The Edge is National Journal's daily look at today in Washington -- and what's coming next. The email features analysis from NJ's top correspondents, the biggest stories of the day -- and always a few surprises. To subscribe, click here.
The War on Terrorism, Still Not Over
So much for getting anyone to focus on President Obama's new plan to get high-speed Internet into many more American schools and to upgrade our global competitive standing.
As he went to North Carolina to promote the plan, Washington was erupting in yet another frenzy over phone records and leaks. Oh, and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., pretty much told Attorney General Eric Holder to resign, distracted as he must be by multiple controversies "of his own making."
Holder said no thanks and, by the way, he won't be prosecuting any reporters in connection with the leaks. Members of Congress, meanwhile, made it clear they've known for years about the collection of Verizon "metadata" on tens of millions of phone calls. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., explained why the feds need the tool. "It's called protecting America," she said.
I said it before and I'll say it again: Presidents have shown repeatedly that they would rather risk civil liberties than deadly attacks, and it's not hard to understand why. Civil liberties can be debated and restored, after all, but lives can't.
ADMINISTRATION DEFENDS REVIEW OF PHONE RECORDS. The White House defended its review of the landline and cellular-phone records of U.S. customers today, following a report from The Guardian. An administration official said that the user data "allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States." The official said that the information obtained from the carrier "relates exclusively to metadata, such as a telephone number or the length of a call," and does not include subscribers' names or the content of their conversations. Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said that the program has been in place for seven years, the Los Angeles Times reports. Read more
- This particular surveillance program has been in effect at least since April, and the Bush administration engaged in similar activities. If you didn't notice anything amiss then, your life will probably continue unchanged now, National Journal's Brian Fung writes. But this is the latest in a string of scandals dealing specifically with the Obama administration and its use of phone records in potentially unethical ways. Read more
HOLDER: CONGRESS AWARE OF PHONE DATA PROGRAM. Attorney General Eric Holder told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee today that the administration has kept lawmakers apprised of its review of U.S. subscribers' phone records, Politico reports. "Members of Congress have been fully briefed as these issues, these matters have been underway," Holder told the panel. The attorney general expressed reluctance to elaborate further in an unclassified hearing, prompting committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., to suggest a classified hearing or briefing for senators. In response to concerns from Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., that the program could have included data on calls by Supreme Court justices or members of Congress, Holder said that there was "no intention to do anything of that nature." Read more
- During a Wednesday interview with NBC News, Holder said that while he and President Obama will at some stage "determine when it's time to make a transition to a new attorney general," there are things he still hopes to accomplish, and he has "no intention" of stepping down at this time. Read more
IRS OFFICIAL: CONFERENCE VIDEO 'EMBARRASSING.' IRS Small Business and Self-Employment Division Commissioner Faris Fink apologized today to members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for his role in a $4.1 million conference that included $50,000 for the production of two videos. "The fact of the matter is, Mr. Chairman, it's embarrassing. I apologize," Fink told committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. Ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said of one of the videos, a Star Trek parody in which Fink plays Spock, "I swear to God, I have looked at that video over and over again, and I swear I do not see the redeeming value." Issa characterized the agency as "effectively guilty of tax evasion" for providing employees with lavish accommodations at taxpayer expense without reporting it as income. Read more
REID FILES CLOTURE ON IMMIGRATION BILL; SENATE COULD TAKE IT UP MONDAY. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., filed cloture on a motion to proceed with the comprehensive immigration-reform bill, and an aide said that the Senate will consider the measure following completion of its work on the farm bill. The Senate could begin consideration of the "Gang of Eight's" immigration measure as soon as Monday. Read more
- Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, split with a bipartisan group crafting an immigration bill in the House, a move that bodes poorly for the chances of the lower chamber passing a single bill that reflects a compromise reached between the two parties, National Journal's Rebecca Kaplan reports. Read more
LAUTENBERG LIES IN REPOSE IN SENATE CHAMBER. The casket of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., arrived in the Capitol this afternoon and was placed in the Senate chamber on the Lincoln Catafalque, where the senator will lie in repose ahead of his burial Friday at Arlington National Cemetery. Senators and staffers will pay their respects ahead of the opening of the chamber to the public, who may view the casket from the gallery. Read more
THE GOP'S PLAN TO TAKE DOWN CONSUMER PROTECTION CHIEF. If Harry Reid goes nuclear, Senate Republicans plan to make the fight personal—and their first target will be the man sitting atop the still-controversial Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Democrats are eyeing the so-called nuclear option to blow up Senate rules that allow Republicans to block the confirmation of President Obama's nominees. And should Reid try to neuter the opposition, Republicans plan to make life miserable for the nominees, starting with Richard Cordray, the man installed at CFPB, National Journal's Chris Frates reports. Read more
CHRISTIE NAMES STATE AG TO SERVE AS INTERIM SENATOR. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday named state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to serve in an interim capacity in the Senate following the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., the Newark Star-Ledger reports. Chiesa said he will not vie for the seat in a special election Christie has scheduled for this year. Chiesa, a registered Republican, is a 1987 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and earned a J.D. from the Catholic University of America in 1990. He worked with Christie in private practice and the U.S. Attorney's Office, and served as the governor's chief counsel when he assumed office. He has held his current post since January 2012. Read more
- National Journal's Alex Roarty writes that lately, Republicans can't catch a break Read more
OBAMA, CHINESE PRESIDENT TO MEET. President Obama is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in California Friday, and as Yahoo's Olivier Knox writes, Obama will need to do his best to keep up with Xi, who is known to be "fast on his feet." Here's a look inside Sunnylands, the luxe estate where the two will meet. Read more
JOBS NUMBERS DUE OUT. The Labor Department will report Friday on the employment situation, and economists expect an increase of roughly 167,000 jobs in May. Expectations have been tempered somewhat, as the payroll processor ADP earlier this week reported that only 135,000 jobs had been added for May. The unemployment rate is expected to hold steady at 7.5 percent. In April, 165,000 jobs were created. Read more
"I am a Verizon customer. It doesn't bother me one bit for the NSA to have my phone number." –Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. (Washington Examiner)
ARE ENERGY COMPANIES TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE AMISH'S BELIEFS? In 2010 a Kenoil agent offered Lloyd Miller $10 an acre for a five-year lease to drill on his land for shale gas, $1,500 in total. Miller accepted, but quickly found out that other farmers had gotten offers for hundreds of dollars; a lawyer told him the agent had committed fraud. But Miller is Amish and, like most others of his religion, doesn't sue. A lawyer for Columbia Gas Transmission said the Amish's reluctance to use the court system is "a known fact to us." But the Amish are starting to fight back, The New Republic reports. Read more
PLAY OF THE DAY
A DELICIOUS, DANGEROUS USE FOR DRONES. The IRS scandals continue to amuse The Tonight Show's Jay Leno, and he reveled in any pressure on the tax agency after recent conference spending has been put under more scrutiny. On TBS, Conan O'Brien mentioned the recent dustup between the first lady and a heckler during a Tuesday fundraiser, highlighting the interest former President Bill Clinton had in the exchange. O'Brien and Late Show's David Letterman also highlighted a new way to deliver pizzas. Domino's has tested an unmanned aerial vehicle resembling a helicopter that will get pizzas to customers, which prompted O'Brien to make a joke about safety and Letterman to bring New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie into the mix. Watch it here
- @SimonMaloy: Morewellian. RT @stefanjbecket: Can something really be "beyond Orwellian"? Orwellian is about as bad as it gets.
- @AaronBlakeWP: Holder on when he will step down: "The tipping point might be fatigue."
- @BDayspring: Midnight snack: McDonald's to allow hash browns and Egg McMuffins for late night dining! http://ow.ly/lLTFJ
- @AndrewKroll: Wow from @loreleikelly: Congressonal staffing today is 70% of what it was in 1979—but incoming communications are up 800% from 2000. #pdf13
- @Chris_Moody: A 91-year-old vet is live-tweeting his first trip to the World War II Memorial right now. #FF @WW2VetCharles
- @CarrieNBCNews: Presented without comment: There is a list on the internet of "Hottest Attorneys General" and Jeff Chiesa is on it. http://goo.gl/lC5Jl
11 MAPS THAT SHOW HOW AMERICANS SAY STUFF DIFFERENTLY. Did you know that the term "sneakers" is pretty much a Northeast phenomenon? (It's "tennis shoes" most everywhere else.) Or that the West Coast is partial to its "drinking fountains?" (It's a "bubbler" in two very different parts of the country.) BuzzFeed has a fascinating roundup of how Americans identify things depending on what part of the country they're from. Read more