Pelosi on Firing Line: Democrats Voice Support; GOP Leaders Demand Retraction

By Lindsey Ellerson

May 19, 2009 12:55pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein and Dean Norland report: Leading House Democrats are lining up to defend House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her widely publicized dispute with the CIA — while Republicans turn up the pressure on her to retract her accusation that intelligence officials lied to her.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, said today that Pelosi continues to enjoy “solid” support within the caucus. He voiced full support for her side of the story — attempting to put to rest suggestions of a split inside of Democratic leadership.

“I believe the speaker. I believe the speaker when she says that she was not specifically briefed on the types of — very polite term — enhanced interrogation techniques, that were being employed,” Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters at his weekly press briefing.

“Republicans are going to stay on it as long as you guys keep printing it, as long as it keeps to be a television item,” he added. “Not about the substance, but about the distraction. As long as you want to feed on it, the Republicans will continue to feed you. That’s the way it is.”

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader John Boehner is demanding that Pelosi either produce evidence that the CIA misled Congress about interrogation techniques, or retract her accusation.

“Accusing our intelligence professionals of lying to Congress is a very serious charge. If true, the speaker should produce evidence supporting her claim and turn it over to the Justice Department for potential prosecution,” Boehner, R-Ohio, writes in an op-ed for US News & World Report.

“If she is unwilling to do so, then she should retract her statement and apologize to the men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting our nation. It is as simple as that, and as of this writing, the ball remains squarely in the speaker’s court.”

Pelosi has been under fire since accusing the CIA of “misleading the Congress” by not telling her that waterboarding had taken place at a September 2002 briefing.

CIA officials maintain that she was informed. CIA Director Leon Panetta wrote a letter to agency employees Friday saying that “CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah.”

Separately today, House Appropriations Chairman David Obey is claiming that the CIA made a different error in its report to Congress on briefings on harsh interrogation techniques.

Obey wrote a letter to Panetta saying that a September 2006 briefing did not include a staff member from the Appropriations Committee, notwithstanding the description of the briefing in the CIA’s report.

“In light of current controversy about CIA briefing practices, I was surprised to learn that the agency erroneously listed an appropriations staffer as being in a key briefing on September 19, 2006, when in fact he was not,” Obey, D-Wis., writes. “We request that you immediately correct this record.”

The Pelosi briefing in question occurred four years earlier, in September 2002. But Obey’s letter seems designed to call into question the CIA’s overall accuracy in the report prepared for Congress.

UPDATE: Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is out with a particularly sharp statement, accusing the speaker of “actively undermining our national security,” and demanding that she provide proof that she was misled.

The statement:

“During the last session of Congress, Speaker Pelosi led Democrats in 45 different votes to unfund, underfund, undercut or undermine our troops in Iraq.  Now she is accusing the CIA of lying.”

“Since taking the gavel, Speaker Pelosi has been actively undermining our national security. In the last Congress, Pelosi marshaled her caucus to undermine the work our troops are doing in Iraq. Our troops have since achieved a definable victory in spite of her actions.  Now she has accused the CIA of committing a federal crime – lying to Congress.  How can the CIA or any American defense or intelligence agency ever trust Nancy Pelosi with our national secrets, let alone our national security, again?”

“Pelosi’s claims warrant immediate action. The severity of Speaker Pelosi’s accusations leave no middle ground. The Speaker must immediately release to the American people the basis of her very severe accusations and call for the arrest and prosecution of the CIA officers, or our national security requires a new Speaker of the House.”

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