Obama Administration Downplays Issue that Unofficial Envoy Wisner Works for Lobbying Firm with Egypt As Client

Feb 7, 2011 4:18pm

The Obama Administration today downplayed the news that Frank Wisner works for lobbying and law firm Patton Boggs, which has the government of Egypt as a client.

Last week President Obama and Secretary Clinton sent Wisner, a former ambassador to Egypt, to deliver a message to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that the White House didn’t think he or son Gamal should be on the presidential ballot this September.

“Mr. Wisner was sent to Cairo to deliver a specific, one-time message to President Mubarak," said Tommy Vietor, National Security Council spokesman. "He is not and was not a U.S. envoy. He was not sent to negotiate. He is an individual who has a long history with President Mubarak and thus could deliver a clear message. He spoke to President Mubarak once, reported on his conversation, and then came home. We are completely confident in our ability to communicate directly with the government of Egypt at the White House, State Department, Pentagon and through our embassy.”

Asked about the potential conflict of interest, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Wisner "is a private citizen.  He gave generously of his time.  You know, we asked him to undertake a one-time mission, and during the course of that mission he delivered a blunt and candid private message.  And we feel he was uniquely positioned to deliver this message and have it heard by President Mubarak."

Crowley said "when he came back, he briefed the secretary on his discussions in Egypt.  At that point, his mission was completed." The Administration, he said, was aware that Wisner worked for Paton Boggs. "By the same token, we're also aware he is a distinguished diplomat, former ambassador, you know, to Egypt. And we felt that he was uniquely positioned to have the kind of conversation that we felt needed to be done in Egypt."

-Jake Tapper

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