Boehner Turns Up Political Heat on Pelosi

Posted May 17, 2009 at 10:36am

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Sunday tried to up the stakes in the controversy over Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s changing explanations of what she was told about harsh interrogation methods used on terrorism detainees in the administration of President George W. Bush.

With Pelosi (D-Calif.) accusing the CIA of lying to her in a 2002 briefing on the interrogation methods, Boehner suggested in an appearance Sunday on CNN that if Pelosi was actually misled, she should forward that information to the Justice Department to prosecute the CIA officials involved.

“Lying to the Congress of the United States is a crime and if the Speaker is accusing the CIA and other intelligence officials of lying or misleading the Congress, then they should come forward with evidence and turn that over to the Justice Department so that they can be prosecuted. If that’s not the case, I think she ought to apologize to our intelligence professionals around the world,— said Boehner. “Instead of criticizing them, instead of accusing them of lying, we ought to be patting them on the back and telling them, Job well done.’”

Boehner also indicated that Pelosi’s explanation of events was misleading, given she has said the intelligence briefing she received as the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee in 2002 did not cover the use of waterboarding — which critics have said is torture — on high-level detainees. However, the CIA has released documents saying Pelosi received a briefing on the use of waterboarding and other harsh techniques.

Boehner stopped short, however, of predicting that the House would take any kind of disciplinary action against the Speaker.

But Boehner did dispute Democratic charges that CIA briefings are vague and hard to understand. He said that in his experience, intelligence briefings are “thorough— and “complete.— He added, “There is always, always an opportunity to object.—

Boehner suggested that Pelosi did object at times to other intelligence briefings and that her objections actually forced changes in the actions taken by the Bush administration.

“I’ve dealt with these people for 3 1/2 years and on almost a daily basis and I can tell you that I have never felt that I was misled. I’ve never felt that I’ve been lied to,— said Boehner. “If there was something that was happening called for by the president that I objected to, the opportunity is there to do so. And Speaker Pelosi has, at times, objected to activities that were approved by the president. Those activities were changed as a result of her objection.—

Boehner added that Pelosi herself is to blame for the current controversy.

“She’s the one that continues to bring the controversy to new levels by talking about it and in ways that raise more questions than answers,— he said. “This controversy over the Speaker was caused by her and continues to be escalated by none other than Speaker Pelosi.—

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared to give Pelosi a pass on “Fox News Sunday.—

While acknowledging that Pelosi “has a problem here,— he said, “My own view is what is the point in going back and trying to figure out who knew what when. I think we know a good deal about this already.—

McConnell suggested that any inquiry into whether the CIA lied to Pelosi or whether Pelosi has been misleading the public be conducted by the House and Senate Intelligence committees.

“I think the best way to resolve the dispute, if it’s to be resolved, is through the Intelligence committees,— he said.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele was considerably more flip in his assessment of the Pelosi flap during his appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,— acknowledging that the Speaker has given Republicans something tangible they can attack.

“I thank goodness for Nancy Pelosi,— he said.

Appearing on the same program, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine predicted that Pelosi “absolutely— would weather the political storm and would stay on as Speaker. And he chided political observers for losing sight of the substance of the debate over U.S. foreign policy.

“There are some that would like to get into details of meetings that happened five, six years ago,— Kaine said. “The president would like to move on. … Can’t we agree here that this nation isn’t going to use torture as part of its foreign policy?—

Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.