02/07/2013 06:13 pm ET Updated Apr 09, 2013

HUFFPOST HILL - Drone Falconer Answers Questions About His Flock

Chuck Grassley's thumbs are on alert after Raul Labrador fired his press secretary for improper tweeting. The New York Times might launch an edition aimed at young adults, which seems unnecessary given all those David Brooks-related posts we see on a new social media site you're too old to have heard of. And John Brennan said he's not a lawyer so he can't determine whether waterboarding constitutes torture. Remind us to check LegalZoom the next time our body is tricked into thinking it's being drowned. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, February 7th, 2013:

BRENNAN HEARING: LAWMAKERS DISCUSS OUR MECHANICAL DESTRUCTION BIRDS - The Senate Intelligence Committee grilled President Obama's nominee to command our drone fleet (or "death pigeons who rain arbitrary death from the skies," as we like to put it) and provide Ben Affleck script ideas. Amanda Terkel, Ryan Reilly and Mike McAuliff: "CIA nominee John Brennan refused to say whether he believes the controversial practice of waterboarding constitutes torture, insisting he is not a legal scholar and therefore cannot answer the question. 'I have a personal opinion that waterboarding is reprehensible and should not be done,' Brennan told Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), when asked whether he personally believes it is torture. 'And again, I am not a lawyer, Senator, and I can't address that question.' [Brennan] promised that he would tell the Senate Intelligence Committee where the CIA has killed people. At first, Brennan seemed to hedge, but when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) grew heated in his questioning, Brennan relented... While Brennan said he would cooperate with the committee if he is confirmed, that wouldn't mean the CIA and members of the Intelligence Committee would agree. One such disagreement was on display at the hearing. President Barack Obama ordered the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel to provide members of Congress the legal memo laying out the rationale for the targeted killing of suspected terrorists. But Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the committee, revealed that the government would not allow the committee's staff lawyers to review the memo for themselves." [HuffPost]

It's not a party until someone crashes it and it's not a high-profile Washington hearing involving waterboarding until Code Pink appears: "Code Pink protesters disrupted the hearings on the nomination of John Brennan to lead the CIA on Thursday, forcing Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to vacate the room of all observers. The protesting started even before the hearings officially began. As attendees gathered in the hearing room shortly before 2:30 p.m., protesters began yelling, 'Halt the drones!' and 'You are a traitor to democracy when you assassinate suspects!' Feinstein threatened to have the Capitol police clear the room. Instead, a few protesters were escorted out of the room and the hearing proceeded. Protests, however, picked up again about 20 minutes later. After four more disruptions from Code Pink protesters, Feinstein demanded that everyone leave the room." [HuffPost's Amanda Terkel]

DREAM ACT REINTRODUCED: DEMOCRATS GIVE HOUSE REPUBLICANS ANOTHER CHANCE TO ALIENATE HISPANICS - Hey, it's either this or sending in the "Inception" dream thieves to steal Steve King's thoughts (or just, you know, asking him). Elise Foley: "Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) will introduce Dream Act legislation near the end this month to help undocumented young people who came to the United States as children, their offices confirmed to HuffPost. The bill will fall roughly along the lines of the 2010 Dream Act. That bill aimed to allow young undocumented immigrants to gain legal status and eventual citizenship if they entered the United States as children and either joined the military or attended college, along with other requirements...The three members of Congress are all advocates for broader immigration reform, as well as longtime sponsors of the Dream Act, and Roybal-Allard spokesman Matt Lee said the introduction of the Dream Act bill shouldn't be considered as them backing away from a comprehensive legislative effort." [HuffPost]

A prairie at-home abortion: "North Dakota lawmakers passed a Personhood Constitutional Amendment initiative on Thursday that would amend the state's constitution to give legal rights and protections to human embryos. If the ballot initiative passes the House, North Dakota voters will decide on it during the 2014 elections. 'We are intending that it be a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, since Scalia said that the Supreme Court is waiting for states to raise a case,' state Sen. Margaret Sitte (R), the sponsor of the personhood initiative, told HuffPost." [HuffPost's Laura Bassett]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - More Americans believe today than they did two years ago that their country will never fully recover from the Great Recession. Fifty-six percent of Americans surveyed by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in August 2010 said they believed the Great Recession would permanently change the economy. In a January follow-up survey, 60 percent of respondents agreed with that sentiment. "Five years of economic misery have profoundly diminished Americans' confidence in the economy and their outlook for the next generation," Rutgers professor and survey co-author Carl Van Horn said in a statement. [HuffPost]

DOUBLE DOWNER - For the past year, the Georgia Department of Labor has encouraged Georgia businesses to alert the agency if a job applicant fails a drug test, so that the department does not spend unemployment insurance on those who aren't really ready to work. How many drug test failures have businesses reported? Just one, according to department spokesman Sam Hall. "As a result of that one employer calling, we investigated and the person that had been reported was disallowed from continuing to receive benefits," Hall said. [HuffPost]

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LOBBYING BAN, SHLOBBYING BAN - Christina Wilkie: "Two recently retired senior Republican members of Congress have joined lobbying firms as senior advisers, offering their years of experience on Capitol Hill to help clients navigate the political and regulatory landscape. Former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) will join the firm Bracewell Giuliani, where former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani is a partner. Former Republican House member Cliff Stearns (Fla.) has also joined a lobbying and public affairs firm, APCO Worldwide. Hutchinson retired in 2012, while Stearns lost a Republican primary election by about 1% of the vote in the 2012 election. Hutchinson's husband, municipal bond lawyer Ray Hutchinson, already works at Bracewell Giuliani, and firm chairman Patrick Oxford was a campaign manager for a number of Sen. Hutchinson's political campaigns. A press release by the firm said Hutchinson will be "a senior counsel" at the firm, where she will "advise clients in banking, energy, telecommunications and transportation." Hutchinson knows these sectors well. Over ten years in the Senate, Hutchinson rose to occupy the top Republican spot on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation." [HuffPost]

GOP REP: CITIZENSHIP PATHWAY ENDS IN HOUSE - The pathway for undocumented immigrants to become citizens appears to be less direct than the one between the AR-15 the GOP is holding and its foot. TPM: "House Republicans 'are not going to be able to vote for' a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a key GOP voice in the debate said Thursday. 'The people that came here illegally knowingly -- I don't think they should have a path to citizenship,' Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), a tea party star and former immigration lawyer, said on NPR. 'If you knowingly violated our law, you violated our sovereignty, I think we should normalize your status but we should not give you a pathway to citizenship.' Under Labrador's proposal, which reflects a middle ground sought by Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, undocumented immigrants would receive a visa that allows them to live, work and travel in and out of the United States, but without the right to vote or become a green card holder or citizen." [TPM]

Whereas us <3 "Mike & Molly": "Phil Hardy, Rep. Raul Labrador's spokesman since his upset congressional win in 2010, has been fired for mistakenly tweeting in the name of his boss about his admiration for two actresses pole dancing in a Super Bowl ad. The tweet, 'Me likey Broke Girls,' was deleted after 14 seconds but is archived on a website that collects deleted tweets from politicians. The Idaho Republican's office apologized Monday for the tweet, which was Hardy's take on a CBS promotional spot featuring Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs, the stars of '2 Broke Girls,' dancing in revealing clothing. The pair were depicted on the show's set -- a Brooklyn diner -- gyrating to a Def Leppard pole-dancing tune 'Pour Some Sugar On Me.'" [Idaho Statesman]

@christinawilkie Haha, SecState Kerry stopped by classroom today for "give & take" w/ students. Proceeded to give 2,000 word speech, left

IOWA DEM JUMPS INTO SENATE RACE - Hawkeye Rep. Bruce Braley will not live up to his name and become a 1930s noir detective but will instead run for the Senate seat being vacated by Tom Harkin. AP: "Braley, a four-term House member from Waterloo, announced his plans in an email to potential supporters. He said representing the entire state would be 'a big responsibility' and included a link to a fundraising site. Braley's announcement came less than two weeks after Harkin, a fellow Democrat first elected to the Senate in 1984, announced that he would not be seeking a sixth term... Some Democrats have described Braley as a consensus choice for the party. Former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack also is said to be considering a bid... No Republicans have stepped forward, although Iowa Congressmen Steve King and Tom Latham are considering campaigns." [AP]

THIS IS NOT THE BEST STRETCH FOR BOB MENENDEZ - But, hey, the new hair color looks great. WaPo: "Sen. Robert Menendez raised concerns with top federal health-care officials twice in recent years about their finding that a Florida eye doctor -- a close friend and major campaign donor -- had overbilled the government by $8.9 million for care at his clinic, Menendez aides said Wednesday. Menendez (D-N.J.) initially contacted federal officials in 2009 about the government's audit of Salomon Melgen, complaining to the director overseeing Medicare payments that it was unfair to penalize the doctor because the billing rules were ambiguous, the aides said. Last year, in a meeting with the acting administrator of the agency in charge of Medicare and Medicaid, Menendez again questioned whether federal auditors had been fair in their assessment of Melgen's billing for eye injections to treat macular degeneration, the senator's aides said. The agency had ordered Melgen to repay the $8.9 million, and at the time of both conversations, Melgen was disputing the agency's conclusion. His appeal continues to this day...Menendez...is under scrutiny because of his close relationship with Melgen. The doctor donated more than $700,000 last year to Menendez's reelection campaign and other Senate Democrats. And when Melgen needed help with a port security contract in the Dominican Republic last year, Menendez urged U.S. officials to press the country to carry out the multimillion-dollar agreement." [WaPo]

Damage control: "New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez is moving behind-the-scenes to control the damage caused by a series of unseemly allegations involving his personal life that now loom over his chairmanship of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee and could threaten his standing with Senate Democrats. Menendez's aides are quietly laying out a detailed defense to Democratic pundits, operatives and TV talking heads in New Jersey and Washington in which they characterize the scandal as one without merit and peddled by his political opponents." He also hired former Treasury flack Matt Miller. Problem solved! [Politico]

Erik Wemple breaks down the unbearable flimsiness of the prostitution part.

JESSE JACKSON JR COULD FACE JAIL TIME - "As the trouble train rolls on for former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., new reports indicate the disgraced ex-congressman could be headed for an extended stay behind bars. Jackson and the federal authorities investigating the former representative's alleged misuse of campaign funds are said to have a plea deal in the works, the Sun-Times exclusively reported late Wednesday. 'Significant jail time is now definitely a part of the deal,' a top source told the Sun-Times. As NBC Chicago notes, word of Jackson's plea deal comes just days after the news broke that feds were looking in to the campaign finances of his wife, former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, in an independent investigation. A second source told the Sun-Times, '...I think [Jackson's wife] Sandi, feels like she was thrown under the bus by her husband,' now that a separate probe has begun on her." [HuffPost]

TIMES CONSIDERING EDITION FOR YOUNG PEOPLE - We eagerly anticipate headlines such as "For Twenty-Somethings, A Newfound Appreciation Of Shoes" and too-late trend pieces on Molly. Forbes: "On a conference call to discuss the publisher's fourth-quarter earnings, Denise Warren, chief advertising officer and general manager of nytimes.com, acknowledged that the Times is gauging 'the potential for an entry-level product,' among other explorations. That's presumably an allusion to a youth-targeted digital edition called NYT Junior, which is one of several possible new products the Times has been asking readers about in a survey, reports Ad Age's Nat Ives... A Times source says NYT Junior would be targeted not at very young readers but at college students and twenty-somethings. The idea would be to offer them a limited-content version at a price point calibrated to a just-starting-out-in-life budget." [Forbes]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - This baby is a tribute to the staying power of "Gangnam Style."


- Conan O'Brien in his element, snarking all over "Halo 4."[http://bit.ly/12uG8rE]

- Photos comparing smoggy days in China and clear ones. Also, the slideshow that helps you rationalize your smoking habit. [http://bit.ly/14FXeRS]

- Today in photos that really exist: "James Dean attempting to punch Rock Hudson in the dick." [http://bit.ly/VGiXmR]

- This cat is not pleased about being dressed up like Walter from "Breaking Bad." [http://bit.ly/YcUG8n]

- This "Teen Pregnancy Beautiful" doll might not be the best birthday gift for your child. [http://bit.ly/WD9TkJ]

- There's a new prime number. Welcome it to the number family, why don't you. [http://chzb.gr/VVyyBb]

- "Zero Dark Knight Thirty" -- in which Batman finds Osama. [http://bit.ly/XPLZC0]


@rkref: If Code Pink were smart, they'd turn off the lights in the hearing room. No doubt the momentum would completely shift when play resumes.

@delrayser: Not sure Labrador should've fired that staffer for what was clearly a mistaken tweet. I mean, nobody actually likes Broke Girls.

@Brendan_Buck: BREAKING: Pres. Obama announces he'll discuss a laundry list of policy items in his State of the Union address

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