[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/26/art.okeefe.jpg caption="Conservative activist James O'Keefe is one of four men now charged with a misdemeanor for entering Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in Louisiana."]Washington (CNN) - Prosecutors have reduced the charges against four men accused of trying to access the phone system in the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana.
The case involves James O'Keefe, the conservative activist who played a pimp in videos that later embarassed ACORN, the community organizing group now in the process of shuttering its operations. The case also involves Robert Flanagan, the son of an acting U.S. attorney from Louisiana's Western District.
The U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of Louisiana said Friday that O'Keefe, Flanagan and the two other associates are now charged with entering federal property under false pretenses, a misdemeanor.
The men were originally arrested on felony charges after they entered Landrieu's office, located inside a federal building, on Jan. 25.
(CNN) - Sarah Palin spoke out Friday at a rally for Sen. John McCain, urging voters to support the senator in his re-election bid in Arizona.
The rally, in Tuscon, Arizona, was their first joint public appearance since they conceded the 2008 presidential election.
McCain faces a primary challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth and has come under criticism for being too moderate on a variety of issues, including immigration. Several leading Tea Party activists in Arizona have decided not to endorse McCain or Hayworth, criticizing both of their records while serving in Congress.
The enthusiastic crowd greeted Palin with shouts of "Sarah, Sarah," as she, her husband Todd and McCain took the stage.
"Everybody here, supporting John McCain, we are all part of that Tea Party movement," Palin said. "I think he's gonna win this one."
Washington (CNN) – A slew of adjectives come to mind to describe the past week on Capitol Hill: historic, intense, passionate and exhausting, to name a few. We saw Democrats finally reach their goal that for so long seemed so out of reach, and outnumbered Republicans giving their arguments against sweeping reform as the wrong prescription for what all agree is an ailing system.
This last leg of the health care marathon brought a slew of citizens to the Capitol. Unfortunately, some of the protests had nothing to do with health care – calling a civil rights icon the 'N' word, and hurling a slur at an openly gay congressman. There were also thousands of peaceful protesters genuinely exercising their precious right to demonstrate, to call on Congress not to pass health care legislation they vehemently oppose.
At one point during the weekend of House health care votes, several House Republicans went onto the balcony of the Capitol to show solidarity with the demonstrators. One of those GOP congressmen, Steve King of Iowa, was captured by our cameras holding a picture of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He gave a thumbs down, but then began to swipe the face of her picture, even appearing to slap it.
In an interview with King. I asked him to explain what appeared to be offensive gestures.
He called that description an exaggeration.
"My goal is to inspire people to stand up for the Constitution, stand up for fiscal responsibility, and stand up for the rule of law," said King, "This bill is an affront to the Constitution."
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/26/art.maddow.gi.jpg caption="'I'm not running against Scott Brown,' Maddow wrote."]
Washington (CNN) - An MSNBC host has taken a full page ad out Friday in The Boston Globe slamming Sen. Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts.
Rachel Maddow accuses the senator of making things up, and smearing her to raise money and, essentially, insulting Massachusetts.
In the ad, Maddow, who lives in Massachusetts, criticizes Brown for a fundraising e-mail that he sent out this week where he suggests she might challenge him in 2012.
Washington (CNN) - Rep. Bart Stupak, the Michigan Democrat who brokered an abortion deal with the White House to help secure passage of the landmark health care reform bill, predicted Friday that the heated rhetoric about the legislation will die down once Americans take the time to inspect the details.
Stupak told CNN's John King that he welcomes a healthy debate about the bill. But, he said "let's cut out the vitriol, the shrillness, the threats of violence against members and their families. We don't need that."
Watch the full interview Friday on CNN's "John King USA" at 7 p.m. ET
He said his critics on the right, who accused him of caving to abortion rights supporters in his party, are trying to politicize the abortion issue.
"Those who stood with me on this issue, our goal was, again, protect the principle, the sanctity of life, but also pass health care," he said. "And those Tea Party folks know that."
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/26/art.jackson.jpg caption="Rev. Jesse Jackson on Friday condemned violent threats against members of Congress."](CNN) - Rev. Jesse Jackson, president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, condemned the charged political atmosphere of the moment in harsh terms Friday, comparing some conservative and Republican opponents of heath care reform to enemies of the civil rights movement.
"These days will live in infamy, as the scenes of our elected representatives shouting, 'you lie' and 'baby killer' echo inside the halls of Congress," Jackson said in a statement released by his office. "We've stooped too low when protestors begin hurling the 'n' word at African American congressman, and start making direct and indirect threats at representatives who supported the historic health care legislation."
"These and other radical statements from members of Congress, conservative talk show hosts and "protestors" are drawing ideological lines – states' rights versus federalism, harkening back to the cultural lines drawn over the civil war and modern civil rights movement," he said. "They revive our worse fears and divisions."
Read Jackson's full statement after the jump:
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/26/art.angryprotester.gi.jpg caption="Health care reform brought out many protesters such as these Monday in Royal Oak, Michigan."]
Washington (CNN) - Americans have always exercised their Democratic rights under the U.S. Constitution to speak out against the government.
Amid the bitter fight over health care reform, a round of hate-filled messages and sometimes violent actions toward members of Congress has prompted calls to ease up on the rhetoric.
Experts say that although protests against social issues such as health care reform are nothing new for the country, such reaction to a landmark bill's passing is uncommon.
"It's unusual that you get this kind of outrage and response to a piece of legislation," said historian Robert Dallek, author of the upcoming book "The Lost Peace: Leadership in a Time of Horror and Hope."
"Of course, it's being fanned in some ways by Republican leaders who keep saying majorities are against this legislation, when in fact there is a pretty even divide in the country, from what the polling data shows," he added.
Follow Ed Hornick on Twitter: @HornickCNN
Washington (CNN) - A federal ban on "soft money" campaign donations to political parties can remain in place, a special federal court panel ruled Friday.
The decision preserves a key provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign reform act, which limits contributions to national, state, and local political parties. The case is likely to reach the Supreme Court in coming months.
In a separate and equally important court ruling, the federal government is still prevented from limiting donations to independent political groups.
These are the first two court rulings on campaign spending since a landmark Supreme Court decision on corporate campaign spending in January.
Americans are growing more optimistic about the war in Afghanistan and opposition to the war has dropped below the 50 percent mark for the first time in nearly a year, according to a new national poll. (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images)
Washington (CNN) - Americans are growing more optimistic about the war in Afghanistan and opposition to the war has dropped below the 50 percent mark for the first time in nearly a year, according to a new national poll.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday indicates that 44 percent of the public says things are going well for the U.S. in Afghanistan, with 43 percent saying things are going badly.
"That's a huge 23-point jump since last November, when two-thirds thought that things were going poorly in the war," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/26/art.obamaaf1.gi.jpg caption="President Obama is set for a busy week, touting health care reform in Maine, then heading to Massachusetts and North Carolina."]
Washington (CNN) - Barack Obama heads to Maine next week, the president's second stop outside of the nation's capitol to tout the benefits of health care reforms since he signed the bill into law on Tuesday.
The White House says the president will hold a health care event in Portland, Maine next Thursday. Obama went to Iowa Thursday to build support for the health care measure, his first event outside of Washington since signing the legislation.
After his stop in Maine, Democratic sources tell CNN that Obama is expected to headline a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Boston.
The White House says the next day the president jumps on Air Force One again, destination Charlotte, North Carolina, where he's scheduled to deliver remarks on the economy.
Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn