Reid said Thursday whoever was in charge of the invitations to a closed-door Iraq briefing “didn’t do a very good job.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Senate Democratic leaders complained Thursday that many of their members may have missed an important classified briefing at the Pentagon on Iraq because invitations were “blast faxed” to the publicly listed fax numbers in their Senate offices and many went unnoticed until it was too late to attend.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he doubted the foul up was “sinister” but said he thought the Bush administration was “just desperate to get their message out on Iraq and whoever put this together didn’t do a very good job.”
At issue are notifications for two back-to-back closed-circuit video conferences Thursday morning with Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker to which lawmakers were bussed to the Pentagon to attend.
According to two administration sources, one at the White House and one at the Pentagon, faxes were sent to all 100 senators and a list of about 100 to 150 House members who sit on relevant committees – like Armed Services and Foreign Affairs.
But the sources couldn’t agree on who sent the faxes. The White House source said the Pentagon sent them. The Pentagon source said the White House did.
An administration official told CNN the “Democratic leadership certainly knew about it early in the week.”
CNN obtained a copy of the fax sent to Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, a member of the Democratic leadership, which is stamped at the top with the initials of the legislative affairs office in the office of the secretary of defense at the pentagon.
The fax was sent and received last Friday about 5pm. An aide to Murray said by the time the fax – which was boldly labeled “short notice request, please pass to scheduler” - made it to the senator’s scheduler it was too late for her to attend.
Aides to Sen. Murray said they typically get emails or phone calls about key briefings like this and having it sent to the public fax machine doesn’t make sense.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Earlier today, a federal trial court judge dismissed the civil lawsuit filed by former CIA employee Valerie Plame and her husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson.
Judge John Bates explained in his ruling on Thursday that he was dismissing the couple’s suit because special considerations counseled against allowing them to pursue monetary damages against Vice President Cheney, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and Richard Armitage.
First, Bates concluded that the couple could not sue for the disclosure of Plame’s identity because it appeared Congress had not intended that federal employees in Plame’s situation could recover damages against the federal government or its officials. Second, Bates dismissed the lawsuit because allowing it to proceed would likely cause “judicial intrusion into matters of national security” – matters which the Executive branch of the federal government has unique authority over. Finally, Bates noted that the couple had not filed the required administrative claim before coming to court. (Full ruling here)
The couple was seeking monetary damages because of the disclosure of Plame’s identity as a covert CIA operative. They have alleged that Plame was outed by the Bush administration as a consequence of Wilson’s criticism of the White House’s justifications for going to war in Iraq.
- CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor, called on the presidential candidates to participate in a forum to discuss a national strategy on fighting cancer in a video posted on his foundation's Web site Thursday.
"I think whoever wants to be commander in chief ought to answer the cancer question," Armstrong said in the video. He referred to cancer as "the No. 1 killer in this country" and said it should be talked about "just like they would discuss war or terror or taxes."
Sean Mossman, a spokesman for Armstrong's charity LIVESTRONG, said that Armstrong personally called the candidates and asked them to participate in the forums.
The Democratic forum is scheduled for August 27 and the Republicans are set for the following day, both in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. So far, Democratic candidates New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards have committed to participating. Edwards' wife is currently suffering from an incurable type of cancer. On the Republican side, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback have all committed.
Mossman said he is in "positive negotiations" with the rest of the candidates and he thinks more of them will commit soon.
"The concept is appealing to them and they understand the need for this type of forum," Mossman said. "They appreciate that someone is taking the lead on that."
- CNN Associate Producer Lauren Kornreich
White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A House Judiciary subcommittee Thursday voted 7-3 to recommend contempt charges against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten.
It is the latest salvo in the ongoing battle between Democrats in Congress and the White House over the release of documents related to the controversial firings of eight U.S. attorneys.
The charges must still be voted on by the full committee, among other steps, before they could officially be filed.
Chairman John Conyers, D-Michigan, said in his opening statement to the committee, “The White House must understand that executive privilege is by no means absolute, and it must respect the important oversight obligations that we have to the American people. Non-compliance with our subpoena has stalled our ability to get to the heart of this very serious matter. It is regrettable that this process has reached this point, and it will undoubtedly cause us to consider further actions.”
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told CNN, “It's unfortunate that the committee continues down this path, rather than accepting our offer of accommodation. That a president should be able to receive candid and confidential advice from his aides rests on solid legal ground. This principle, embedded in the separation of powers in the Constitution, applies equally to all three branches. We've seen this before – it's the umpteenth act in their ongoing show.”
- CNN Political Desk Managing Editor Steve Brusk
A judge threw out the lawsuit by ex-spy Valerie Plame Wilson and husband Joseph Wilson.
U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled that the lawsuit raises "important questions relating to the propriety of actions undertaken by our highest government officials" - but in a 41-page decision, Bates found the Wilsons failed to show the case belongs in federal court.
Valerie Wilson's identity as a CIA operative was exposed in July 2003 after her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, publicly challenged a key argument in the Bush administration's case for the invasion of Iraq.
The exposure led to a criminal probe that led to the conviction in March of Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to federal agents investigating the leak.
Edwards campaigned in Kentucky Wednesday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - After completing a tour of impoverished rural areas in Middle America, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards sent a letter to President Bush Thursday inviting him to join him on a trip to those towns to see "how much worse American families are under your presidency."
"Go to the cities and towns where I have gone," Edwards said in the letter. "See and talk to the good and decent Americans with amazing character who struggle with incredible poverty. Incredible poverty, Mr. President, which has only worsened every day over the last 7 years because of the failure of your leadership and the terrible effects your policies have had on millions of families."
Edwards traveled through eight states and highlighted his meetings with residents of Marks, Mississippi, West Helena, Arkansas, Wise, Virginia and Whitesburg, Kentucky. He also spent time in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, where he criticized the slow recovery effort and said that Bush's "indifference to this problem has only made the problem worse."
- CNN Associate Producer Lauren Kornreich
Hillary and Bill Clinton campaigned in Keene, New Hampshire last week.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton defended his wife’s record on women’s issues Thursday, two days after Elizabeth Edwards contended her husband would be a stronger advocate for women than his Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton.
"If you look at the record on women's issues, I defy you to find anybody who has run for office in recent history whose got a longer history of working for women, for families and children than Hillary does," the former president said in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America.
In an interview with the online magazine Salon Tuesday, Edwards said Clinton is “just not as vocal a women’s advocate as I want to see. John is.”
"Keeping that door open to women is actually more a policy of John's than Hillary's," Elizabeth Edwards added, noting that she was “sympathetic” to the fact that “sometimes you feel you have to behave as a man and not talk about women's issues.”
“I don't think she's trying to be a man,” Bill Clinton said Thursday about his wife. “I don't think it's inconsistent with being a woman that you can also be knowledgeable on military and security affairs and be strong when the occasion demands it.
“That's - I don't consider that being manly. I consider that being a leader,” he added.
An Edwards campaign spokesman declined to discuss Elizabeth Edward’s comments directly, but told CNN Tuesday she “believes her husband is the best candidate for president and she thinks that her husband would be the best advocate on healthcare, on education, on women’s issues and the fight to end poverty.”
Both Bill Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards have taken visible roles in the presidential campaigns of their spouses. Bill Clinton recently joined his wife on the campaign trail in Iowa and New Hampshire, while Elizabeth is the star of a new television ad for her husband running in the Granite State.
Programming Note: Elizabeth Edwards joins CNN’s Larry King tonight at 9 p.m. ET to discuss her recent comments about Hillary Clinton, among other topics.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
For the first time, user-generated video questions will drive presidential debates.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Katon Dawson is rolling out the red carpet and it is not for his fellow Republicans.
Dawson, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, said he is happy the eight Democratic presidential candidates are appearing in Charleston Monday for a presidential debate because he claimed it will highlight the differences between the two political parties.
"What South Carolinians are going to see out of the Democratic debate is who is the most liberal and which one is going to give the most away," Dawson said Thursday in a telephone interview.
Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will participate in the CNN/YouTube presidential debate taking place at the Citadel.
For the first time in presidential debate history, voters will directly pose questions to the candidates using YouTube's video technology. Earlier this week, the Republican National Committee urged Republicans to submit questions to the candidates.
"It is always exciting in South Carolina when the Democrats come in en masse," Dawson said. "It is probably the largest single party building day when there is a Democratic debate because all it does is frighten the majority of South Carolina voters."
The South Carolina Republican chairman noted that no Democratic presidential candidate has won the state, since neighboring Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter did in 1976.
- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston
Crocker said Thursday the Iraqi government is reflecting the “stresses, strains and tensions throughout society.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The American ambassador in Baghdad said Thursday that as a result of the troop buildup in Iraq, sectarian violence has gone down "to a fairly notable degree."
But Ryan Crocker said that "high-profile attacks" - such as the suicide truck bombing in Kirkuk that killed 80 people - continue and noted that great anxiety continues to fill the streets and rural areas of the war-torn country.
Speaking via satellite from Baghdad, Crocker told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that "if there is one word I would use to sum up the atmosphere in Iraq ... that word would be fear."
"I certainly will not try to present to you the Iraqi government as a model of smoothly functioning efficiency because it is not. It faces considerable difficulties," said Crocker. And, he added, "the stresses, strains and tensions throughout society" are "reflected in the government."
He spoke after a classified question-and-answer session with lawmakers on the Iraq war
Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, are to provide an assessment to Washington in September of what is going on in Iraq, where the troop buildup, called a "surge" by the Bush administration, was completed last month.
Crocker said there have been encouraging developments over the past few months, citing the stances of tribes people in Anbar province who are shifting their allegiances to Iraqi and coalition forces. He said this sentiment is spreading to parts of the Baghdad region, and in Diyala and Nineveh provinces.
- CNN's KD Fabian contributed to this report
TIME.com: How to Leave Iraq
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Her name has been known to skyrocket a novel to the top of the bestseller list, but can Oprah Winfrey do the same with a presidential candidate?
The popular talk show host, who first said she would support Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential bid in September on CNN’s Larry King Live, plans to host a $2,300 per-person fundraising event for the Illinois Democrat in her Montecito, California home next September.
In an e-mail sent out Tuesday, the event is being billed "the most exciting Barack Obama event of the year anywhere,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
According to the Times, those celebrities who pledge to raise $25,000 for the senator will be invited to a special VIP reception and a $50,000 pledge will win a dinner with Oprah and the candidate.
Though Winfrey’s highly-anticipated soirée is certain to produce an avalanche of campaign-cash for Obama, it remains to be seen whether her endorsement alone will translate into votes at the polls.
While Oprah began endorsing novels long ago, the TV host has never lent her support behind a presidential candidate until now.
Last May, Oprah told Larry King she chose to support a candidate for the first time this cycle because she knows Obama “personally,” and knows “what he stands for.”