WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate chairman who will preside over the potentially bumpy confirmation hearings of Attorney General-designate Eric Holder continued his public campaign on Holder's behalf Tuesday by producing two prominent Republicans who back his confirmation.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, was joined by former GOP Sen. John Danforth, and former DEA Administrator and Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson. All praised Holder's ability to exhibit the necessary independence from the Obama White House.
At the heart of that issue is Holder's decision to acquiesce to the White House when President Bill Clinton granted a controversial pardon to fugitive Marc Rich in the final hours of Clinton's presidency.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - During her confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Hillary Clinton refused to commit to extending an existing memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cover contributors to her husband's Clinton Global Initiative.
Clinton asserted that government ethics officials have concluded under "well-established" rules that "there is not an inherent conflict of interest" for her in any of former President Bill Clinton's fundraising or other business dealings.
Clinton stated that her husband had already gone beyond what was legally required by signing a MoU to fully disclose donations to the Clinton Foundation.
While admitting that extending the MoU to the Clinton Global Initiative is not required by law, Louisiana GOP Sen. David Vitter asserted that "a lot of real and perceived conflict issues" arise from the work of the group, particularly relating to certain contributors from the Middle East.
Clinton responded that while the MoU would not be amended to cover the work of the Initiative, she was trying to address all questions about potential conflicts of interest in a "transparent manner" and there would be "ongoing reviews" of the Clinton Global Initiative's activities.
The initiative wasn't included in the original MoU because it has always disclosed the names of its donors, Clinton noted.
She also refused to agree to a request by Sen. Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican, to have the Clinton Foundation reject donations from foreign governments during her tenure as secretary of state.
In keeping with tradition, President-elect Obama met Monday with Mexican President Felipe Calderon before being sworn in to the Oval Office next week. (Getty Images)
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama, who campaigned on lessening the influence of lobbyists in government, has chosen a defense expert who is currently a vice president and lobbyist for one of the country's biggest defense contractors to be his deputy secretary of defense.
Obama's transition office announced that William Lynn, an undersecretary of defense in President Bill Clinton's second term, is nominated to Defense Secretary Robert Gates' deputy.
Lynn is currently a senior vice president at Raytheon, which has billions of dollars in Defense Department contracts and is the maker of the Army's Patriot Missile system and the Tomahawk missile used by the Navy. The company is also developing a global positioning satellite communication system with the Air Force.
As deputy secretary, Lynn would be involved in the process of budgeting and acquisitions, in addition to running the day-to-day operations of the Defense Department.
Obama's transition office acknowledged that appointing a lobbyist did not, on the face of it, seem in line with the president-elect's ethics stance but that Lynn's qualifications and the recommendations that came from both Republicans and Democrats made him the top candidate.
"Because Mr. Lynn came so highly recommended from experts across the political spectrum, the president-elect felt it was critical that he fill this position," said Obama transition spokesman Tommy Vietor.
Vietor said Lynn and the transition team would create guidelines that would fit the ethics standards of the new administration.
"We are aware that Mr. Lynn lobbied for Raytheon and are working with Mr. Lynn to craft a role for him that is consistent with the president-elect's high standards while balancing the need to fill this critical national security position," Vietor said.
(CNN) - Two officials close to the transition confirm to CNN that on Friday morning the President-elect will announce Leon Panetta as CIA Director and Dennis Blair as Director of National Intelligence. The officials also say that John Brennan will be named Friday as White House homeland security adviser and deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism.
While Pannetta and Blair will be at the event in Washington, Brennan will be announced at the same time but will not be attending the event, according to the officials.
The officials added that Brennan will be tasked with leading a top-to-bottom review of whether the Homeland Security Council within the White House, created after 9/11, should be folded into the National Security Council or remain a separate entity.
Transition officials are eager to push back on a report suggesting that the homeland security adviser post might be downgraded in the Obama administration, noting that Brennan will also carry the title of assistant to the president, a sign that he will have direct access to the Oval Office.
(CNN) - President-elect Obama will meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in Washington on Monday, the Obama transition team said Thursday.
WASHINGTON (CNN)– The opening gavel came down on President-elect Barack Obama's cabinet confirmation hearings Thursday morning as Health and Human Services secretary nominee Tom Daschle appeared before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Daschle, a national co-chair of Obama's presidential campaign, represented South Dakota in the Senate from 1987 to 2005. He served as the Senate Majority Leader from 2001 to 2003.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is chaired by Sen. Ted Kennedy.
In a bipartisan gesture, Daschle was formally introduced to the committee by another South Dakota Democrat - Sen. Tim Johnson - and former Republican Senate leader and 1996 presidential nominee Bob Dole.
Watch the event on CNN.com/live.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Just two days after she criticized President-elect Obama’s pick to head the sometimes-troubled CIA because he is not an intelligence professional, incoming Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein says she will support Leon Panetta because he will “tell truth to power.”
In an interview with CNN, Feinstein said she believes Panetta, a former congressman and Clinton White House chief of staff, will “surround himself with very qualified intelligence professionals in the top positions.” She praised Panetta, whom she’s known for 20 years, as “smart” and “credible.”
“He will, as has been said, tell truth to power. Not what power wants to hear but should here,” Feinstein said. “That’s probably the most fundamental part of all of this. That what many of think happened with the Iraq NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) never happens again.”
Feinstein denied that the short statement she issued Monday, after news of the Obama’s selection was reported by the New York Times, was designed to send a message to the incoming administration that she was angry at not being consulted about the selection.
“That’s nonsense,” she said.
“Yesterday morning the president-elect called, the vice president-elect called. I had a thorough, thoughtful conversation with both of them. They said sorry, we screwed up. I understand that,” she said. “This is his choice and I understand that. He wants to make a clean cut, open a new chapter. And I support that.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Two Democratic officials say President-elect Barack Obama will go to DNC headquarters on Capitol Hill Thursday to pass the leadership torch of the party to incoming chairman Tim Kaine, the current governor of Virginia.
Kaine, an early backer of Obama’s presidential campaign who was also on the vice presidential short list, recently agreed to take the helm of the DNC on a part-time basis until his term as governor expires in a year.
Kaine succeeds Howard Dean, who long planned to step down at the end of the election cycle, after a fairly successful run as chairman of the party. Dean’s “50-state Strategy” of trying to compete in Republican states that Democrats had previously given up on was initially laughed off by some in his party, but the plan was at least partially vindicated in November when Obama carried swing states like Virginia in the presidential race.
Before his visit to the DNC, Obama will deliver what aides are billing as a major economic speech at George Mason University in Virginia. But Democratic officials are cautioning the president-elect will still be somewhat circumspect about the details of the $775 billion economic recovery plan his staff is putting together.
“He will look at the problem, how we got there and lay out how to fix it,” said one Democratic official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to publicly discuss the speech. “But I would not expect a lot of details.”
Democratic officials contend they are holding back on specifics out of deference to Congress, with one official saying the transition team does not want to “dictate to the Congress” on the plan. But holding back on details could also enable the transition team to delay efforts by critics to start shooting down controversial pieces of the program.
President-elect Obama, President Bush, and the three living former presidents posed briefly for pictures before meeting privately at the White House Wednesday. (Getty Images)
(CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama, President Bush and all of the surviving past presidents got together Wednesday for a historic meeting at the White House.
"One message that I have, and I think we all share, is that we want you to succeed. Whether we're Democrat or Republican, we care deeply about this country," Bush told Obama before lunch with the former presidents.
Bush and Obama were joined by Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Obama thanked the president for hosting them and said he was grateful for the opportunity to get "advice, good counsel and fellowship" from the group.
Obama's press secretary said the presidents had a "very constructive conversation" and Obama appreciated "the spirit of bipartisanship they showed" in wishing him success.
"The president and the former presidents had helpful advice on managing the office, as well as thoughts on the critical issues facing the country right now. The president-elect is anxious to stay in touch with all of them in the coming years," Robert Gibbs said.
Presidential historian Doug Brinkley said it's "very smart politics for Obama to keep a channel open" with the former presidents.