Pelosi Says Outreach to DOJ Unrelated to Harman Case

Posted April 30, 2009 at 12:14pm

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that her effort to re-engage with the Justice Department over developing guidelines for investigating lawmakers is unrelated to the recent controversy surrounding Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.). “It’s more of a coincidence than a cause-and-effect,— Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference. Reports surfaced last week that Harman in 2005 was caught on a government wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent she would seek leniency for two accused spies in return for help lobbying Pelosi for the top slot on the House Intelligence panel. On Monday, at Pelosi’s request, House General Counsel Irv Nathan sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking to revive negotiations over “hopefully rare searches and electronic surveillance involving Members of Congress.—The letter did not mention Harman by name but made clear reference to the controversy touched off last week, saying the two branches needed to deal with “physical searches of premises, with situations where a Member may be a target of an intercept and also with situations where the subject of the wiretap is a non-Congressional third party and Members are not specifically targeted for taping.— Harman was reportedly not the target of the call that ensnared her. But Pelosi strongly denied the Harman incident spurred the letter. “No, no, no. This has been in the works for a while,— she said. “It became more interesting to you in light of that, but this is something that we put into motion.—House leaders tried last year to hash out protocols with the Bush administration after the 2006 FBI raid of then-Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-La.) Capitol Hill office sparked bipartisan pushback and a successful court challenge. But those talks never got off the ground. In the wake of the Harman incident, Pelosi has tried to reassure anxious Democrats that the House is taking steps to protect their rights. In a huddle with her Whip team last Thursday, Pelosi said that in Harman’s case, as in Jefferson’s, it was important to stand up for the separation of powers — and pointed to the letter to Justice as evidence that leaders were acting, people familiar with the meeting said.