Republican puts out 'action alert' claiming Rice will be subpoenaed Wednesday
A spokesman for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has suggested, on the day before a House Committee is threatening to issue a subpoena for her cooperation with an investigation into the evidence used to build the case for the Iraq War, that she had more important things to do than testify before Congress
Meanwhile, a Republican Congressman sent out an "action alert" Tuesday claiming that "we've gotten word that Waxman will issue a subpoena to Secretary Rice tomorrow morning," adding that such a move could allow the GOP to show how Democrats are "trying to win the political war for themselves no matter its effect on America’s efforts to promote peace and democracy abroad."
"I can only assume that members of Congress would rather have the secretary of State be focused on issues of war and peace," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack in a press briefing today, and then listed her obligations over the next month.
He added, "So she can be doing those things, or she can be testifying before Chairman Waxman's committee about an issue that has been about as investigated as an issue can possibly be investigated."
He was responding to an inquiry regarding whether or not Rice would agree to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform prior to the Memorial Day recess, as requested by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA). Chairman Waxman is scheduled to have a hearing tomorrow to consider issuing a subpoena to compel Rice's cooperation with his probe.
McCormack further dismissed the question of how the case for the Iraq War was built as too old to be worthy of concern.
"I'm not quite sure what these questions about her job four years ago, and a four-year-old controversy that has been thoroughly investigated, have to do with her current-day duties," he said.
But, he maintained that the State Department's response to Waxman's questions would ward off any need for a subpoena or testimony.
"Congressman Waxman has had a series of questions for Secretary Rice, and we started out at the -- some 50-plus questions. I think we've narrowed it down to about three, and we will be providing a response to those last three questions, I expect, later this afternoon to Chairman Waxman and his committee," he added.
Subsequently, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-SC) issued an alert via his "Theme Team" saying that Waxman's plans could offer Republicans a political opportunity.
"This could be a great place for us to get our foot in the door in showing that Waxman is unecessarily issuing the subpoena and, in doing so, is standing in the way of Dr. Rice doing what we all agree is necessary – building and improving on international support for our efforts worldwide," wrote Chris Crawford, who works for the Congressman, in an e-mail to bloggers.
The email continues, "Waxman’s actions border on harassment and will prevent the Dr. Rice from completing those duties entrusted to her office."
"The subpoena threatens to disrupt a busy and important schedule including trips to a NATO conference on Afghanistan, the Iraq Neighbors Conference in Egypt, and facilitating talks between Israel and Palestine," the "Theme Team Action Alert" states. "Is Mr. Waxman more concerned with getting press or is he trying to save the diplomatic limelight for Speaker Pelosi?"
McCormack's full exchange with reporters in today's State Department press briefing can be found below.
Q Sean, Congressman Waxman is having a hearing tomorrow to decide whether to subpoena Secretary Rice. Any comments on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, this has been an ongoing story for some time. Congressman Waxman has had a series of questions for Secretary Rice, and we started out at the -- some 50-plus questions. I think we've narrowed it down to about three, and we will be providing a response to those last three questions, I expect, later this afternoon to Chairman Waxman and his committee.
Look, I can only assume that members of Congress would rather have the secretary of State be focused on issues of war and peace. You know, just to go over her calendar a little bit in the coming months here, she's going to be leaving tomorrow for Oslo for a NATO foreign ministers' meeting, where she's going to talk about issues like Kosovo and Afghanistan and the support for our NATO allies' efforts to -- to efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.
She's going to be traveling to the Middle East for the Iraq neighbors' conference and the International Compact for Iraq.
She's also going to -- in May going to be traveling to the Middle East to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials to see if we can find a way forward to try to bring peace to that region. She's going to be traveling to Moscow to talk to Foreign Minister Lavrov about issues related to Iran and U.S.-Russia relations.
So she can be doing those things, or she can be testifying before Chairman Waxman's committee about an issue that has been about as investigated as an issue can possibly be investigated. And all the answers are out there in a number of different commission reports, whether that's in Department of Defense inspector general reports or the Silberman-Robb commission.
So these -- this is a four-year-old issue that has been as investigated as any in the past four years. If you can find one that has been more investigated on the national security front, that -- more than this one, I'm certainly open to ideas. But I don't think you're going to find one.
Q So are you saying if she is subpoenaed, that she won't appear?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we'll deal with that question if we actually get to that point. I would hope that Chairman Waxman, when he has an opportunity to review the response from the State Department, that --
Q This --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- this afternoon -- that he'll see that all of these questions have been in fact answered, answered before. I know that, you know, for example, the questions on Niger uranium -- seems to be a focus of Chairman Waxman in this regard -- are questions that were answered by Senator Levin at the end of Secretary Rice's confirmation process. And we had provided answers to, I think, almost precisely the same questions, in detail, to Senator Levin.
Q So you --
MR. MCCORMACK: So we'll be providing all the information. Secretary Rice is committed to providing the Congress the information it needs to do its job. She is -- spends a lot of time up on the Hill, spends a lot of time with members of Congress, talking about various issues. She's up there today, talking to members of the Finance Committee. And that's not unusual, to find her up there, or having members of Congress down here to work on issues related to foreign policy or the State Department.
Q So it's your view that a rational, right-thinking mind would see that your answers, to be provided this afternoon, would obviate any need for a subpoena.
MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughs.) The -- (chuckles) -- I think we're --
Q Just a simple a yes or no.
MR. MCCORMACK: -- we're giving the thorough answers.
We're giving complete answers. And certainly we -- I don't think it -- I think it would be hard for a member of Congress to take a look at the body of information that we have provided on a four-year-old issue and decide that this is worthy of a subpoena for the secretary of State.
Q (Off mike.) You're willing to provide, you know, these thorough, complete answers in writing. Why is the secretary unwilling to talk about it publicly in front of his committee?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, she has talked about these issues in public. She's talked about these issues with members of the media. She has answered questions to commissions on this. It really gets down to a matter of, exactly what are the motivations here, where I just have to say that I'm mystified as to the motivations.
You have an issue related to Niger uranium, as we have said, as I have talked about, that has been investigated, you know, up, down and all around. The answers are out there. Secretary Rice's personal views on the matter, her personal connection as national security advisor at the White House is a matter of the public record. So I'm not sure what these questions about a four-year-old issue have to do with her job as secretary of State.
The questions, as I understand it, really center around her duties as national security advisor. And the questions have been asked, have been answered, many, many times over. So I'm not sure what any of this has to do with her job as secretary of State. So you know, again, I can't tell you the motivation here.
Q Do you think, I mean, is he just trying to, Congressman Waxman, trying to score some political points? Are you willing to say that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Libby, you know, you should ask Chairman Waxman. I'm not sure. You know, I know Secretary Rice has a lot on her plate as secretary of State. And I'm not quite sure what these questions about her job four years ago, and a four-year-old controversy that has been thoroughly investigated, have to do with her current-day duties.
Q She says that she did not -- has not clarified publicly what she knew personally about the Niger claim and when it went into the speech. That's what his response has been to all the pages you've sent.
MR. MCCORMACK: Those very same questions were asked by Senator Levin as part of her confirmation process. Those answers were provided, prior to the Senate voting on her confirmation. So it is a matter of public record with the Senate. And she has also talked about this issue many times over in public, talked to a lot of journalists about it. So there's a massive public record on this issue, including Secretary Rice's remembrances on the issue and her involvement in her former capacity as national security advisor.