It seems that the Senator Paul Roberts now says he spoke too soon about the White House's willingness to cough up the Iraq Intel documents the Senate committee has requested.
Meanwhile relations between Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Intel Committee, traditionally a haven of bi-partisanship, appear to be breaking down badly. Senator Rockefeller, committee Vice-Chair, pretty much accused Republicans of going through his trash or breaking into his computer. And, for the first time that I'm aware of, the Vice-Chair gently threatened to use his subpoena power if necessary. Clearly neither side wants a fight now. But f the administration doesn't give in eventually, they may get fireworks much closer to the election.
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday he spoke too hastily when he said the White House would provide his panel with the documents and interviews it is seeking for its inquiry on prewar intelligence on Iraq.
Roberts and Rockefeller have been at odds about the scope of the inquiry. Under Roberts' direction, the committee is examining whether intelligence about Iraq's weapons programs and ties to terrorists was properly collected and analyzed. Rockefeller and other Democrats also want to examine whether intelligence was manipulated by the administration to make the case for war.
Roberts said Tuesday a leaked strategy memo from Rockefeller's staff “exposes politics in its most raw form.”
The memo discusses strategy for “revealing the misleading, if not flagrantly dishonest, methods and motives of senior administration officials who made the case for unilateral pre-emptive war.” It discussed how Democrats could press for an independent investigation that has already been rejected by the Republican-led Congress or launch their own investigation.
In a statement, Roberts said that the memo “appears to be a road map for how the Democrats intend to politicize what should be a bipartisan, objective review of prewar intelligence.” The memo was disclosed by syndicated radio show host Sean Hannity.
In his own statement, Rockefeller the draft was not approved or shared with any member of the committee. He said it “was likely taken from a waste basket or through unauthorized computer access.”
He said, however, it “clearly reflects staff frustration with the conduct of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation and the difficulties of obtaining information from the administration.”
The letters to the administration agencies complained of their slowness to provide materials sought by the committee and set last Friday as the response deadline. The senators said they have received material from three of the agencies. But the White House, while saying it would work with the committee, has not agreed to comply.
On Sunday, Roberts announced on CNN that the White House had agreed to supply the requested documents and the interviews.
“I probably spoke too hastily,” Roberts said Tuesday. “When you are dealing with the White House, they want to make sure they are not getting into a precedent in regard to various documents used by the executive.”
He said a White House official, whom he declined to identify, left him with the impression last weekend the material would be provided. Asked if there was further communication after his remarks Sunday, he said, “Yeah — in the Monday Washington Post.”
He said White House comments in the newspaper distancing it from Roberts' statements “prompted meaningful dialogue between me and the White House.”
But he said he was satisfied with the outcome of the conversations. “I think we'll have a positive relationship, and I think the documents will be provided. And the interviews,” he said.
Rockefeller wasn't as confident.
“It's very hard for me to come to believe that the White House is going to cooperate on things which potentially could put them in a different light,” he said, speaking separately to reporters.
Rockefeller said if the committee doesn't receive the material it seeks, the leaders will call the department heads, “and the next step after that one considers very, very carefully the subpoena option.”
“This is not a game,” he said. “This is a question of how did we get into this war.”
Roberts said subpoenas would be a last resort. “I think we can work this out without any subpoenas,” he said.