The Hill: "House Democrats press McClellan to come back for further testimony"

Jun 24, 2008
Articles

Washington, Jun 24, 2008 - Scott McClellan may not be done testifying before Congress, according to House Democrats with oversight authority.

At least one Democratic subcommittee chairman is already preparing to have the former White House press secretary return to the Hill for more testimony about what he saw during his tenure in the Bush White House.

Rep. Bill Delahunt (Mass.), a senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said he will be contacting McClellan as early as next week to invite him to appear before the House Foreign Affairs Oversight subcommittee, which Delahunt chairs.

Delahunt said he wants McClellan to appear alongside former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill — who was the primary source for Ron Suskind’s insider account of internal White House deliberations — so the two can shed more light on how the administration used intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war.

“These are people who have impeccable, Republican, conservative credentials, and they need to be listened to,” said Delahunt, who also questioned McClellan when the former spokesman testified before the full Judiciary Committee last week.

Unlike Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), who delved into the administration’s mindset preceding the Iraq war but focused on what role administration officials played in leaking the name of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame, Delahunt wants McClellan and O’Neill to discuss specifically what they saw and heard in the months leading up to the beginning of the Iraq war.

In his best-selling book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, McClellan wrote that Bush was not “open and forthright on Iraq,” and that he sold the war through a “political propaganda campaign.”

On Friday, McClellan testified that the administration’s use of intelligence reports were “not completely truthful.”

“The facts were certainly packed in a way to make the most compelling case to the American people, with the caveats and qualifications and contradictions pretty much left out of that,” McClellan said.

O’Neill, who when Treasury secretary was a member of the President’s National Security Council, told Suskind that Bush was intent on invading Iraq from very early on in his presidency.

Delahunt praised McClellan, saying he has “made an excellent contribution to public discourse in this country” through his book and testimony, but added the former spokesman and O’Neill still have much to share with Congress.

“I really think it’s important to reveal the history of the process and how it failed,” Delahunt said. “And I do think there’s a sense that it did fail, with the way we went to war and the way it was sold.”

Republicans, still reeling from McClellan’s book, were incredulous at the possibility of more McClellan hearings.

“This has gone on long enough,” said a senior Republican aide. “[McClellan] wasn’t there in those meetings, he didn’t see anything, he wrote that he didn’t see anything or know anything, and he said as much [on Friday].”

While Republicans appeared frustrated with McClellan’s mere willingness to appear, a number of Judiciary Committee Democrats appeared just as frustrated with the former press secretary’s unwillingness to go into detail beyond what he had already written, especially in regard to Iraq war planning.

McClellan repeatedly said he was not part of war planning groups but said he witnessed the administration “[selling] the nation on the premise that Iraq was a grave and gathering danger.”

“I think it’s public record that they were using caveats and ignoring contradictory evidence,” McClellan said Friday.

Judiciary Republicans derided McClellan and Democrats for calling a hearing to hear a witness testify about matters that were already part of the public record.

“It’s hard to take Mr. McClellan or this hearing seriously,” Judiciary panel ranking Republican Lamar Smith (Texas) said on Friday.

Beyond what has already been made public, it remains unclear what, if anything, McClellan could add with further testimony.

Delahunt said the role of oversight, though, is to probe beyond what’s on the surface.

The ranking Republican on Delahunt’s panel called the move pure politics.

“Democracy and politics get mixed up during election years,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.). “But I think the American people will be able to recognize a political show when they see it.”


Delahunt said he would consider putting off the hearing until after the November election.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the full Oversight and Government Reform Committee, left the door open to having McClellan appear before his panel.

“We haven’t come to any conclusion about it,” Waxman said Tuesday. “We have to review what he said and see if we have questions for him as well.”

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