McClellan testifies to House Judiciary Committee
(Update: Dem lawmaker calls for impeachment during McClellan hearing - click here)
Former White House spokesman Scott McClellan testified to the House Judiciary Committee about his new revelations on the exposure of CIA agent Valerie Plame and the Bush administration's "propaganda campaign" that led the country into war.
McClellan was invited to testify after publication of his tell all memoir, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception. Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers said the revelations McClellan wrote about "may or may not constitute an impeachable offense."
The revelation of a pre-war propaganda campaign was "a confirmation that the White House played fast and loose with the truth in a time of war," Conyers said to open the hearing. "Depending on how one reads the Constitution, that may or may not be an impeachable offense."
Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, said Plame's outing was a direct component of that propaganda effort because it was aimed at discrediting her husband Joe Wilson, a former ambassador who undercut the administration's argument that Saddam Hussein was attempting to buy nuclear weapons materials from Africa. Friday's hearing, he said, was aimed at uncovering possible evidence of obstruction of justice and painting a fuller picture of administration officials involvement "not only in the leak but also in the coverup."
McClellan said he had no "direct knowledge" of whether President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney were directly involved in outing Plame, but he criticized the White House for continuing to hide from a full accounting of the scandal, implying a cover-up could be ongoing.
"This White House promised or assured the American people that at some point when this was behind us they would talk publicly about it," he said. "And they have refused to.
"And that's why I think more than any other reason we are here today and the suspicion still remains," McClellan told the panel.
McClellan said he does not believe Bush knew about or caused the leak. When asked about Cheney, he replied: "I do not know. There's a lot of suspicion there."
Earlier in the hearing, Rep. Lamar Smith, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, gave a prebuttal of McClellan's testimony, reciting accusations that McClellan was simply trying to make a buck with a critical book and that he was perhaps trying to get back at his former bosses. He even name-checked controversial right-wing author Ann Coulter's book How to Talk to a Liberal and tried to tie McClellan to liberal financier George Soros, a favorite bogeyman of conservatives.
McClellan was sworn in before delivering his opening statement, which has been posted at the committee's Web site.
The former administration official, who began working for George W. Bush during his time as governor of Texas, criticized the campaign-style of governing Bush brought to the White House. And he said the dirty politics that have become standard in the GOP were exemplified in the reaction to his memoir from conservatives and Bush allies.
"I received plenty of criticism for daring to tell the story as I knew it," he said. "Yet few of my critics tried to refute the larger themes and perspectives in the book. Instead of engaging in a reasoned, rational, and honest discussion of the issues raised, some sought to turn it into a game of 'gotcha,' misrepresenting what I wrote and seeking to discredit me through inaccurate personal attacks on me and my motives."
On the case for invading Iraq, McClellan said the president and his aides did not properly present the intelligence on the country and ignored doubts laid out by the intelligence community. But he was wary to say the administration deliberately misled the nation into war.
"I don't think there was a group sitting around saying let's mislead the American people," he said.
After less than an hour of testimony, the Judiciary Committee went on recess for debate and an expected vote on an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
With wire reports
Rep. John Conyers opening statement
Scott McClellan's opening statement