the U.S. tried to get the Palestinians to drop a bid for statehood at the United Nations. That effort failed and the Palestinians have pushed forward with their plans.
Mr. Ross has served on Mr. Obama's National Security Council overseeing the Middle East and Persian Gulf.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Mr. Ross had planned to serve just two years in the administration, but extended his commitment by a year to work on the developments in the Middle East during Arab Spring democracy push.
GOP sets vote on budget amendment
House GOP leaders have scheduled a vote next week on a constitutional amendment that would require a balanced federal budget.
But they're shelving a version of the amendment that tea party activists favored. Instead, the Republican leaders are pressing for Democratic votes in hopes of actually passing the measure — that's what happened in 1995, with lots of help from Democrats.
GOP conservatives had rallied behind a version of the balanced budget amendment that would put a tight cap on the federal budget and require a two-thirds vote in Congress to raise taxes.
To amend the Constitution, it takes a two-thirds vote in both House and Senate and ratification by 38 states. At least 48 Democratic votes are needed to get the required two-thirds margin in the GOP-controlled House.
Occupy protest disrupts Bachmann's speech
MOUNT PLEASANT | About 30 Occupy Wall Street protesters interrupted a foreign policy speech Thursday by Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann in South Carolina.
Mrs. Bachmann was delivering the speech on the deck of the mothballed aircraft carrier USS Yorktown near Charleston when the protesters stood up and began shouting, "Mike check!"
They told her she was more concerned with dividing Americans than helping them. They chanted for about three minutes while the Minnesota congresswoman left the stage.
The protesters eventually walked off the ship after she left.
Mrs. Bachmann later returned and continued her speech. She pledged to cut defense spending if necessary if elected, and said she will make sure the nation is protected.
From wire dispatches and staff reports