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I think the director of the CIA can send out any letter he wants at any time, Feinstein said. I think different people regard it differently. I think everythings been said that should be said. I think the time has come to put this to bed and move on. ... I really think this is an enormous and unfortunate distraction.
The Speakers history with Panetta dates at least to Pelosis earliest days in the House in the late 1980s, when she was welcomed into a tight-knit social circle that included Panetta, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and then-Reps. Durbin, Marty Russo (D-Ill.), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). They regularly gathered Tuesday nights for Italian dinners, frequently at the Capitol Hill rowhouse of then-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.).
After Panetta moved to the White House to become President Bill Clintons chief of staff, he still consulted Pelosi on matters related to California, according to a former Clinton administration official.
And in 1994, when Pelosi was challenging the Clinton administration to reject most favored nation status for China over human rights concerns, Panetta warned Clinton to expect the San Francisco lawmaker would pose a big problem, according to the Pelosi biography Madam Speaker.
Despite Pelosis tangles with the Clinton administration over China, it never became an issue between Pelosi and Panetta, the former administration official said. It wasnt defining.
In 1996, Panetta helped save Pelosis seven-year campaign to transform the Presidio Army Base in San Francisco into a park.
The quest, a defining legislative effort of Pelosis early years in the House, had drawn a veto threat from Clinton over environmental concerns. Panetta helped revive it in last-minute negotiations with Pelosi, Miller and House Republican leaders, smoothing the way for passage, 404-4.
That same year, Pelosi publicly pushed Panetta to jump into the California gubernatorial race. He has credibility on the left and the right, Pelosi told the San Francisco Chronicle in July 1996. He brings to the Democratic Party entree into the states agricultural and Italian American communities, neither of which have been particularly supportive of Democrats in the past.
She kept up her public campaign to encourage him to run for two years, though Panetta ultimately decided against a bid. Rumors circulated in 2003 that Pelosi once again wanted Panetta to declare for governor, this time as disaffected Californians gathered signatures to recall then-Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat but Pelosi denied the reports.
Emily Pierce contributed to this report.