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A Kurdish man holds up a weapon as he tours with others the streets of Ras al-Ain in celebration, after it was reported that Kurdish forces took control of the Syrian town of Kobani, Jani 26, 2015.

Taking control of Kobani from ISIS

01/28/15 10:04AM

The U.S. military offensive against Islamic State militants has been ongoing for five months, and the routinization of the conflict has largely pushed developments from the front page. We have some general sense that strikes against ISIS continue, but tangible results are elusive, and Congress hasn't bothered to even authorize the mission.
That said, this week brought a striking development in an important part of Syria.
Kurdish militias regained full control of the northern Syrian town of Kobani on Monday, driving Islamic State militants out with the help of American-led airstrikes, Kurdish activists on the scene said.
The bitter three-month battle for the border town took on outsize symbolic significance as it unfolded within sight of the Turkish border. It became the most visible arena in the American-led coalition's fight against the Islamic State, which has seized large areas of Syria and Iraq, and the militant group's retreat dented the aura of invincibility it has sought to cultivate.
There's a credible debate to be had about just how strategically significant this victory is the broader context. The editorial board of the Washington Post emphasized today, for example, that there have been roughly 1,000 airstrikes on ISIS targets, and three-quarters of them focused on Kobani.
In other words, it's a tough tactic to duplicate. That said, a specific recipe was tested in Kobani -- U.S. airstrikes coupled with "determined" local allies on the ground -- and it matters that it was successful in forcing an ISIS retreat.

Kevin Drum's take on this was interesting:
Speaker of the House John Boehner looks on as U.S. President Barack Obama meets with bipartisian congressional leadership in the Old Family Dining Room at the White House on Nov. 7, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Boehner's bold new idea: suing Obama again

01/28/15 09:05AM

Last summer, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) took the unusual step of announcing a lawsuit against President Obama. Boehner wasn't sure what he would sue over, exactly, but the Republican leader was sure he wanted to take the president to court -- for something.
Eventually, Boehner picked a topic -- the delayed implementation of an obscure ACA provision --- and after a few fits and starts, House Republicans agreed to pay a D.C. law firm $500 an hour, in taxpayer money, to handle the case. The whole thing became quite farcical when the GOP's lawyers quit the case, followed by the replacement lawyers also quitting the case.
And as that case stumbles through the judiciary, Boehner yesterday began talking up his brand new idea: filing another lawsuit against the president. Suzy Khimm reported that the House Speaker apparently hopes to challenge Obama's new protections for millions of undocumented immigrants.
Boehner discussed the next potential steps at a closed-door meeting with House Republicans on Tuesday. "We are finalizing a plan to authorize litigation on this issue - one we believe gives us the best chance of success," he said, according to a source in the room.
The options included filing a lawsuit against Obama over the issue or to join the handful of states that are already suing the president. If Boehner moves forward, he would put a resolution authorizing such action up for a vote.
Won't that be fun.
On the merits, it's very difficult to take any of this seriously. The president already has well established prosecutorial discretion, and his actions last fall on behalf of immigrants were rooted in precedents set by Obama's predecessors. There's no reason to believe the courts would reject the White House's policy -- the judiciary generally doesn't like intervening in food fights between the branches -- and it's unlikely the case would even be resolved  before Obama's term in office expires.
Chances are, Boehner knows all of this, but will proceed with litigation plans anyway, It's important to understand why.
President Barack Obama nominates Loretta Lynch as Attorney General in Washington D.C., on Nov. 8, 2014. (Photo by Rex Features/AP)

GOP readies partisan circus as Lynch hearings begin

01/28/15 08:35AM

The first sign that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) may not have been the best choice to lead the Senate Judiciary Committee came two weeks ago. The conservative Iowan boasted that, since his promotion, the Senate had already confirmed 11 judicial nominees. The actual number was zero: Grassley was counting confirmation votes from the last Congress, pointing to nominees he opposed.
The second sign that Grassley is probably the wrong man for the job came around the same time, by way of a deeply odd response to the terrorist violence in Paris.
But the third piece of evidence will arrive this morning.
If you don't count the Republican members of Congress, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder has no more determined critic than Sheryl Attkisson. The investigative reporter, who left CBS News last year and now contributes to the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal, spent years investigating the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal. Her stories were part of a corpus that convinced the House to hold Holder in contempt of Congress for dodging questions. Just last month, Holder was among the people sued by Attkisson in a case that accuses the federal government of spying on her; she's asking for compensatory damages, punitive damages, and an injunction preventing the feds from conducting "any surveillance" of her.
And [Wednesday morning], Attkisson will lead the expert testimony on Holder's likely replacement. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley took control of after the Republicans' 2014 wins, has called Attkisson to speak on a panel of witnesses after nominee Loretta Lynch is introduced.
Attkisson has become a rather tragic figure in recent months, undermining her own reputation with genuinely bizarre allegations, strange conspiracy theories, and commentary on journalism that really didn't go well. Grassley, or at least the Grassley staffers who help him make decisions, has decided this far-right media figure is the best person to make the case against an Attorney General nominee? What, were the folks at busy?
Is this really what passes for grown-up Senate oversight in a Republican-led chamber?
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left, leaves the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center after he was booked, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas.

Criminal case against Texas' Perry moves forward

01/28/15 08:00AM

A few months ago, not long after he was indicted on two felony counts, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) forgot what crimes he'd been charged with. "I'm not a lawyer, so I don't really understand the details here," he said in August.
The likely Republican presidential hopeful was nevertheless certain that he didn't do whatever it was he was accused of doing, and Perry's legal team still hoped to have the charges thrown out.
As the Austin American Statesman reported late yesterday, things clearly aren't going the way the former governor had hoped.
A judge denied a second and more substantial request Tuesday by former Gov. Rick Perry to dismiss the indictment against him prior to trial, likely extending his criminal case for the next several months as Perry continues mounting a possible presidential campaign.
The ruling by Judge Bert Richardson, a San Antonio Republican, comes five months after Perry's attorneys filed the writ of habeas corpus, a sign of the slow speed at which the case is churning through the criminal justice system. Immediately after the ruling, Perry's attorneys filed formal documents appealing the ruling to the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals, a process that could take several months and stall possible resolution of the case.
In case it's not obvious, most presidential candidates try to avoid launching national campaigns while under felony indictment, and Perry's legal team was counting on a victory it did not receive yesterday.
By all appearances, however, the Texas Republican apparently won't let a little thing like criminal allegations get in the way of his ambitions, largely because Perry just doesn't believe the charges have any merit.
The question then becomes, is he right? I don't believe so, no.

AG confirmation hearing and other headlines

01/28/15 07:55AM

Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch begins 2 days of Senate Judiciary confirmation hearings today. (Los Angeles Times)

Bill would grant war powers to fight Islamic State militants. (AP)

Pres. Obama to request a big Pentagon budget hike. (AP)

GOP lawmakers confront Heritage's Jim DeMint over ratings. (Politico)

Koch donors liked Marco Rubio the best. (Politico)

Meet the top 50 donors who influenced state elections. (Time)

Alleged American ISIS commander killed: reports. (NBC News)

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'Drunk droning' results in White House breach

'Drunk droning' results in White House breach

01/27/15 11:37PM

Carol Leonnig, national reporter for The Washington Post, talks with Rachel Maddow about how a drunken government employee accidentally crashed his drone on the White House grounds, setting off a new round of alarm about White House vulnerability. watch