WASHINGTON (CNN) - Another top Justice Department official involved in the controversial firing of several U.S. Attorneys has announced he's resigning.
Mike Elston, chief of staff to departing Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty is stepping down next week, Justice Department officials said Friday.
Elston's departure had been anticipated after McNulty announced in May that he will leave the Justice Department this summer to pursue a career in the private sector.
Documents released by the Justice Department to Congressional investigators have shown Elston was involved in discussions with other high level Justice officials about plans to remove eight U.S. attorneys last year.
The controversy has already prompted the resignations under pressure of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson and his Senior Counsel and White House liaison Monica Goodling. Michael Battle who headed the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys which oversees the federal prosecutors resigned voluntarily.
Gonzales has announced he expects to serve through the remaining 18 months of the Bush presidency.
–CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Joined by a 10 year old diabetic and a paralyzed 23 year old on the campaign trail Friday in New Hampshire, Sen. Hillary Clinton vowed to lift a ban on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research if elected president.
“It's time to unlock the potential of stem cell research and put an end to the backwards and restrictive policies of this administration,” the New York Democrat said at an event at Dartmouth College in Hanover. “Our scientists have been set back years in the race for life-saving cures because they’ve been held back by a narrow ideology that rejects sound science."
Clinton added that both the 23 year old, Laura Clark, and the 10 year old, Alex Walter, could potentially benefit from the stem-cell research.
Clinton's comments come days after the House passed a bill to ease restrictions of federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research. President Bush has vowed to veto the legislation if it passes the Senate.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Bloomberg is going to New Hampshire this weekend - but not for politics.
(CNN) - Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg admits how it looks, but he says it’s all just a coincidence.
Saying “I don’t think the country’s quite ready for me,” the New York City Mayor argued Friday that political watchers shouldn’t read too much into his trips this weekend to New Hampshire and California.
Appearing on his weekly New York radio show, Bloomberg again dismissed interest in seeking the presidency. He told WABC host John Gambling, “People will read into the fact I’m going to New Hampshire tomorrow.”
The surprised host said, “You’re going to New Hampshire? They have a primary, you know.”
Bloomberg smiled and said, “That may be, but the truth of the matter is I’m going to be in New Hampshire just for dinner. It’s my girlfriend’s college reunion.”
He then said he would also travel to San Francisco and Los Angeles, in part for appearances with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. In addition, Bloomberg said he would appear at Google. He noted that Google has a presidential candidate series, but pointed out that his appearance is “not part of that.”
“I know it sounds like a coincidence”, he acknowledged, “but it is just a coincidence. You won’t believe this, but sometimes when conspiracy theorists talk, they’re wrong.”
To a caller who said he should run for President, Bloomberg said, “I hope to be mayor for another 930-odd days, but who’s counting?”
- CNN Political Desk Managing Editor Steve Brusk
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told anti-abortion rights activists his conversion on the issue is authentic Friday, following a week in which two of his GOP presidential rivals strongly questioned his commitment to the matter.
"My experience as governor taught me firsthand that the threat to our culture is real and those in a position to do so must take action to defend it," Romney said in a speech at the National Right to Life's annual convention in Kansas City, Missouri. "Times of decision are moments of great clarity. Before I was governor, the life issue was just that, an issue. But when responsibility for life or ending life was placed in my hands, I made the right decision. I chose life."
Romney also directly confronted recent suggestions from both the campaigns of Arizona Sen. John McCain and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback that a YouTube video shows the Massachusetts Republican embraced abortion rights even after he has said he started opposing them.
The video is taken from a May 2005 press conference - six months after he has said he converted on the issue - in which then-Gov. Romney says he is committed to maintaining the abortion rights laws in Massachusetts.
"Recently, I was attacked by one of my opponents because, when I ran for governor, I promised to maintain the status quo with regards to laws relating to abortion in Massachusetts," he added. "Of course, I kept that promise. But in Massachusetts, that meant vetoing pro-choice legislation – as I consistently did as governor."
Brownback, as well as fellow presidential candidates Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, also addressed the conference Friday.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
McCain fundraised in Atlanta Friday.
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) –In a mad race to have a strong second quarter fundraising report, Senator John McCain arrived in Atlanta for the latest stop in a multi-city drive to raise campaign cash.
McCain greatly increased his fundraising efforts after his low first quarter funding report. The second quarter ends June 30.
As of now, McCain said he is content with the money he has raised.
“There are always benchmarks, and I am happy with the way we have been doing. And there are always benchmarks and one of them is the quarterly funding report,” McCain told CNN.
McCain is pulling out every stop to boost his second quarter fundraising totals, including virtual fundraisers - usually hour-long webcasts to raise money.
“If you would have talked about something like [virtual fundraisers] in the campaign in 2000 they would have thought you were smoking something fairly strong,” said McCain with a chuckle.
- CNN's Marissa Muller
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A majority of Americans support a path to citizenship for the illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States and nearly half support the policy when it is explicitly called "amnesty," an examination of recent national polls indicates.
According to a Pew poll conducted on May 30-June 3, 63% or Americans favor a policy that puts illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship if they pass background checks, pay a fine, and have a job. 30 percent oppose such a plan, according to the poll that carried a margin of error of plus or minus 4 1/2 percentage points.
The same poll found that if such a program is labeled "amnesty," 54 percent would support it, while 39 percent would oppose.
So why has the current immigration bill that calls for such a path to citizenship run into so much trouble on Capitol Hill?
Because the immigration issue as a whole deemed considerably more important to those citizens who oppose a path to citizenship, a recent CNN poll shows. Citizens who oppose oppose a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants are much more passionate about the issue than those who support legalization, a recent CNN poll shows.
Of people who oppose such a policy, 47 percent feel the immigration is an extremely important issue, while only 28% of those who support a path to citizenship feel the issue is important. That poll, conducted on May 4-6, carries a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.
The contentious immigration bill stalled in the Senate last week, but was revived Thursday night when Senate leaders agreed that each party could only offer 10 amendments to the measure.
McCain said Friday his campaign will not launch an anti-Romney Web site.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. John McCain said Friday his presidential campaign will not launch a Web site attacking GOP presidential rival Mitt Romney's stances, despite purchasing the URL www.mittvsfact.com two weeks ago.
"We're not going to do that," the Arizona Republican said when asked if his campaign had plans to launch a Web site designed to attack Romney. "We're not going to set up a Web site against anyone."
On Thursday, Politico.com reported McCain's campaign had purchased the URL and planned to use it to showcase what they view as the former Massachusetts governor's shifting stances on certain issues.
A McCain aide confirmed to CNN on Friday that the campaign had purchased the site, but they did not know when - if ever – it would be used. He said campaigns often buy URLs for a low price just to have in their pocket, without intentions to use them.
The ongoing war of words between the two campaigns heated up earlier this week when McCain's campaign posted a YouTube video they claimed suggested Romney embraced abortion rights even after he has said he started opposing them. Romney's campaign fired back, calling the move desperate, and said the video was taken out of context.
- CNN's Steve Brusk and Marissa Muller
A banner on the Wyoming GOP's Web site encourages applicants for the state's vacant Senate seat.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - After U.S. Senator Craig Thomas died of leukemia earlier this month, Republican leaders in his home state of Wyoming decided to employ a wide-open application process to find potential candidates for his vacant seat.
Any registered Republican who was a resident of Wyoming and met the age limit for a senator (at least 30) could throw his or her cowboy hat into the ring by filling out a two-page job application and submitting it to state party headquarters.
By Thursday's deadline, 31 people applied, including a host of current and former state legislators, two doctors, seven ranchers, a minister, a radio announcer and the manager of a truck stop company.
"Grassroots democracy is alive and well in Wyoming," said Fred Parady, the chairman of the state GOP, in a statement. "We have an energized citizenry and an eager group of applicants."
Sunday, the entire herd of candidates will be invited to take the stage at Casper College for a candidates' forum, which will be broadcast statewide. Parady said party leaders were still "finalizing procedures" for handling the large field of Senate hopefuls. After Sunday's forum, the GOP central committee will meet Tuesday to pick the three finalists to send to Gov. David Freudenthal, who will pick a new senator from the list.
Two of the candidates hail from families that are no stranger to the U.S. Senate State Rep. Colin Simpson of Cody is the son of former Sen. Alan Simpson and grandson of former Sen. Milward Simpson. Matt Mead of Jackson, who resigned last week from his post as U.S. attorney to seek Thomas' seat, is the grandson of former Sen. Cliff Hansen.
Some of the other higher-profile figures in the field of 27 men and four women are Tom Sansonetti, a Cheyenne lawyer who was once Thomas' chief-of-staff; former State Treasurer Cynthia Lummis; and Randall Luthi, a former state House speaker who is now deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington.
However, one name not on the list is Wyoming's lone U.S. House member, seven-term Rep. Barbara Cubin, who announced shortly after Thomas' death she would not try to move over to the Senate. And although there was speculation about the possibility in local media, Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, also did not apply.
- CNN's Richard Shumate
Bush spoke at the Hispanic organization Esperanza Friday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The morning after U.S. senators reached a hard-fought, bipartisan agreement to revive an immigration bill for debate, it appeared apt that President Bush should speak to the Hispanic organization Esperanza - "Hope."
"I continue to work closely with members of both parties to get past our differences and pass a bill I can sign this year," the president said Friday at Esperanza's annual National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast. More than 750 clergy and community leaders belong to the faith-based organization, according to its Web site.
"At this breakfast we set aside our politics and come together in prayer," Bush said. "Each day our nation fails to act, our problem only grows worse," he said. There are 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States, most of them from Mexico.
The contentious immigration bill stalled in the Senate last week, preventing many senators from offering amendments. Thursday night's agreement would allow about 20 amendments to be considered - half from each party. Debate could begin late next week.