Republicans get ready to threaten Valerie Plame Wilson with subpoena
As Democrats in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform plow ahead with their investigation of the intelligence used by the Bush administration to build the case for the Iraq War, their Republican colleagues are attempting to up the ante. Last week, Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), the ranking minority member of the committee, alleged that former covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson had given false testimony and prepared to threaten her with a subpoena.
The Wilsons, who were not aware of the subpoena threat until contacted last week by RAW STORY, criticized the Republican effort in an exclusive statement.
"This is once again another frivolous attempt to go after Valerie Wilson, and distract from what's really at issue," said her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson through a spokesman.
During last week's hearing with Lurita A. Doan, the Administrator of the General Services Administration, who was found to have violated the Hatch Act by politicking in a federal workplace, Davis attempted to refocus the session on Plame's testimony.
"Valerie Plame Wilson's sworn statements to this committee are irreconcilably inconsistent with her statements to the CIA inspector general and the Senate Intelligence Committee," he said in last Wednesday's hearing. "I would move the committee direct the chairman to issue a subpoena to Valerie Plame Wilson....She should be summoned to appear before this committee and address the irregularities in her sworn testimony."
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the committee's chairman, responded that it was not appropriate to issue a subpoena at that particular moment.
"I don't want to issue a subpoena before we invite a witness. She did come here voluntarily and if there are questions we want to ask of her and you feel you need an answer, I'll work with you to get the answers," the congressman said.
Waxman's office did not respond to requests from RAW STORY about what steps the committee would take to accommodate the Republicans' demands.
But Rep. Davis's office was ready to press ahead with its attempt to re-direct Waxman's Iraq investigation onto Plame and her statements.
"We've asked them to invite her to re-appear," Brian McNicoll a spokesman for the Republicans on the Oversight Committee said Friday morning. If the committee's Democratic members don't accommodate that request, he added, they'd move again to compel Plame Wilson's testimony.
The Republican effort to subpoena Plame, whose husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, was sent by the CIA to Niger in order to gauge the truth of claims that the African country was supplying uranium to Iraq, faces obstacles that are likely insurmountable. A majority of members of the committee, which is controlled by the Democratic Party since January, must vote to authorize and issue the subpoena.
"Itís not a realistic threat. A majority vote is required for a the committee to issue a subpoena and it is highly unlikely that Rep. Davis will be able to marshal any Democratic votes," said Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of the DC-based group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Sloan is representing the Wilsons in a civil lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials who are accused of blowing Plame's cover and violating the Wilsons' privacy.
Still, the Congress members McNicoll represents made clear that their effort to subpoena Wilson was meant to fight back against Waxman's investigation of President Bush's push for the invasion of Iraq. Calling the Doan hearing "a witch hunt," Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), the former chairman of the committee during the Clinton administration, assailed Waxman for his attempts to subpoena Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"To pursue this the way you're doing it when you won't bring Sandy Berger or Valerie Plame before this committee and yet you'll subpoena the Secretary of State, who's got a little bit to do around this world. It just doesn't make sense to me," Burton said during the Wednesday hearing.
On April 25, the Oversight Committee issued a subpoena for Secretary Rice on a 21-10 vote. Waxman alleges that Rice, who served then as Bush's National Security Adviser, played a key role in making the case for war.
"There was one person in the White House who had the primary responsibility to get the intelligence about Iraq right: and that was Secretary Rice, who was President Bushís National Security Advisor," he said in April when issuing the subpoena. "She has never testified in public about what she may know about how the intelligence was used ó or misused ó by the White House. That is all we are asking her to do."
Waxman had planned to hold a hearing tomorrow, Tuesday, June 19, with Rice and former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet. But he wrote a letter June 12 to the two explaining that he was postponing the hearings while deepening the committee's investigation.
"The Committee has been conducting interviews and depositions of senior government officials with knowledge of prewar intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program, including John McLaughlin, former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence; Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell; and Carl Ford, former Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research. The Committee plans to conduct additional interviews over the coming weeks. In addition, the CIA and State Department have begun to provide important documents to the Committee," Waxman wrote in a June 12 letter. "The interviews, depositions, and documents are illuminating the Committee's inquiry and will provide the predicate for a more thorough hearing with you."
As this thoroughgoing investigation proceeds, Rep. Davis appeared to be attempting to parry its progress with his accusations against Plame Wilson. He issued a three-page document entitled "Asked and Answered...And Answered...and Answered! Valerie Plame Wilsonís Contradictory Testimony," last week. The document parses Wilson's statements to the Oversight Committee, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and in other locations, and points to alleged contradictions.
A statement issued by the Wilsons earlier in June responded to claims like Davis's by saying they had no merit.
"I am dismayed that three Republican Senators (a minority of the minority) have again misused the occasion of the publication of an objective investigation by the whole Senate Select Committee on Intelligence of prewar Iraq intelligence to make erroneous assertions...and to attack improperly prior statements by my wife and me with essentially frivolous claims of purported inconsistency," Ambassador Wilson wrote in a June 2 letter to Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "The record demonstrates that no such inconsistencies exist and that partisan politics, not truth, is the basis for the 'additional views' asserted by Senators Bond, Hatch and Burr."
Sloan, the counsel to the Wilsons in their civil suit, agreed.
"Ms. Wilsonís statements have not been inconsistent, but in any event this is simply another effort to smear Ms. Wilson in order to draw attention away from the real issue: that top White House officials outed a covert CIA officer and endangered our national security," she said.
In the civil court matter, the Wilsons are waiting to learn whether the judge who is hearing the case will dismiss it from court.