Thursday, November 03, 2005

Just Another Press Conference With Scottie

ics: Ethics Supreme Court Administration Media Intelligence
November 2 Press Gaggle


Office of the Press Secretary

Internal Transcript November 2, 2005




James S. Brady Briefing Room

9:53 A.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning, everyone. The President had breakfast with some of the congressional leadership: Senator Frist, Senator McConnell, Speaker Hastert and Congressman Blunt. This was kind of a follow on meeting to the discussion they had last week. They talked about important congressional priorities that need to get done by the end of this year. They talked about the importance of moving forward on the reconciliation packages and making sure that we’re pushing the envelope to provide as much savings as possible.

And they talked about the spending bills that are going through Congress. I think some of the leaders brought up the possibility of across-the-board cuts, which the President has said he’s very much open to, as well. The President is committed to moving forward on our priorities and exercising spending restraint as we do so.

They talked about avian flu, and the President talked about the emergency package that he sent up yesterday, which includes liability protection, and the importance of getting that done as soon as possible. The President talked about Judge Alito and reiterated the importance of moving forward quickly on his confirmation. And they talked about the importance of getting the Patriot Act renewed, as well, to make sure that our law enforcement has the tools they need so that they continue protecting the American people from terrorist attacks here at home.

Then following that, the President had his usual briefings. He’s got a National Security Council meeting going on, then he’ll be meeting with his Secretary of Defense. He’s going to be taping his radio address this morning, since we’re leaving on the trip. And –

Q Subject?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’ll tell you on Friday; I don’t want to get too far out there.

And then the President and Mrs. Bush look forward to hosting their Royal Highnesses here at the White House this afternoon, and you all have the general schedule for that. And Mrs. Bush’s office will also be providing additional details today.

Steve Hadley will be briefing at 2:45 p.m. today, on the upcoming trip and taking the questions that you have. Then State is briefing at 12:30 p.m.

And Judge Alito is meeting with seven senators today. He’s already met with 10 senators, he’s meeting with seven today. One of those senators was in the group — one of the groups that he met with earlier in the week, so it will be 16 senators that he’s met with by the end of the day.

And I think that’s what I’ve got to begin with.

Q Scott, what did the White House make of what happened in the Senate yesterday?

MR. McCLELLAN: What did we make of it? Do you have a question about it?

Q Yes, what do you make of it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Senators talked about it.

Q I’m just wondering what you all think — what you all think.

MR. McCLELLAN: They talked about it yesterday.

Q I’m just wondering what you all think of it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if Democrats want to talk about the threat that Saddam Hussein posed and the intelligence, they might want to start with looking at the previous administration and their own statements that they’ve made.

Q Was it a stunt, as some Republicans have suggested?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you heard Democrats — some Democratic leaders saying that they wanted to look at how the intelligence was used. The intelligence — how the intelligence was used was all part of the public record –

Q It’s not –

MR. McCLELLAN: — and it goes back to the previous administration and it goes back to Democratic leaders. I mean, they might want to look at how the previous administration and Democratic leaders — you know, Senator Reid may want to look at how the previous administration and Democratic leaders, such as himself, used the intelligence to come to the same conclusion that Saddam Hussein and his regime were a threat.

Q Do you see this as the — sort of the first shot in the midterm elections, that Democrats are going to continue to try to derail your agenda, are they going to be a thorn in your — more of a thorn in your side here than they have been?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that’s — what I’m saying is that, you know, if they want to talk about the threat that Saddam Hussein posed and — we’ll be glad to talk about that. Removing Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime was the right thing to do. His regime was a destabilizing force in a dangerous part of the world.

Q But take a look at the political angle of it here. You can’t ignore that.

MR. McCLELLAN: You can do the political analysis. That seems to be something you’re very interested in this morning.

Let’s go to — you know, the discussion, if they want to talk about — that Democratic leaders claim they want to talk about.

Q Well, let me just ask it another way, forgetting the word “political.” What about — what does this say about the climate in Washington?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President has talked about the climate in Washington.

Q But I’m asking you now, in context of this.

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not — if you want to do the political analysis of that, that’s fine. I mean, let’s talk about the issue that was brought up yesterday.

Q I didn’t use the word “political.”

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I know, I mean, I think — I’d be interested more in focusing on the issue that was raised yesterday. If they want to raise that, they need to start by looking at their own comments and their own conclusions and their own votes and how they used the intelligence to come to those conclusions.

Q Look, the result of this was a bipartisan committee now that’s going to look into what caused us to go to war –

MR. McCLELLAN: There already is — there already was a bipartisan committee that looked at it.

Q Senator Roberts has suppressed any further action by his own committee to find out where it all began, why, who made the policy, and why we’re in a war.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we’ll look at what the — the intelligence the U.N. used, the intelligence their allies used, intelligence that Congress used –

Q You know that we have not had those answers. Do you agree with that?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. Look at the Robb-Silberman commission report.

Q It wasn’t enough. Obviously, it wasn’t –

MR. McCLELLAN: It wasn’t?

Q No.

MR. McCLELLAN: It was a bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats.

Q Absolutely not. Didn’t go to policy. None of these things are –

MR. McCLELLAN: No, it looked at the intelligence.

Q Why did they finally agree to a bipartisan group, then, to look into this whole business?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, that’s not –

Q Roberts has been sitting on the intelligence policy –

MR. McCLELLAN: Helen — Helen, they’ve already — they’ve had phase one and phase two, and Senator Roberts would greatly dispute the way you’re characterizing things.

Q He’s absolutely clamped down on going further. He had promised this report, and it’s not come out.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Senator Roberts disagrees — Senator Roberts disagrees with your characterization. He stated so publicly.

Q He doesn’t disagree. He knows darn well the business is unfinished.

MR. McCLELLAN: You should look at what he said.

Q Would you be specific about the ways in which the White House has cooperated with this part of the investigation to date?

MR. McCLELLAN: With this part of the investigation?

Q With this phase of the report, with the White House’s involvement in pre-war intelligence. There are claims that the White House has stymied –

MR. McCLELLAN: I just said that if you’re talking about phase two and how the intelligence was used, that’s all part of the public record.

Q So there is more information that the Democrats say they’ve requested or that the committee has requested that the White House has –

MR. McCLELLAN: We were pleased to work closely with the Senate Intelligence Committee previously.

Q Has it been ongoing? They say it has been stopped since July.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you should ask Senator Roberts. He disputed the characterizations.

Q From the podium would you tell us, then, that the White House is –

MR. McCLELLAN: Look at Senator Roberts’ comments –

Q — saying that, when –

Q Wait, Scott, you’re not — is the White House fully cooperating with this and willing to continue to fully cooperate?

MR. McCLELLAN: I just said that if they’re talking about phase two and how the intelligence was used to draw the conclusion that Saddam Hussein’s regime was a threat, that’s all part of the public record.

Q No, that isn’t the part.

Q So you’re saying they have to base their report on what’s already in the public record?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I’m not saying that at all. But I’m getting — Senator Roberts disputed the way Democrats were characterizing the status of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s work.

Q But you could make it clear that the White House is interested in being transparent by saying right now, we’re happy to cooperate in any way.

MR. McCLELLAN: We have been. We have been.

Go ahead.

Q You’re not –

Q Thank you, Scott. Turning to the meeting this morning, did the President discuss with congressional leaders –

MR. McCLELLAN: No, Helen, I’m taking the issue on directly. I’m glad to.

Q Look, Roberts says he’s going to have another report.

Q — did the President discuss with congressional leaders rescissions at all in the budget or possibly –

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?

Q Rescissions, his list of cuts, was that discussed this morning at the meeting of congressional leaders?

MR. McCLELLAN: Whose list of cuts?

Q The President’s list — the rescissions for spending bills that have been passed already that the administration wants to delay and the Congress has an up and down vote on

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we’ve sent — you know, we have proposed a package of rescissions that Josh Bolten talked about the other day, and so, yes, they talked about the overall efforts to move forward and provide significant savings during the budget process.

Q Is that list is public now?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?

Q Is that list — has Josh –

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you can look at what we put out Friday from that briefing.

Go ahead, Mark.

Q Scott, is the U.S. holding al Qaeda captives at a secret base in Eastern Europe or elsewhere?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not going to get into discussing specific intelligence activities. I will say that the President’s most important responsibility is to protect the American people. It’s a responsibility he takes very seriously. We are engaged in a global war on terrorism, and a global war against Islamic militants who are determined to attack America and kill innocent men, women and children, and we are going to continue to go after terrorist leaders who seek to do us harm, and do all in our power to prevent attacks from happening in the first place. That’s what this President is doing. He’s charged his administration and his team to make sure that we’re doing all we can to protect the American people, and save lives.

And as we do so, we will do consistent with our legal obligations.

Q The President often says that when we capture an al Qaeda person, we are bringing them to justice. Is that the case?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, when you talk about capturing al Qaeda terrorists, you’re not only talking about bringing them to justice, you’re talking about being able to get important intelligence that can help us prevent attacks from happening in the first place. I think some of the people that you’re probably referencing, talking about, are people like Khalid Shaykh Muhammad and Ramzi Binalshibh and Abu Zubaydah — terrorist leaders who are responsible for killing thousands of Americans and many others in the civilized world that are innocent people.

Go ahead.

Q That doesn’t answer the question.

MR. McCLELLAN: You bet it does. I’ve told the American people exactly what I’ve said and I –

Q That’s not bringing them to justice. Torture is not justice –

MR. McCLELLAN: — I think they think it answers it.

Q Excuse me. Was the — at the meeting this morning, was there discussion of the shutdown of the Senate yesterday? Was that a big –

MR. McCLELLAN: Only — no. It was only a brief discussion, is my understanding.

Q It would be unfair to call it strategizing between the White House and –

MR. McCLELLAN: No, it’s a follow on to the meeting — the previous meeting where they were talking about important congressional priorities and the congressional calendar for the remainder of the year. That’s really where the focus was.

Q And following up on the question about more documents forthcoming, which the Democrats believe should be the case, they’re specifically saying that the Vice President and Scooter Libby had a hand in preventing certain documents from reaching the Senate. I wonder if you might comment on that?

MR. McCLELLAN: What documents are you talking about?

Q That’s — I guess that’s yet to be seen. But they claim there was information withheld, and Scooter Libby and the Vice President played a role in this.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know what you’re referring to.

Go ahead.

Q After his meeting with the President on Monday, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was asked whether the Italian government had provided the United States with intelligence on alleged Iraqi purchases of uranium, or from Niger. Berlusconi replied, “Bush, himself, confirmed to me that the U.S.A. did not have any information from Italian agencies.” Does the White House stand by that statement?

MR. McCLELLAN: Stand by what — say the statement again.

Q Berlusconi replied — he replied in Italian, this is a translation, “Bush, himself, confirmed to me that the U.S.A. did not have any information from Italian agencies.”

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I addressed that question yesterday. I responded to that. You’ve got to go back and look at exactly what I said.

Q So your answer is, “yes”?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry? I addressed that question yesterday. I responded to it.

Q So the answer is, “yes”?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, if you’re talking about — because there have been some Italian reports about a meeting that took place here at the White House, and I pointed out yesterday that there were no documents provided relating to Niger and uranium at that meeting, much less –

Q Not just –

MR. McCLELLAN: — much less was it even discussed.

Q — no, not just at the meeting –

MR. McCLELLAN: And in terms of going back to the issue of Niger and uranium, I mean, we briefed on that and we talked about the basis for the statement in the remarks. And it was based on the National Intelligence Estimates and the British intelligence.

Go ahead.

Q I know the President has spoken about the tone in Washington before, but yesterday was particularly harsh, when Senator Frist said he took this personally, that it was a slap in the face to him. Senator Reid said he was exasperated when he was asked, did you ever work — did you work with Frist on this? He said, why would I ever work with him? Does the President specifically have something to say about that kind of –

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that the Senate can talk about their procedures in those matters.

Q If he doesn’t –

MR. McCLELLAN: Let’s go to — let’s go the issue that was brought up, and that’s what I’d be glad to talk about.

Q Can you just reiterate, then, the President’s take on the tone in Washington?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I mean, he’s talked about the tone in Washington. And you’re looking in the context of this. And I think we ought to go to the issue that was brought up yesterday and talk about that.

Go ahead.

Q Scott, who here is monitoring the Libby court proceedings?

MR. McCLELLAN: Who here is monitoring?

Q Is it the Counsel’s Office?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the Counsel’s Office is the lead, in terms of making sure we’re doing our part to cooperate with the special counsel and the ongoing investigation and legal proceedings.

Q To what extent –

MR. McCLELLAN: They have been and they continue to be.

Q To what extent are they and you concerned that people from the Vice President’s office and others here at the White House are going to be called to testify after he pleads not guilty?

MR. McCLELLAN: You’ll have to direct questions to the special counsel.

Q No, that’s not the special counsel.

MR. McCLELLAN: It’s a question relating to the investigation. I’ve already told you our response on those questions.

Q Well, it’s — it goes to your concern about whether people from here are going to be called testify –

MR. McCLELLAN: This is an ongoing investigation and legal proceeding, which I’ve already stated what our policy is on that.

Go ahead, Ann.

Q Isn’t your statement in error when you say that the previous administration came to the same conclusion? The previous administration did not come to the same conclusion –

MR. McCLELLAN: I said the same conclusion, that Saddam Hussein –

Q — to intervene militarily.

MR. McCLELLAN: — that Saddam Hussein’s regime was a threat.

Q But they didn’t go to war.

Q But isn’t the point of the –

MR. McCLELLAN: You want to talk about their comments? Let’s talk about their comments.

Q But the point of what they raised yesterday is the President’s decision to move militarily into Iraq. Are you saying –

MR. McCLELLAN: There’s no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. His regime “threatens the safety of his people, the stability of his region, and the security of all the rest of us” — President Clinton, remarks to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pentagon staff, February 17, 1998.

Q But he didn’t take us to war.

Q But isn’t the specific issue –

MR. McCLELLAN: The conclusion they came to was that Saddam Hussein’s regime is a threat and a destabilizing force in a dangerous part of the world.

Q But he didn’t take us to war.

Q But the specific issue is weapons of mass destruction.

Q But the question was whether the United States –

MR. McCLELLAN: You asked me about a statement I made, and I just backed up the statement that I made.

Q But the specific issue is weapons of mass destruction, and that is — that is the intelligence having to do with that. And the Democrats are saying that is what they’ve been deprived of, an investigation of. And so my question is, given what happened in the Senate –

MR. McCLELLAN: Sorry — what did the Robb-Silberman commission do all their work on?

Q Well, the Democrats claim that that was extremely incomplete.

MR. McCLELLAN: A bipartisan group of Democrats and Republicans — and Charles Robb co-chaired it.

Q They claim it’s incomplete. My question to you is, given what the Democrats did yesterday, it goes beyond, it would seem, what you’re citing as statements. Therefore, my question is, what is the reaction of the White House –

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I just pointed out the intelligence that everybody had — the United Nations, the Congress, our allies.

Go ahead.

Q Could you explain to me, please, why the United States would — or the White House would oppose the McCain amendment, or carve out an exemption for the CIA to not torture or mistreat detainees unless we’re actually torturing or detaining –

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I’ve already talked about that, and answered it just a week ago. Same thing that I said then.

Q So don’t you think it looks — it looks bad to the rest of the world to say we need an exemption –

MR. McCLELLAN: There are laws and treaty obligations that we are obligated to adhere to, and we do.

Q What about other countries that, obviously — some countries don’t extradite prisoners if they’re worried that they might face the death penalty here or elsewhere — and also be tortured? Do you think there’s going to be a problem with European countries not handing over detainees once they have them, or engaging in –

MR. McCLELLAN: You want to ask about specific cases, I’m glad to look into those.

Q Kind of a housekeeping question. You repeatedly say that you’ve been instructed not to comment on the CIA leaks case, because there’s an ongoing investigation. Can we infer from that that when Fitzgerald announces his investigation is completed you will be in a position to comment?

MR. McCLELLAN: I said I’d be glad to talk more about it after it’s come to a conclusion.

Q Well, would that mark the conclusion?

MR. McCLELLAN: Would what?

Q The end of the Fitzgerald investigation.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there’s an investigation and legal proceeding. And the comments I make –

Q So now you’re adding court cases.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Bob, I think any time there’s been a legal matter going on, we’ve said, that’s a legal matter.

Q No, what you said is, you can’t comment on an ongoing investigation.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think what I said last — and look what I said –

Q So you’ve added the words, “legal proceeding.”

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, now there is a legal proceeding.

Q So you’re adding the words, “legal proceeding,” to the formulation.

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s not — any time there is a legal proceeding such as that, we don’t discuss it. I mean, I think you can look back at –

Q Because –

MR. McCLELLAN: Because it’s a legal matter, and it’s before the courts.

Q The world is crawling with legal matters that the White House comments on all the time. What sets this apart?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, there are legal matters that occur all the time that we do not comment on, because they’re ongoing legal matters that are before the courts. Remember, numerous times we’ve referred stuff to the Justice Department because it’s an ongoing legal proceeding.

Q What is the concern of the White House, they’re not commenting?

MR. McCLELLAN: Exactly what I said. Maybe you want to go back and look at my remarks, but we don’t want to prejudice the opportunity for there to be a fair and impartial trial.

Q Okay, because your remarks earlier had suggested that you didn’t want to influence an investigation that was ongoing.

MR. McCLELLAN: We don’t want to do that, either. We want to do our part to continue to cooperate, and that’s what we will do.

Q One more question, if I might, about the meeting this morning. Based on your past statements, I assume that delay of the implementation of the prescription drug bill is still off the table and was not discussed.

MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely. In fact, we’re making good progress on the outreach efforts to America’s seniors. The sign up period will be beginning in a matter of just a couple of weeks, and then they will start realizing — they will start receiving those benefits, and significant savings on their prescription drugs beginning in January.

Q And rescinding parts of the highway bill was not discussed either this morning?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’ll have to check, John. I wasn’t at the breakfast, but I got a general readout that I gave you, and I’d have to check on that specific — I don’t believe so, but I’d have to double-check.

All right, Steve will see you all this afternoon. I’ll be around if you need anything else, as well.

END 10:12 A.M. EST

Stephen Hadley on the Forged Documents

Excerpts From Stephen Hadley’s Press Briefing, 11/2/05

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

HADLEY: Can you limit it to one follow-up, because I want to try and get — I’d like to get through everybody if I could. It would be a first.

QUESTION: On September 9th, 2002, you met in Washington with Niccolo Polari, the head of the Italian intelligence agency SISMI. According to the Italian daily, La Repubblica, Mr. Polari came to the meeting to discuss and alleged attempt by Iraq to purchase uranium from Niger.
Is that claim false?

HADLEY: We’ve looked at this issue. We have both looked at our documentary record. I have searched my own recollection. We have also talked to other people on the NSC staff at the time who might have a recollection of that meeting.

I can tell you what that canvassing has unearthed. There was a meeting in Washington on that date. I did attend a meeting with him. It was, so far as we can tell from our records, about less than 15 minutes. It was a courtesy call.
Nobody participating in that meeting or asked about that meeting has any recollection of a discussion of natural uranium or any recollection of any documents being passed. And that’s also my recollection. I have very little recollection of the meeting, but I have no recollection there was any of that discussion or that there was any passing of documents — nor does anybody else who may have participated in that meeting. That’s where we are.

QUESTION: Can you say what you did discuss with Mr. Polari?

HADLEY: I told you, I have very little recollection of the meeting. And it was in the order of a courtesy call, getting to know a person who was going to be a colleague going forward.

And you can tell that from the relative briefness of the meeting. And I think what the Italian authorities have said is very consistent with what I just said.


QUESTION: Have you or any member of your staff met with Italian intelligence officials elsewhere, outside the White House or any other time when the question of Niger and uranium was discussed?

QUESTION: And if not, can you us how the fake documents came into the possession of the U.S.?

HADLEY: I would obviously in answering a question like that want to check records and all the rest. I can tell you my recollection. My recollection is no, not here, not anyplace else.

I asked that question on the documents to refresh my own recollection. My understanding is that they came to the State Department after the NIE of October 2002. But, again, I don’t want to mislead you. That’s the answer I got from a staff person a few minute ago to refresh my memory.

Suffice to say they didn’t come to me. They didn’t come to the NSC. And we can try and get a more precise answer.
But my understanding is that they came to the State Department. They were then shared with the CIA. And I think it’s pretty much in the public record as to what happened with respect to those documents.

QUESTION: Came via? How did they come to the State Department?

HADLEY: We can try and get you an answer on that. I mean, I think this is actually quite out in the public record, but let me see if we can get an answer for you on that.

Where Do Wackos Get Their Information? Scanlon knows.

Abramoff-Scanlon School of Sleaze
Wednesday's Senate hearings yielded more scandalous revelations about how the dynamic lobbying duo bilked American Indian tribes out of millions and used the money to win elections for their Republican clients.

By Michael Scherer

Nov. 03, 2005 | Up-and-coming Republican hacks would do well to watch closely the ongoing Senate investigations of superstar lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his former business partner Michael Scanlon. The power duo stand accused of exploiting Native American tribes to the tune of roughly $66 million, laundering that money into bank accounts they controlled and then using it to buy favors for powerful members of Congress and the executive branch.

But they sure did know how to play the game.

Consider one memo highlighted in a Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday that Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, sent the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana to describe his strategy for protecting the tribe's gambling business. In plain terms, Scanlon confessed the source code of recent Republican electoral victories: target religious conservatives, distract everyone else, and then railroad through complex initiatives.

"The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees," Scanlon wrote in the memo, which was read into the public record at a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them." The brilliance of this strategy was twofold: Not only would most voters not know about an initiative to protect Coushatta gambling revenues, but religious "wackos" could be tricked into supporting gambling at the Coushatta casino even as they thought they were opposing it.

Another lesson from the Abramoff-Scanlon school: Pad your public numbers. In October 2001, the lobbying team decided to inflate the amount they were billing Indian tribes so Abramoff could make it into a "top ten" ranking of Native American lobbyists. They planned to tell the Coushatta tribe that $1 million was needed for a "public affairs" strategy. Then, by apparently falsifying an invoice from Abramoff's law firm, Greenberg Traurig, they would reroute the money to a charity Abramoff had founded, which was paying to build a school for his children and give "sniper training" courses in Israel.

It worked like a dream, mainly because nobody knew what was happening -- not the tribe, not the law firm, and certainly not the readers of the "top ten" ranking. Oversight was so lacking that it did not even matter that someone misspelled the name of Greenberg Traurig on the fraudulent invoice. "I doubt we would be issuing an invoice with our name misspelled," said Fred Baggett, the head of Greenberg Traurig's governmental affairs shop, who once worked closely with Abramoff. Asked to describe his former colleague, Baggett offered this faint praise: "He is an amazingly gifted person at having two sides to him."

Others were less kind. Kevin Sickey, the chairman of the Coushatta Tribe, described Abramoff as greedy and corrupt. "He is the golden boy gone bad of the American political system," Sickey said. William Worfel, a former Coushatta Tribal Council member, was even more blunt about the lobbying team. "In my mind, they are educated thieves who must be brought to justice," he said.

Wednesday's hearings provided just the latest in a long line of scandalous revelations about Abramoff's lobbying operation, which is now under investigation by two Senate committees and the Justice Department. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who chaired the meeting, said his committee was preparing "many" legal reforms that could prevent a repeat of the Abramoff debacle. "We'll be coming out with that in about a week," he said. The Indian Affairs committee is scheduled to hold one more hearing on Abramoff before issuing a report; it still needs to gather testimony from Italia Federici, a close associate of Interior Secretary Gale Norton. Federici is accused of setting up a meeting for Abramoff with Interior Department officials after her nonprofit company, Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, received six-figure donations from Abramoff's clients. Environmentalists charge that Federici's company -- which was founded by Norton -- is a front for big industry polluters. Federici was scheduled to testify Wednesday, but has so far ducked a Senate subpoena. "I believe U.S. marshals will do their duty," McCain said. "She has been unable to be located."

Abramoff, meanwhile, is already facing the prospect of significant jail time. He has been charged with fraud in connection with an unrelated casino deal in Florida, which ended in a gangland-style killing of the man Abramoff is alleged to have defrauded. (Several people have been charged with that killing, including two employees of a company controlled by Abramoff's business partner, Adam Kidan.) At the same time, the former top procurement official in the White House, David Safavian, has been arrested on charges of lying about a trip he took to Scotland with Abramoff. Another former White House official, Timothy Flanigan, recently withdrew his nomination to become deputy attorney general, after it became clear that he would have to testify under oath to the Senate about his relationship with Abramoff.

On Wednesday, a third former Bush administration official, J. Steven Griles, was asked to account for his relationship with Abramoff, which is detailed in dozens of e-mails obtained by the Senate. Griles claimed that he had never done Abramoff's bidding, despite Abramoff's own boasts that Griles was working on his behalf, and might even consider a job at Greenberg Traurig after he left government. "I can't reconcile what Mr. Abramoff put in e-mails to anyone," said Griles, a former coal industry lobbyist who recently served as deputy secretary of the interior.

Griles' denials were disputed by Michael Rossetti, a former counsel to Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who said Griles had shown a "very keen interest" on one matter where Abramoff had an interest. "Mr. Rossetti has a different memory on that issue than I do," said Griles, who appeared distraught, at times, during his testimony. "I don't want to dispute a former friend of mine and a former colleague." After the hearing, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the conflicting testimony created confusion about the facts. "Mr. Rossetti is very credible," McCain said. A reporter asked if Griles was also credible. "He is certainly sincere," said the senator.

There was much less doubt, however, about the skills of Abramoff and Scanlon. They collected huge amounts of money from their unwitting clients. In September of 2001, Abramoff wrote to Scanlon asking how much money he was set to collect from two of their Native American clients. "I need to assess where I am at for the school's sake," he wrote, in an apparent reference to his children's Jewish day school, the Eshkol Academy, which Abramoff was secretly bankrolling with the Indian money. Scanlon wrote back, "Your project on the project as proposed is at least 800k." All in all, Abramoff was set to earn "a total of 2.1" million dollars, Scanlon wrote.

Abramoff responded to his business partner, "How can I say this strongly enough: YOU IZ DA MAN."

If political infamy is the measure of a man, nobody in Washington doubts that now.

-- By Michael Scherer
Salon Media Group, Inc
101 Spear Street, Suite 203
San Francisco, CA 94105
Telephone 415 645-9200
Fax 415 645-9204

Big Bird Basher Steps Down..ByeBYE Tomlinson

Former CPB Chairman Ken Tomlinson Resigns

By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/3/2005 5:49:00 PM

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting Board of Directors said Thursday that embattled former board chairman Ken Tomlinson has resigned.

The board has been reviewing a CPB Inspector General's report--called for by a pair of congressmen--on Tomlinson's relationship with the board stemming from Tomlinson's attempts to add more conservative programming.

The board said in a statement: "[F]ormer chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson has resigned from the CPB board. The board does not believe that Mr. Tomlinson acted maliciously or with any intent to harm CPB or public broadcasting, and the board recognizes that Mr. Tomlinson strongly disputes the findings in the soon-to-be-released Inspector General’s report.

"The board expresses its disappointment in the performance of former key staff whose responsibility it was to advise the board and its members.

"Nonetheless, both the board and Mr. Tomlinson believe it is in the best interests of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that he no longer remain on the board.

"The board commends Mr. Tomlinson for his legitimate efforts to achieve balance and objectivity in public broadcasting."

Tomlinson came under heavy fire for adding conservative shows to balance what he saw as liberal bias, and for hiring an outside consultant to gauge the bias in shows, particularly Now with Bill Moyers.

The CPB board has been under fire itself from groups complaining that it has not released the report and has been meeting in closed session about it. One of those groups was happy with the Tomlinson exit, but saw the problem as systemic.

"It was time that Mr. Tomlinson stepped down," said Center for Digital Democracy Executive Director Jeff Chester. But, he added. "CPB needs a thorough house cleaning," he said, "We await the IG report's release."

Ditto for Free Press executive director Josh Silver: “It’s time to clean house at CPB. We need to get the politics out and put the public back in public broadcasting.”

Chester also wasn'tdone with Tomlinson: "Mr. Tomlinson still remains head of the powerful Broadcasting Board of Governors. It is likely he resigned to help remain in that position."

CPB Inspector General Kenneth Konz gave key Hill staffers a three-hour briefing late last month on his investigation into “deficiencies in policies and procedures” at CPB.

Following a request last May by Reps. David Obey (D-Wis.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.), Konz was investigating whether Tomlinson violated the Public Broadcasting Act by commissioning an outside content analysis of the politics in Now With Bill Moyers—and other PBS shows—and by enlisting a White House staffer to help write rules for two new ombudsmen, one a former Reader's Digest colleague of Tomlinson's.

The response from Tomlinson's critics in Congress was swift:

"The public interest is hurt when there are no checks and balances,"said Obey "This Administration believes that since they control all branches of government, they can abuse the public trust and get away with it and Mr. Tomlinson is part of this pattern. Mr. Tomlinson's resignation should be used to bring people together, not divide them as he and the administration have done. Public Broadcasting is too important to be anybody's partisan or ideological play thing."

“I’ve not seen the results of the Inspector General’s investigation, but expect to see it shortly and I look forward to doing so,” said Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), whose request for the Tomlinson bias consultant report helped trigger the IG investigation. “Mr. Tomlinson’s departure from the CPB Board, however, comes as welcome news. There’s no doubt in my mind that Mr. Tomlinson’s legacy at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a negative one, and that he has done far more harm to the CPB than good.”

Frequent critic Ed Markey (D-Mass.), asid: "This is a welcome opportunity for the Bush Administration to appoint a replacement for Mr. Tomlinson who will be a defender of outstanding public affairs, educational, cultural as well as high quality children's programming."

Bolton's Involvement in CIA Outing

Bolton's chief of staff gave information on outed agent to Libby, lawyers involved in leak case say

Larisa Alexandrovna and Jason Leopold

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John Bolton, the former Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs who is now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was contacted by I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby in late May 2003 to find out who sent Ambassador Joseph Wilson on a fact-finding mission to Niger, lawyers involved in the CIA outing investigation told RAW STORY over the weekend. Wilson was sent to Niger to ascertain whether Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from the African country.

The attorneys, along with intelligence officials, have provided RAW STORY additional insight into the unnamed identities of key players referred to in the five-count indictment against Libby, who resigned last Friday as Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff.

Specifically, they relayed what two key prosecution witnesses now cooperating with the probe told Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald about the events that led to Libby learning about Wilson's mission and Valerie Plame Wilson's identity. Plame Wilson, the wife of the former ambassador, was outed as a CIA agent working on weapons of mass destruction issues after Wilson begin criticizing the Bush Administration's Iraq intelligence.

Randall Samborn, Fitzgerald's spokesman, told RAW STORY he could not comment or offer "guidance" on the specifics of this story.

The 22-page indictment posted on Fitzgerald's website Friday says that on May 29, 2003 Libby "asked an Under Secretary of State ('Under Secretary') for information concerning the unnamed ambassador's travel to Niger to investigate claims about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium yellowcake. The Under Secretary thereafter directed the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research to prepare a report concerning the ambassador and his trip. The Under Secretary provided Libby with interim oral reports in late May and early June 2003, and advised Libby that Wilson was the former ambassador who took the trip."

News reports have identified the Undersecretary as Marc Grossman. This is technically correct, in that he is the one who had received the June 10, 2003 classified Intelligence and Research memo for Libby about Wilson's Niger trip, in addition to information about Plame's covert CIA status and her relationship to Wilson.

But the attorneys said that two former Libby aides, John Hannah and David Wurmser, told the special prosecutor that Libby had actually first contacted Bolton to dig up the information. Wurmser, who worked as a Middle Eastern affairs aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, was on loan from Bolton's office.

Both Wurmser and Hannah have been cooperating with Fitzgerald's probe for some time, the lawyers said.

In addition, sources say that the memo was written on Libby's behest as part of a work-up order orchestrated out of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), which operated out of the Cheney's office and was chaired by Special Advisor to President Bush, Karl Rove.

How Plame's name got to Libby

Grossman asked Carl Ford, the Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, to write the memo. Ford is the State Department official who testified before a the Senate Foreign Relations Committee against Bolton during his unsuccessful UN confirmation hearings and described Bolton as a "bully."

Bolton was later appointed to the UN during a Congressional recess. His name came up several times during the course of the two-year investigation into Plame's outing, most notably when he paid a visit to the federal prison where New York Times reporter Judith Miller was housed for refusing to testify in the case.

The attorneys also said that Frederick Fleitz, Bolton's chief of staff and concurrently a senior CIA Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control official, supplied Bolton with Plame's identity. Bolton, they added, passed this to his aide, Wurmser, who in turn supplied the information to Hannah.

Upon receiving this information, Libby asked Bolton for a report on Wilson's trip to Niger, which Wilson presented orally to the CIA upon his return. Fleitz was one of a handful of officials who was in a position to know Plame's maiden name, the sources said.

Fleitz is named in the indictment as an unnamed CIA senior officer, they added.

Fleitz had long history with Bolton

The indictment cites Fleitz's CIA role, but not his on-loan status to Bolton's office. It reads, "On or about June 11, 2003, LIBBY spoke with a senior officer of the CIA to ask about the origin and circumstances of WilsonпїЅs trip, and was advised by the CIA officer that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and was believed to be responsible for sending Wilson on the trip."

Fleitz has been a trusted source of information to Bolton for some time and vice versa. In his book, "Peacekeeping Fiascoes of the 1990s: Causes, Solutions, and U.S. Interests," Fleitz thanked Bolton for advising him on research and providing him with guidance in writing the book.

It has long been rumored that Bolton had his own connections to agents at the CIA who shared his political philosophy on Iraq. Greg Thielman, a former director at the State Department who was assigned to Bolton and entrusted with providing the former under secretary of state with intelligence information, told New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh that Bolton had become frustrated that Thielman was not providing him the smoking gun intelligence information on Iraq that he wanted to hear.

"He surrounded himself with a hand-chosen group of loyalists, and found a way to get CIA information directly," Thielman said in Hersh's book, "Chain of Command." (Page 223)

"In essence, the undersecretary (Bolton) would be running his own intelligence operation, without any guidance or support," Hersh wrote. "Eventually, Thielman said, Bolton demanded that he and his staff have direct electronic access to sensitive intelligence, such as foreign agent reports and electronic intercepts. In previous administrations, such data had been made available to undersecretaries only after it was analyzed, usually in the specific secured offices of the INR." (Page 222)

Bolton testified to grand jury, MSNBC said

According to MSNBC, Bolton testified before the grand jury investigating the Plame leak. Questions were raised about whether Bolton knowingly left that fact out of the questionnaire related to his UN confirmation hearing.

Wurmser likely cooperated because he faced criminal charges for his role in leaking Wilson's name on the orders of higher-ups, the lawyers said. Hannah, a key aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and one of the architects of the Iraq war, was cooperating with Fitzgerald after being told that he was identified by witnesses as a co-conspirator in the leak, they added.

It is unclear whether Bolton played any other role in the Plame outing, but his connection to the Iraq uranium claims certainly gave him a motive to discredit Wilson, who had called into question the veracity of the Niger documents. A probe by the State Department Inspector General revealed that Bolton's office was responsible for the placement of the Niger uranium claims in the State Department's December 2002 "fact sheet" on Iraq's WMD program.

The attorneys said it is unlikely that the information Hannah and Wurmser had provided Fitzgerald and included in the indictment will ever become public, but their testimony in the case was crucial in that it allowed Fitzgerald to put together a timeline that showed how various governmental agencies knew about Plame's covert CIA status.