- The Washington Times - Friday, June 19, 2009


Stevens prosecutor removed from case

A top Justice Department attorney under criminal investigation for withholding evidence in the case against former Sen. Ted Stevens has been removed as the supervisor of another congressional corruption trial.

Justice spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said William Welch remains head of the department’s Public Integrity Section but will no longer oversee the prosecution of former lobbyist Kevin Ring.

Mr. Ring is a former associate of imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff and is scheduled to go on trial in September on charges that he bribed public officials and defrauded his clients.

More than a dozen other Abramoff associates and public officials have been convicted in the probe, most through guilty pleas. Mr. Ring is fighting the accusations of wrongdoing.

Mr. Welch and four other federal prosecutors are under investigation for withholding evidence from defense attorneys in the Stevens trial.

Mr. Stevens, Alaska Republican, served 40 years in the U.S. Senate but lost re-election last fall days after being convicted on corruption charges. The guilty verdict was dismissed in April after the Justice Department acknowledged it had improperly withheld evidence from the defense.


‘Cash for clunkers’ program salvaged

Republicans have lost an effort to kill a $1 billion “cash for clunkers” program that would offer government incentives of $3,500 to $4,500 to consumers who trade in old gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The program is aimed at drawing consumers into auto dealer showrooms by offering incentives to trade in vehicles that get poor gas mileage. Only models built since 1984 are eligible.

Supporters needed 60 votes to keep the program alive as part of a $106 billion bill to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate passed it Thursday on a 60-36 vote.

Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, and others said the plan would drive up the federal debt and do little to get more fuel-efficient vehicles onto the highways.


Sotomayor faces ‘justice’ doubts

A Republican senator said Thursday he would use upcoming confirmation hearings to ask Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor whether she intends to be a justice “for all of us, or just for some of us.”

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said Judge Sotomayor must explain during the mid-July public sessions whether she believes in colorblind justice, in light of a 2001 speech in which the federal appeals court judge said she hoped a “wise Latina” would usually reach better decisions than a white man.

His comments came as Republicans step gingerly in the debate over President Obama’s first high court nominee, who would be the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve there.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, has launched a more general set of speeches to criticize Mr. Obama’s criteria for a judge and argue that liberals are destroying the rule of law by picking jurists who will bring their own feelings and politics to the job. In his first such talk on Wednesday, Mr. Sessions spoke about the nation’s founders and never used Judge Sotomayor’s name.

Mr. Cornyn, another senior member of the Judiciary panel, was much more pointed in his remarks Thursday, which questioned Judge Sotomayor’s stance on gun rights, property rights and discrimination.


Senate apologizes for slavery

The Senate has unanimously passed a resolution apologizing for slavery and racial segregation and sent the measure to the House.

Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, first introduced the measure years ago but wanted it passed Thursday on the eve of “Juneteenth” - a day of celebration commemorating the end of the Civil War and the release of blacks from slavery. He said the House is to take it up soon and that a formal celebration would be held next month in the Capitol Rotunda.

The Senate has passed such nonbinding but highly symbolic resolutions before, apologizing for such things as the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

The resolution passed Thursday includes a disclaimer saying that nothing in it supports or authorizes reparations by the United States.


Gibbs: No Obama endorsement in race

President Obama’s spokesman said the president is not endorsing anyone for his former seat in the Senate, despite the personal White House attention given to potential candidate Lisa Madigan.

Mrs. Madigan met at the White House last week with Mr. Obama, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and senior Obama advisers Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod. Mrs. Madigan is the Illinois attorney general and is considering a Senate bid. She spoke to the president and the senior aides about the possibility.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday that the president is not going to pick a candidate in the Illinois Senate race.

Still, Mr. Gibbs said he thought Mrs. Madigan would be a “terrific candidate.” He said Mr. Obama knows her well and has enormous respect for her.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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