Everybody leads with Rep. Tom DeLay announcing—via interviews in Timeand a local paper published late last night—that he's not going to run for reelection and will quit Congress, he offered, "probably by the end of May." DeLay is set to make a formal announcement today.
Last week a second DeLay aide pleaded guilty to conspiracy and corruption charges and has sung to the feds about, as the Washington Postputs it, "a criminal enterprise being run out of DeLay's leadership offices." Not that that had anything to do with the congressman's decision, of course. DeLay explained that he was stepping down only because he was in a tough reelection campaign and was just taking one for the team. "This is a very strong Republican district," he said. "It's obvious to me that anybody but me running here will overwhelmingly win the seat."
Detailing how the feds are creeping ever closer to DeLay, a piece inside the Post points out that not only have two once top aides pleaded guilty, but DeLay's former chief of staff was also named in the latest government docs as a collaborator. In another plus for DeLay pulling out now, he can take all the cash from his campaign war-chest and drop it into his defense fund, which as the Post notes has so far been "financed largely by corporations with business before Congress."
Asked if he'd done anything illegal in office, DeLay toldTime, "No." Anything immoral? "We're all sinners," said the Hammer.
The New York Times off-leads and others front the Supreme Court punting on a challenge to the administration's asserted power that it can hold those in the U.S. as enemy combatants; ruling 6-3 the court declined to hear Jose Padilla's case. Padilla had been classified as an enemy combatant, but after it looked like the government would lose in the Supreme Court, the administration moved him to civilian custody. In announcing that it's not going to hear the case, the court sided with the government's argument that the change in Padilla's status renders the case moot—for now.
But the government has said it reserves the right to reclassify Padilla as an enemy combatant—and in one opinion key swinger Justice Kennedy warned that if the government does that, the justices will take up the case again in a jiffy.
There is only one "enemy combatant" being held in the U.S.—a Qatari named Ali Al-Marri—he's had the opposite experience as Padilla: Al-Marri was once in the civilian court system but then labeled an enemy combatant and has been held without charges since. Al-Marri's case gets skipped in the NYT and merits a single line in the Post, probably because he's not a U.S. citizen. But his case could still make its way up to the Supremes, where the justices could rule on many of the questions they just skirted with Padilla.
The Los Angeles Timesoff-leads a jury concluding that Zacarias Moussaoui was indeed responsible for at least some 9/11 deaths and thus is eligible for the death penalty. The same jury will next hear the penalty phase of the trial and decide whether to actually invoke the death penalty. Moussaoui had always admitted to being in al-Qaida but always denied taking part in or even knowing much about 9/11; al-Qaida leaders have testified Moussaoui was too nutty to be trusted. But then he took the stand last week and insisted he was in on the attack the whole time. "When it looked like little Moussaoui was too small to play the outsized role the prosecutors had scripted for him," writes Slate's Dahlia Lithwick, "he simply grew himself to fit into it."
Everybody flags the military announcing nine U.S. troops died in Iraq Sunday, including four killed in attacks and five Marines whose truck rolled over in a flash flood. As the Post emphasizes, March had the lowest number of U.S. dead since early 2004.
The papers all have word—with varying degrees of confidence—that current morning Coffee Queen Katie Couric is quitting the Today show and heading to CBS to anchor its evening news.
The LAT and WP front researchers announcing they've grown bladders from patients' own cells—and successfully transplanted them back into a few patients. It wasn't problem-free. Some nerves, for example, didn't reattach, so patients still have to use catheters. Still, it's a big advance, or in the Post puts it, researchers achieved "a Holy Grail of medicine: the first cultivation of working replacements for failing solid organs in people."
Wigging out… The Post notes barristers in Britain are increasingly bridling at the wigs they're forced to wear to court. "Some people think it gives them more authority," said one lawyer. "But most of us just think they're itchy."