WASHINGTON (CNN) - President-elect Obama's transition team has begun examining what to do with suspected terrorists at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which Obama has pledged to close, an aide said Monday.
Denis McDonough, a senior adviser to the incoming Democrat, told CNN no decisions have been made about what to do with the roughly 250 inmates there, "and there is no process in place to make that decision until his national security and legal teams are assembled."
But officials close to the Obama team said Monday that the incoming administration is pondering whether to try some of the Guantanamo Bay inmates in existing federal courts; set up a special national security court to deal with cases involving the most sensitive intelligence information; or release others.
The scenario would eliminate the military commissions set up by the Bush administration to prosecute some of the top al Qaeda figures now held at the facility, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - the lead plotter of the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
The commissions have been delayed for years by legal challenges, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled an earlier version of them unconstitutional in 2006.
In a full-page ad in The New York Times on Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union urged Obama to close the prison camp on his first day in office, "with the stroke of a pen."
But in an October 31 interview with CNN, Obama said only that he would close the facility "as quickly as we can do prudently."
"I am not going to give a time certain because I think what we have to do is evaluate all those who are still being held in Gitmo," he said. "We have to put in place appropriate plans to make sure they are tried, convicted and punished to the full extent of the law, and that's going to require, I think, a
review of the existing cases, which I have not had the opportunity to do."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As expected, Howard Dean will hand over the reins at the Democratic National Committee when the party meets again in January.
The 2004 presidential candidate's approach - innovative Web outreach techniques and a determination to compete in areas that have not historically supported Democrats - have dove-tailed with those of President-elect Obama.
But incoming Democratic presidents are traditionally given the prerogative to select their own candidate for the post, which is then approved by party officials. The position tends to dramatically recede in importance when Democrats control the White House.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – After telling reporters last week that he wasn't planning to run for another term as the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Chris Van Hollen has changed his mind and agreed to stay on for the 2010 election cycle, two senior Democratic congressional sources confirmed to CNN.
The Washington Post first reported the Maryland congressman's decision.
With Van Hollen at the helm of the DCCC this year House Democrats picked up 19 seats, with results from another six House races still outstanding. These gains follow 30 Democratic pickups in the House in 2006, when the party took control of the chamber after 12 years in the minority.
Speaker Pelosi also tapped Van Hollen for another leadership role, giving him the post of Assistant to the Speaker. One aide described this as a way to give the Maryland Democrat a bigger role at the leadership table: "He has a bigger portfolio - it expands it to policy, it's not just political."
With Van Hollen taking himself out of the race to replace Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel as Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Pelosi avoids a fight for the number four position. The job is now virtually assured to go to Emanuel's vice chairman, Connecticut Congressman John Larson.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – As President-elect Obama visits the White House, a new national poll suggests that the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the most unpopular president in the six decades since presidential approval ratings were first measured.
Seventy-six percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday disapprove of how George W. Bush is handling his job as President. That's an all-time high in CNN polling, or in Gallup polling dating back to World War II.
"No other president's disapproval rating has gone higher than 70 percent. Bush has managed to do that three times so far this year," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "That means that Bush is now more unpopular than Richard Nixon was when he resigned from office during Watergate with a 66 percent disapproval rating."
Prior to President Bush, the record holder for presidential disapproval was Harry Truman, with a 67 percent disapproval rating in January of 1952, his last full year in office.
As Obama visits the White House, 57 percent of those questioned think the transfer of presidential power will be relatively easy and free from tension, with 39 percent saying the transition will be difficult.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The transition team for President-elect Barack Obama has indicated it plans to hit the ground running with what could be big changes for the country.
But that massive agenda has Republicans - and some Democrats - wary of moving too fast.
Democrats are eyeing an ambitious agenda with plans to take on the economy, health care, energy and education - issues that are all intertwined, according to a leader of Obama's transition team.
"So these are all core, if you will, economic questions, and they need to be tackled together, and I think he'll have a program and a strategy to move aggressively across all those fronts," John Podesta said Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition."
A similar message is coming from Rep. James Clyburn, one of Obama's chief allies in Congress.
(CNN) - Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said that even though his party didn’t win the presidential election, he has at least one thing to be happy about.
“I can get back into the bedroom, so there's the big advantage,” the California governor said Sunday on CNN’s “Late Edition.”
Schwarzenegger, a leading Republican, is married to Maria Shriver, a member of the very Democratic Kennedy clan.
Shriver endorsed Barack Obama in February, just days after her husband announced his support of John McCain.
Schwarzenegger said his wife has been “gloating now for these last few days” and running around the house with a life-size cutout of Obama saying, “We won.”
WATCH what Schwarzenegger says about the election
Striking a more serious tone, Schwarzenegger said he doesn’t see how any incumbent party could have held onto power this year, given the economic situation and the housing crisis.
“I think no one knew that it's going to be that bad. I think the Republicans were trying to hold on to, you know, if it would have been just the housing crisis or the mortgage crisis. But then when the stock market crash came, I think it was just too much,” he said.
Looking to the future, Schwarzenegger said that Democrats and Republicans should come together and avoid getting stuck in ideology.
“Democrats and Republicans should do everything they can to help [Obama] and his administration to be successful, because when he is successful … then the nation is successful. And then the world is successful. So, we've all got to work together on this,” he said.
(CNN) - Wolf Blitzer interviews Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin Wednesday in The Situation Room, and you can be a part of it.
If you've for any questions for the former Republican vice presidential candidate, CNN is giving you the chance to ask them.
Fire up your camera and upload your video question for Palin here.
Watch Palin take your questions this Wednesday in The Situation Room.
US President-elect Barack Obama and his wife Michelle leave Spiaggia restaurant in Chicago, Illinois. (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN)– The leavetaking begins today.
It’s a pretty good time to be in Chicago if your name is Barack Obama, but today he and his wife depart for their visit to the White House, and the countdown to the president-elect’s real farewell has already begun.
Over the weekend people on North Michigan Avenue were pausing in the frigid air at the corner where it intersects with Oak Street, and were staring up at the windows of a restaurant that has been there for many years, yet has never been the object of this kind of general curiosity.
It is a fixture on the corner– Spiaggia is its name, and although it sounds like an import from old Europe, it was opened not by a famous chef from Naples, Italy, but by Larry Levy from Ladue, Missouri, by way of Northwestern University– and the reason it was receiving long gazes was that Barack and Michelle Obama had dined there Saturday night.
Those who have also eaten there in the past were wondering aloud: Did Senator and Mrs. Obama sit in the main restaurant, or the more casual café down the hallway? Early news reports varied. But the fact that there even were news reports about the dinner– news reports sent with some urgency around the world– was a sign that Chicago, at least until January 20, has at this late point in its long civic history become a center of international attention in a way it has not quite seen before, and it has seen a lot.
And if this feels bizarre for the city, think how it must feel for the family in the middle of all of it. Across the Atlantic Ocean, political analysts over the weekend were deciphering what it signified that British prime minister Gordon Brown spent ten minutes on the phone with Obama, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy got a reported 30 minutes. Was there meaning in this? Could it be attributed only to the language difference, and the possible need for translation? As recently as 2004 Obama was hanging around downstate Springfield, Illinois, as one of 177 state legislators, and now the political giants of Europe were competing for bragging rights over how much phone time he allotted to them.
(CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama will set foot inside the Oval Office for the first time Monday as he meets with President Bush to talk about the problems his incoming administration will face.
The meeting between president and president-elect is a historic formality, but it's also a time for serious talks.
The two are expected to discuss "a broad range of issues," focusing on the economy, according to a leader of Obama's transition team.
"It's clear that we need to stabilize the economy, to deal with the financial meltdown that's now spreading across the rest of the economy. The auto industry is really, really back on its heels," transition team leader John Podesta said.
Podesta told CNN's "Late Edition" that Obama will push Congress to enact "at least part" of an economic package before he takes office in January, but said the problems Americans face need short- and long-term approaches.
The president and president-elect also are expected to talk about national security and the war in Iraq.
(CNN) – People sure to draw the ire of Philadelphia sports fans: Cowboys players. Supporters of any visiting team. Presidential running mates.
Weeks after Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin got a brutal greeting at the rink, football fans gave a similar reception to Vice President-elect Joe Biden.
As Eagles fans watched their team lose to the New York Giants Sunday night, a shot of Biden on the big screen elicited boos from the notoriously tough home crowd, the Associated Press reports.
Biden sat in Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie's box, taking in the game during his first weekend off since Tuesday's election.
Sarah Palin was booed when she dropped the puck at the Philadelphia Flyers season opener in October. But Philadelphia is a heavily Democratic city, and Palin is not a Pennsylvania native. (Eagles fans also infamously threw snowballs at Santa Claus at a December 1968 game.)
Born in Scranton and now a resident of nearby Wilmington, Delaware, Biden calls himself an Eagles fan but emphasizes that his wife Jill, raised in the Philadelphia suburbs, is the real fan in the family.
"My wife is a die-hard Eagles fan, so we watch every Eagles game," Biden told reporters during a tour of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in September.
"I'm not allowed to say this," he added, whispering to the reporters, "but I also like the Giants."
So maybe it was the fact that Biden had no real allegiance to either team Sunday night that drew Philadelphians' ire, or perhaps it was simply the risk one takes attending a game in the City of Brotherly Love.