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Why Were They Fired?

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Matt Apuzzo wrote this morning for the Associated Press: "The federal judge who oversaw I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby's CIA leak trial said Thursday that he received threatening letters and phone calls after sentencing the former White House aide to prison."

If Judge Reggie B. Walton decides that Libby will not remain free pending his appeal, his defense team is expected to file an emergency motion with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. That request would go the three judges serving on a "special panel."

Who would be on that panel? Given the highly political nature of the case -- and the bench -- that could be significant. But there's no way to know. Mark Langer, the clerk of the appeals court, told me this morning that the court never divulges which judges are serving on the special panel until their order is issued.

Presumably at least one of the judges on the circuit -- Brett Kavanaugh, who served in the White House with Libby -- would have a clear conflict of interest. Langer said there is a recusal process that either automatically or voluntarily removes judges from the special panel.

Meet the New Guy

Jennifer Loven writes for the Associated Press: "Ed Gillespie, a high-dollar Washington lobbyist and longtime go-to guy for President Bush and the Republican Party, is replacing Dan Bartlett as White House counselor in the president's inner circle. . . .

"Funny and well-liked by reporters, Gillespie has played many roles for Bush, in addition to being

Republican National Committee chairman during the 2004 elections that sent Bush back to the White House and retained GOP majorities in the House and Senate.

"He was a senior communications adviser to Bush's first campaign for president, spokesman during the 2000 recount in Florida and communications director for the 2001 inaugural. He was tapped to guide Samuel Alito through his confirmation to the Supreme Court, after doing the same for former White House counsel Harriet Miers. She eventually withdrew her nomination after a conservative revolt.

"Gillespie's name has surfaced nearly every time there was a significant opening looming in the Bush White House. When it seemed political guru Karl Rove might be forced out because of the CIA leak investigation, for instance, Gillespie was speculated to be one choice as a possible replacement. Same for when former chief of staff Andrew Card was leaving."

Michael Abramowitz writes in The Washington Post: "In Gillespie, Bush is gaining one of Washington's top Republican strategists and someone who has been a key ally outside the administration since the beginning of his term."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times that "in picking him, Mr. Bush did not reach for someone who will shake things up. . . .

"Ever the optimist, he predicted the president's fortunes would turn. 'I believe we are on the cusp of a pendulum swing,' Mr. Gillespie said."

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