An Open-and-Shut Case in Boston?

National Journal

IN THE NEWS: Baucus out in Senate, Schweitzer in? … Napolitano: U.S. knew of bomber suspect’s Russia visit … Graham places hold on Energy nominee … Man released in poison-letter case ... Obama and the art of arm-twisting … Our trailer-park retirement-village future


An Open-and-Shut Case in Boston?

Reports coming out of the bedside interrogation of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old ethnic Chechen immigrant accused of bombing the Boston Marathon with his brother, indicate that the horrific acts may have been run-of-the-mill, lone-wolf terrorism.

The seriously wounded Tsarnaev told investigators he and his brother, Tamerlan, acted alone and were not in contact with overseas terrorists or groups, NBC News reported.

And since Tsarnaev is now going to be tried in civilian court, not the more controversial military commissions, it looks like a fairly open-and-shut case against him.

All of which suggests that the Boston bombings may not have much impact, in the long run, on pressing issues in Washington such as immigration. On Monday Sen. Rand Paul sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urging a delay in the immigration bill.

But Paul’s mini-movement appeared to be losing momentum by Tuesday, especially after both House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan both suggested that, if anything, the Boston case proved the need for immigration reform.

Michael Hirsh


BAUCUS WILL NOT SEEK REELECTION IN 2014. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., announced Tuesday that he will retire rather than seek reelection in 2014. Baucus said in a statement, “After thinking long and hard, I decided I want to focus the next year and a half on serving Montana unconstrained by the demands of a campaign.” Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a popular Democrat, is leaning toward a bid for the seat, The New York Times reports. Read more

  • Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who currently chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is next in line to assume the chairmanship of the Finance Committee, should Democrats hold the Senate in 2014.

NAPOLITANO: U.S. KNEW OF TSARNAEV DEPARTURE, DID NOT NOTE RETURN. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that the department was aware of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s 2012 visit to Russia, the Associated Press reports. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., previously had said that the FBI was unaware of the trip due to a misspelling of Tsarnaev’s name, but Napolitano said that the FBI was aware, despite the error. “The system pinged when he was leaving the United States. By the time he returned all investigations had been closed,” Napolitano told the committee. Napolitano also said that the new immigration bill would minimize “human error” and would in the future better help track suspects like Tsarnaev. Read more

  • Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has acknowledged his part in the attacks and told investigators that he and his brother were motivated by the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, The Washington Post reports.

KERRY: NETANYAHU ‘NOT IN A POSITION TO CONFIRM’ THAT SYRIA USED CHEMICAL WEAPONS. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “cannot confirm” comments by Israeli intelligence analyst Brig. Gen. Itai Brun that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons on rebels, Reuters reports. “I talked to Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning. I think it is fair for me to say that he was not in a position to confirm that in the conversation that I had," Kerry said at NATO headquarters. "I don't know yet what the facts are.” Read more

  • White House press secretary Jay Carney ducked questions on what the U.S. response would be: “What I won't do is jump to the next step and say if claims are verified, what action will we take. That's speculating and I won't be doing that.”

MAN ACCUSED OF SENDING POISON LETTERS RELEASED FROM JAIL. A Mississippi man who had been accused by federal authorities of sending letters laced with the poison ricin to President Obama and a Republican senator has been released, the Associated Press reports. A spokesperson for the U.S. Marshals said that Paul Kevin Curtis, 43, was released today following a canceled hearing, but did not have more information on the matter. Curtis was arrested last Wednesday. Read more

GRAHAM BLOCKS MONIZ VOTE OVER BUDGET CUTS IN STATE. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is blocking a Senate vote on the nomination of MIT professor Ernest Moniz to serve as Energy secretary, Bloomberg reports. Graham spokesperson Tate Zeigler confirmed that the senator is holding up the vote over the department’s proposed cuts to funding for the Savannah River nuclear site in South Carolina. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., was the lone “no” vote on the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee last Thursday, citing the same budget considerations. Read more

ROCKEFELLER, THUNE URGE END TO AIR-TRAFFIC CONTROLLER FURLOUGHS. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and ranking member John Thune, R-S.D., wrote Tuesday to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta to urge the administration to end the sequestration-related furlough of air-traffic controllers. “Many stakeholders argue that you have flexibility within your budget to avoid or minimize air-traffic controller furloughs,” the senators wrote. Airports in major East Coast cities experienced flight delays Monday and Tuesday. Read more

REPUBLICANS BLOCK REID FROM FORMING CONFERENCE ON BUDGET. On Tuesday, Republicans blocked the Democratic-led effort to create a conference committee on the budget, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., mocked Republican lawmakers, saying they had reversed themselves. “A strange thing happened: House Republicans did a complete 180 — they flipped. They’re no longer interested in regular order even though they preached that for years,” Reid said. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking member on the Budget Committee, said that an agreement needed to be reached to make a conference committee work. Read more

TAVENNER NOMINATION CLEARS SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE. The Senate Finance Committee cleared by voice vote the nomination of Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner to serve in a permanent capacity. Ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, noted ahead of the vote, “I think it's an excellent choice. We need a permanent person there.” A vote by the full Senate on Tavenner’s nomination has not yet been scheduled. Read more 


OBAMA TO TEXAS. On Wednesday, the President and the first lady will travel to Dallas to attend an event for the Democratic National Committee. They will remain overnight in Dallas.

BIDEN TO MASSACHUSETTS. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Massachusetts on Wednesday to attend a memorial service on the MIT campus for Sean Collier, the MIT police officer killed last Thursday. Collier was shot to death by Boston bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Biden will be joined by his wife, Jill.

NSA ADVISER TO TALK ENERGY AND CLIMATE. On Wednesday, a key White House voice will speak on energy and climate issues: National Security Adviser Tom Donilon is scheduled to speak at the launch of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.

EPA BUDGET HEARING COULD HAVE FIREWORKS. EPA regulations are likely to flare once again at Wednesday’s Senate Appropriations hearing on the agency's fiscal 2014 budget request.


“I don't want to die here with my boots on. There is life beyond Congress.” -- Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., on his retirement announcement. (AP)


WILL THE TRAILER PARK SAVE THE BABY BOOMERS? “No one in California aspires to be old or to live in a trailer, but we need to be more open to the possibilities inherent in both,” Lisa Margonelli writes in Pacific Standard Magazine. With 10,000 baby boomers retiring each day, Americans over 65 will make up 19 percent of the population by 2030, up from 13 percent today. But these aren’t their parents’ retirees. “They are poorer and more likely to live alone. They can’t depend on pensions, and the real-estate bubble destroyed almost 50 percent of their wealth,” Margonelli writes. It might be time to ditch the negative connotations of trailer parks. Places like Pismo Dunes Senior Park—unironically called “Pismodise” by its residents—are “healthy, inexpensive, environmentally friendly,” and most importantly, quite nice. Could these clean, upscale trailer parks be the retirement communities of the future? Read more


ARM-TWISTING, OBAMA, AND THE GUN BILL FAILURE. The New York Times has a provocative piece out with the thesis that President Obama, perhaps relying too much on “sweet reason,” failed to twist enough arms to get his way on the background-check measure that failed in the Senate last week. Exhibit A: a favor the president did for Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, regarding the disputed construction of a road through a wildlife refuge, only to see Begich four weeks later vote against the gun bill. Keep an eye out for whether Begich will be punished for flouting the president—the administration has thus far said it will reconsider the decision to block the road, not reverse it, as Begich wants. At the same time, Yahoo News’s Olivier Knox says the Begich situation is more complicated than what The Times describes, and that Obama got what he wanted. Read more


SEE PHOTOS OF THE SHOOTOUT IN BOSTON. In the wee hours last Friday morning, Andrew Kitzenberg heard loud pops outside his window in Watertown, Mass. With his iPhone he was able to take several remarkable photos of the Tsarnaev brothers in the heat of a gun battle with police. The photos include some of the last moments of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s life. See it here

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