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EARLYBIRD

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Details emerge on how Obama decided to release memos as administration tries to quell calls for 'Truth Commission.' Plus: Allstate/National Journal poll finds new concerns about economy.

White House: Administration Would Block 'Truth Commission'

• "The White House and the Democratic leadership in the Senate signaled on Thursday that they would block for now any effort to establish an independent commission to investigate the Bush administration's approval of harsh interrogation techniques," the New York Times reports. "In doing so, they sought to reduce pressure for a full inquiry" from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and others "that has grown more intense since President Obama suggested on Tuesday that he would be open to such an investigation."

• The last five CIA directors, including Leon E. Panetta, "and Obama's top counterterrorism adviser had expressed firm opposition to the release of interrogation details in four 'top secret' memos in which Bush administration lawyers sanctioned harsh tactics," the Washington Post reports. "Seated in Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's West Wing office with about a dozen of his political, legal and security appointees, Obama requested a mini-debate in which one official was chosen to argue for releasing the memos and another was assigned to argue against doing so."

 

Congress: Gonzales Delayed Notification Of Harman Wiretap

• Then-CIA Director Porter Goss "concluded in late 2005 that a conversation picked up on a government wiretap was serious enough to require notifying Congressional leaders that Representative Jane Harman, Democrat of California, could become enmeshed in an investigation into Israeli influence in Washington," the New York Times reports. "But Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales told" Goss "to hold off on briefing lawmakers about the conversation... despite a longstanding government policy to inform Congressional leaders quickly whenever a member of Congress could be a target of a national security investigation."

• "Harman was promised the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee," The Hill reports based on a letter it obtained. "But that pledge was made by Dick Gephardt, not Nancy Pelosi."

• "The Senate Thursday took a step toward finishing work on the FY10 budget resolution when it appointed conferees, following House action earlier this week," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Congressional Democratic leaders and the White House hope conferees can finish quickly, but major differences might take time to resolve."

 

Politics: Tedisco No Longer In It To Win

• "A GOP source on Capitol Hill said Thursday afternoon that Republican Jim Tedisco's camp has abandoned hope of winning New York's 20th district special election but that the former state Assembly Minority Leader won't concede the race to Democrat Scott Murphy until technical legal questions surrounding voter residency issues are resolved," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "Federal election laws barred" Obama "from writing a big check to help settle Hillary Clinton's gaping campaign debt, but he and other Clinton allies found another way to help the Secretary of State pay most of the bills left over from her presidential campaign," Politico reports. "Obama's inaugural committee and a slew of other groups ranging from Bill Clinton's charitable foundation to Media Matters to the Democratic gubernatorial campaigns of Gavin Newsom in California and Terry McAuliffe in Virginia combined to pay nearly $2.1 million in the first three months of the year to rent the list of supporters' email addresses Clinton assembled during her unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination."

• "Can a bitter U.S. Senate primary bring Kentucky Democrats together?" CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Even though the candidates vying for the seat held by Republican Sen. Jim Bunning have already mixed it up, Democratic leaders say the prospect of an ultimate victory has energized and invigorated a state party desperate for a win."

Economy: Financial Risk Cuts Deeper, Poll Finds

• "In a new Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll, fully 64 percent of adults said they think that today's economy presents them with more financial risks that could endanger their standard of living than their parents confronted," National Journal (subscription) reports. "That's nearly six times as many as the 11 percent who say that today's economy presents fewer risks."

 

• "Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and former Treasury secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. threatened to remove the management and board of Bank of America if it backed out of its deal to acquire ailing investment house Merrill Lynch late last year, according to documents released" Thursday "by New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo," the Washington Post reports.

• "As they try to cope with gaping budget deficits, at least 15 states from every region... are in various stages of considering or carrying out furloughs," the New York Times reports. "But furloughs can be a problem for states in a way they may not be for a private company where demand for a product has dropped."

National Security: Iraqis Fear Bombings Indicate A Sunni Resurgency

• "Two large suicide bombings Thursday renewed fears among Iraqis that Sunni insurgents are regaining strength and lethality as the U.S. military has started disassembling its massive wartime architecture," the Washington Post reports. "The blasts, which killed more than 80 people in the bloodiest day here this year, came after Sunni insurgent groups warned that they would step up attacks against U.S. troops and Iraq's Shiite-led government, which is backed by the United States."

• "The Obama administration's effort to return the largest group of Guantánamo Bay detainees to Yemen, their home country, has stalled, creating a major new hurdle for the president's plan to close the prison camp in Cuba by next January, American and Yemeni officials say," the New York Times reports.

• "House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton," D-Mo., "and ranking member John McHugh," R-N.Y., "will introduce a bill Monday aimed at overhauling the way the Pentagon buys weapons by establishing regulations and oversight mechanisms to rein in ever-escalating costs on major procurement programs," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The bill, which the Armed Services Committee is expected to mark up as soon as next week, follows similar Senate legislation."

World: Pakistan Continues Losing Grip On Parts Of Country

• "Islamic extremists killed a paramilitary officer, set up checkpoints and ransacked homes Thursday as they enforced their control over a district 60 miles from Pakistan's capital, while other reports said they were infiltrating districts even closer to Islamabad," McClatchy Newspapers reports. "The White House called the growing crisis in the nuclear-armed South Asian nation 'deeply disturbing,' and several key U.S. lawmakers told" Secretary Clinton "that the Obama administration's new $7.5 billion plan to help stabilize Pakistan could be doomed by the failure of its government and military to battle the insurgents."

• "North Korea said Friday that two U.S. journalists will stand trial following an investigation into allegations they entered the country illegally and committed 'hostile acts,'" AP reports. "Laura Ling and Euna Lee, journalists working for former Vice President Al Gore's San Francisco-based Current TV media venture, were arrested March 17 near the North Korean border while reporting on refugees living in China."

Commentary: Party Bashers

• One commentator mocks the GOP while another chastises Democrats for "overreaching" on energy legislation in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section.

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