OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Holder faces the Senate

The White House has rejected Republican calls led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for an independent special counsel to investigate the leaks. Holder announced Friday evening that two U.S. attorneys would be leading the investigation — and Republicans are likely to raise their independence as an issue Tuesday. One of the attorneys appointed, Ronald Machen Jr., is an Obama donor.

Before the prosecutors were announced, Cornyn had already questioned the Justice Department’s ability to conduct an independent investigation.

“I don’t believe that Attorney General Holder or his deputy are going to be able to do a truly independent investigation,” he said in a CNN interview last week. 

McCain readies leak resolution: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is likely to introduce on Tuesday a Senate resolution calling on President Obama to appoint a special counsel for the national security leaks, according to a Senate aide, adding political pressure on the Obama administration and Senate Democrats. McCain has led the charge that the leaks were politically motivated — which has been deemed an “offensive” charge by Obama and rejected by congressional Democrats. But his Senate nonbinding resolution calling for an independent review of the leaks is also likely to divide along party lines.

McCain has the support of his Senate allies, such as Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who said Monday he was backing the resolution. And Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) said he had no position yet on McCain’s resolution.

But Democrats have not joined in the GOP chorus for a special counsel. Feinstein again declined to rule it out altogether on Monday, but she defended the investigation that was set up by Holder.

“I think this is an independent investigation,” Feinstein told The Hill. “Special counsel generally takes a long time, and I think much to his credit, [FBI] Director [Robert] Mueller immediately began an investigation.”

McCain on Monday said he did not know whether his resolution would attract any Democrats.

Sanger speaks up:The New York Times reporter who has sparked much of the uproar over leaks with his reporting on U.S. cyberoperations against Iran and a “kill list” will be talking about his new book, Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret and Surprising Use of American Power, at a CSIS discussion Tuesday evening moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBS News. Times editors have defended his reporting as important to the public interest, and a Times spokeswoman Monday declined comment on the Justice Department investigation into the leaks.

Blasts from the past: As Democratic and Republican lawmakers continue to talk past one another on how to solve sequestration, current Pentagon officials have largely maintained radio silence. It’s been outgoing or retired military and department officials that have been the most outspoken about the devastating effects of sequester. We could see more of the same with several former DOD and military officials taking the podium over the next two days. Former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright, former undersecretary of Defense for policy Michèle Flournoy, former DOD comptroller Dov Zakheim and retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, who headed U.S. forces during Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq, will provide their thoughts on the changing national security landscape. If history is any guide, these officials will have something to say and won't be shy about saying it.

Levin speaks: The past few days have been interesting ones in the Senate regarding the coming sequester. Last week, news of a bipartisan group of senators working alternative sequestration plans broke. Days later, signs that Senate Republicans are starting to give on their staunch opposition to revenue increases to spare the Pentagon from massive automatic defense cuts set for next year began to emerge. One key lawmaker in the middle of the political churn is Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin. Considered one of the more level-headed players in the ongoing sequester drama, the Michigan Democrat will shed some light on the upper chamber's plans for sequester. Levin's scheduled to speak at the National Press Club on Tuesday and then hold a reporter's roundtable on Thursday morning. If the Senate has any chance to get a sequester alternative to the president, it will likely have Levin's fingerprints all over it.


— GOP lawmakers blast 'unconscionable' cuts

— US exempts nations from Iran sanctions

— Al Qaeda seeks Western recruits

— US pulls negotiations from Pakistan

— Russian firm supplying Iran missile program

— NATO curbs Afghan airstrikes

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