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Morning Bulletin – Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009

A roundup of news, schedules, and key stories from CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
"President Obama is expected to sign executive orders Thursday directing the Central Intelligence Agency to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp within a year, government officials said," reports the New York Times' Mark Mazzetti and William Glaberson.

"The orders, which would be the first steps in undoing detention policies of former President George W. Bush, would rewrite American rules for the detention of terrorism suspects. They would require an immediate review of the 245 detainees still held at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to determine if they should be transferred, released or prosecuted.

"And the orders would bring to an end a Central Intelligence Agency program that kept terrorism suspects in secret custody for months or years, a practice that has brought fierce criticism from foreign governments and human rights activists.

"They will also prohibit the C.I.A. from using coercive interrogation methods, requiring the agency to follow the same rules used by the military in interrogating terrorism suspects, government officials said.

"But the orders would leave unresolved complex questions surrounding the closing of the Guantánamo prison, including whether, where and how many of the detainees are to be prosecuted. They could also allow Mr. Obama to reinstate the C.I.A.'s detention and interrogation operations in the future, by presidential order, as some have argued would be appropriate if Osama bin Laden or another top-level leader of Al Qaeda were captured."

Washington Post's Peter Finn writes, "The Obama administration faces a host of legal, logistical and diplomatic challenges in its plan to close the military prison here [in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba], and if the effort stumbles, it could bring steep political costs.

"As the outlines of President Obama's intentions surfaced in a draft executive order Wednesday -- pledging the humane treatment of detainees and an end to torture, along with closure of the prison -- the difficulties ahead became equally clear.

"Among them is the risk of politically explosive acquittals: Transferring cases out of Guantanamo raises the prospect that some may not stand up in court because of evidence tainted by torture or based on intelligence material that is inadequate in court.

"If the administration were to create a new system of indefinite detention for some prisoners -- those considered too dangerous to release or impossible to prosecute, for example -- Obama could alienate part of his core constituency. And if, as expected, some suspects are moved out of Cuba, even to the confines of a military brig in the United States, the administration is likely to face intense local opposition."

"The executive order was one of three expected on how to interrogate and prosecute al-Qaida, Taliban or other foreign fighters believed to threaten the United States," writes the Associated Press' Philip Elliot.

"The administration already has suspended trials for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo for 120 days pending a review of the military tribunals. Obama also had in hand executive orders to review military trials of terror suspects and end harsh interrogations, a key part of aides' plans that had been assembled even before Obama won the election on Nov. 4."

Also on President Obama's schedule today: meetings with his economic and military advisers, a meeting with his senior staff, a trip to the State Department to meet with new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Advisor James Jones and Deputy National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. Following that meeting, at around 2:40pm ET, President Obama and Secretary Clinton will address State Department employees.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
After a one-day delay, Clinton was confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of State late Wednesday afternoon in a 94-2 vote (Sens. David Vitter, R-La., and Jim DeMint, R-S.C., voted against her appointment). Shortly thereafter, she was sworn in at the Capitol and immediately resigned her Senate seat. She will arrive for her first day at the State Department this morning at 9am ET.
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Late last night, Caroline Kennedy withdrew her name from consideration to replace Clinton in the Senate citing "personal reasons".

"Ms. Kennedy did not elaborate, but a person who spoke to her suggested that her concerns about the health of her uncle, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who suffers from brain cancer and was hospitalized after a seizure on Tuesday, contributed to her decision," report the New York Times Nicholas Confessore and Danny Hakim.

Gov. David Paterson, D-N.Y., has indicated he would make a decision on filling the seat by Friday or Saturday; it's unclear whether Kennedy's announcement alters those plans.

Although she cited "personal reasons" for her withdrawal, Kennedy's timing comes as her political stock was sinking. Two separate polls released last week showed her approval ratings under 50 percent. And 48 percent of those polled in the Quinnipiac University poll said she was not qualified for the job. In that same poll, voters preferred New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo over Kennedy 31-24 percent. New Yorkers also gave Cuomo a 69 percent favorability rating in that poll.

The New York Post's Frederic U. Dicker and Maggie Haberman report that "Three sources said Paterson had conveyed to Kennedy on Tuesday that she wasn't likely to get picked. ...

"Sources added that Paterson recently requested information on three possible candidates: upstate Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, Manhattan Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. Speaker Nancy Pelosi also gave a leg-up to Maloney with the announcement of her appointment to serve as chair of the Joint Economic Committee. ...

"Her decision leaves a crowded field of people, mostly elected officials, vying to replace Clinton - including Cuomo, Rep. Steve Israel of Long Island, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, Gillibrand, Maloney and teachers-union President Randi Weingarten."

(AP Photo/Tim Roske, File)
Paterson, meantime, can't afford to make this selection hastily. Having only been in office 10 months, he doesn't have much of a record to run on in 2010. So, his choice will become part of his legacy; if he chooses someone that voters like, at worst, he'll be unaffected. If he chooses a dud, that will hang over his head during next year's campaign, not only for his re-election chances but for whoever he chooses, who will also be up for election in 2010.

In confirmation hearing news, Treasury Secretary nominee Tim Geithner "told lawmakers that 'substantial' and 'dramatic' action will be needed to resolve the financial crisis but said the Obama administration was still determining how best to tackle the problem. At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Mr. Geithner also apologized for failing to pay some past employment taxes, saying he made careless but unintentional mistakes and corrected the errors," writes the Wall Street Journal's Deborah Solomon.

"Despite his tax missteps and his role in helping craft the Bush administration's financial rescue, Mr. Geithner faced relatively tame questioning from lawmakers, most of whom wanted assurances that Mr. Geithner won't continue the previous administration's approach. ... Mr. Geithner, who is expected to be confirmed as early as Thursday, said combating the financial crisis 'will require much more dramatic action on a very substantial scale.' He said the Obama administration is focused on providing 'substantial' support to the capital markets, saying a key to resolving the crisis is making banks strong enough to lend to consumers."

"Republicans put new obstacles in the path of Eric H. Holder Jr.'s quest to become attorney general, raising concerns that he would prosecute intelligence agents who engaged in potentially illegal interrogation techniques and postponing consideration of his nomination," report Shaleigh Murry and Carrie Johnson of the Washington Post.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee "requested a one-week delay on the nomination that Democrats were required to grant under committee rules. Holder has generated more controversy than any other Obama nominee and was sharply questioned in an appearance before the committee last week.

"Many senators, including some Democrats, said they were troubled by his role in the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich in the final days of the Clinton administration. Led by the ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), GOP lawmakers also said they had more questions for Holder about whether he would favor prosecuting Bush administration officials for their involvement in warrantless wiretapping and harsh detainee interrogation practices.

"[Sen. John] Cornyn said he would press for Holder to take a stand on the Military Commissions Act, which the Texas Republican described as providing interrogators with immunity from prosecution if they believed they were acting legally."

Retired Adm. Dennis Blair is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee about his nomination as Director of National Intelligence.

Also, Transportation Secretary nominee Ray LaHood was approved in committee Wednesday, setting him up for easy confirmation in the full Senate as early as today.

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S FIRST FULL DAY

Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler and Jay Solomon, "President Barack Obama, on a busy first full day in office, announced a wage freeze for top White House staff, waded into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and prepared to issue executive orders Thursday -- including one to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay within a year. He also issued the strictest rules to date on lobbying activities for members of the administration and met with his national security team to begin the process of withdrawing troops from Iraq. In an unusual moment that was not part of his team's extensive planning for day one, Mr. Obama also retook the oath of office.

"That came after Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and then Mr. Obama, spoke one of the words out of order during the swearing in on Tuesday. White House Counsel Greg Craig said in a statement that he believes the president was properly sworn in the first time, but because the oath appears in the Constitution itself, the chief justice administered the oath again Wednesday evening 'out of an abundance of caution.' After a flawless recitation, Mr. Roberts smiled and said, 'Congratulations, again.'"

NY Times' Sheryl Gay Stohlberg, "On Day One, Obama Sets a New Tone"

Washington Post's Dan Eggen and R. Jeffrey Smith, "Lobbying Rules Surpass Those of Previous Presidents, Experts Say": "Obama's order applies more broadly to 'every appointee in every executive agency,' barring them from leaving and then lobbying any other executive branch official or senior appointee for the remainder of his administration.

"The rule also bars new officials from making policy on any matter involving their former employer or clients for a period of two years, or from working at an agency they lobbied within the past two years. 'We should never forget that we are here as public servants,' Obama said.

"Obama's remarks evoked criticism from the Republican National Committee, which noted that Obama has nominated William J. Lynn III, a former Raytheon lobbyist, as deputy secretary of defense. Lobbying reports filed by Raytheon with the Senate states that Lynn was part of a group that lobbied Congress and the Pentagon in 2007 and 2008. White House officials did not respond to requests for comment."

Associated Press' Hope Yen, "Advocates praise Obama move on disclosure"

The Hill's Sam Youngman, "Bush leaves his successor nasty surprise": " A number of last-minute rules that the Bush administration wanted to publish appeared in Wednesday's Federal Register, including a controversial final regulation that has attracted criticism from organized labor.

"The Federal Register was not published on Monday or Tuesday, which were both federal holidays in the nation's capital. Several groups affected by the new rules expressed concern about the burden the new administration will face in repealing them, adding that they may not be valid. A memorandum from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, signed Tuesday, however, could render the rules published Wednesday and Thursday moot, or could set up legal battles. ...

"But [a Government Printing Office] official said that as far as the GPO was made aware, 'the normal submission rules for publication in the [Federal Register] have not changed.' ... Union officials are objecting to the Wednesday Bush administration order that calls for more information in labor unions' financial reports."

Washington Post's Anne E. Kornblut, "Staff Finds White House in the Technological Dark Ages": "Two years after launching the most technologically savvy presidential campaign in history, Obama officials ran smack into the constraints of the federal bureaucracy yesterday, encountering a jumble of disconnected phone lines, old computer software, and security regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts.

"What does that mean in 21st-century terms? No Facebook to communicate with supporters. No outside e-mail log-ins. No instant messaging. Hard adjustments for a staff that helped sweep Obama to power through, among other things, relentless online social networking. 'It is kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari,' Obama spokesman Bill Burton said of his new digs."

FOREIGN POLICY

NY Times' Peter Baker and Thom Shanker, "Obama Meets With Officials on Iraq, Signaling His Commitment to Ending War": "The meeting on Wednesday served mainly to brief Mr. Obama on the state of affairs in Iraq. He heard from Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of forces in Iraq, who participated by secure videoconference from Baghdad, and the departing United States ambassador, Ryan C. Crocker.

"The session did not focus on specific withdrawal proposals but instead featured a broad discussion of the political climate and security situation, according to senior officials. Among the topics were the challenges as Iraq moves through a series of critical elections this year and the required changes to the location, size and mission of the American military force under a new agreement between Washington and Baghdad, the officials said.

"General Petraeus also weighed in on the regional implications of Iraq. Military planners have prepared a series of possible withdrawal plans that, in the words of one official, 'range from conservative to aggressive.'

"One of them matches the president's 16-month timetable, although Mr. Obama always envisioned a substantial "residual force" remaining beyond that to train Iraqi forces and hunt terrorist cells.

"Senior officials said another proposal for a more gradual withdrawal was drawn up to meet the terms of the agreement recently sealed by Mr. Bush and Iraqi officials, which requires the United States to pull combat forces out of Iraqi cities by June and to withdraw all troops from the country by the end of 2011."

ECONOMY

4743150Politico's David Rogers, "A race against time for recovery plan"

Wall Street Journal's Damian Paletta and David Enrich, "Political Interference Seen in Bank Bailout Decisions": "As President Barack Obama's team sets about revising the $700 billion TARP program, following last week's release of the second half of the money, among the issues it faces is widespread dissatisfaction with way the program has been implemented.

"Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner, testifying Wednesday at his Senate confirmation hearing, acknowledged 'there are serious concerns about transparency and accountability...confusion about the goals of the program, and a deep skepticism about whether we are using the taxpayers' money wisely.'

"Bankers, regulators and politicians complain of a secretive and opaque process for deciding which banks get cash and which don't. The goal of aiding only banks healthy enough to lend -- laid out by the Treasury when the program began -- clearly seems to have shifted, but in a way that's hard to pin down and that the Treasury has declined to explain. Part of the problem is that some powerful politicians have used their leverage to try to direct federal millions toward banks in their home states."

POST-INAGURATION

Politico's Sarah Abruzzese, "Inaugural woes have members ticked": "Rep. Jim McDermott's brother had a ticket but never got through the gates. Sen. Lamar Alexander's chief legislative counsel was stranded — with a lot of other people — in a tunnel just off the Mall. Staffers for Sen. John Barrasso fell victim to the now-legendary purple gate. And a constituent of Sen. Amy Klobuchar — a man who wanted to be here so badly that he sold his snowmobile to come — never got in, even though he had a ticket in his hand.

"On the day after Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States, members of Congress were flooded with complaints from people who just missed the chance to see history made. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) said Wednesday morning that these people were 'owed an apology.' And on Wednesday afternoon, they got it. 'The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies deeply regrets that some ticket holders to the ceremonies were not able to get to their ticketed sections, primarily in the purple and blue zones,' the JCCIC said in a statement."

Washington Post's Pamela Constable and Mary Beth Smith, "Ticket and Travel Troubles Cloud Inauguration Success"

New York Times' Ian Urbina, "Washington Cleans Up After Big Party"

TED KENNEDY HOSPITALIZED

Boston Herald's Hillary Chabot, "Ted Kennedy 'in good shape'"

MINNESOTA SENATE RACE

Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Kevin Diaz and Pat Doyle, "Franken, Coleman court resolution": "Minnesota's U.S. Senate battle played out on two fronts Wednesday, as Norm Coleman and Al Franken met separately with national party leaders in Washington while their lawyers squared off in a St. Paul courtroom. 'Reports of my defeat are greatly exaggerated,' Coleman said in an interview after a luncheon meeting with Republican senators.

"'Franken's lead is artificial. Any attempt to shut off this process is not going to succeed.' Franken, in a joint appearance with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., suggested that the race is all but over. 'President Obama said [Tuesday] that we've got to work and address the problems that we have, so that's what we're doing here today.'"

BLAGO

Chicago Tribune's John Chase and Jeff Coen, "Patricia Blagojevich fired from fundraising job": "On Tuesday, the board of the Chicago Christian Industrial League exercised the termination clause in Blagojevich's contract with the agency, interim Executive Director Mary Shaver confirmed Wednesday. Shaver said she could not discuss why the board fired Blagojevich because it is a personnel issue."

ALSO:

Politico's John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei, "What we don't know about Obama". Among the questions asked: "DOES HE REALLY THINK AFGHANISTAN IS WINNABLE? ... DO DEFICITS MATTER? ... HOW FAST IS TOO FAST IN IRAQ? ... CAN U.S. POWER SAVE DARFUR? ... HOW MUCH DOES HE HAVE TO PLACATE THE LEFT?"

Politico's Alexander Burns, "RNC chair race is all about race"

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    Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.