Contradicting an earlier statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that she had been briefed about recorded surveillance of U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, according to The New York Times.
How she would forget such a briefing was not explained. Pelosi and Harman are rivals who are known for not liking each other, and the recordings in question involved an alleged quid pro quo by which a rich donor would hold back on giving money to Pelosi if she didn’t give Harman a seat on the House intelligence committee.
Pelosi said that while she was briefed, she was never given any details by the U.S. Justice Department, the Times reported. Harman was recorded on a wiretapped call offering to intercede with the Justice Department on behalf of operatives for Aipac, the pro-Israel group, who were under investigation for espionage.
In exchange, Harmon allegedly wanted help in pressuring Pelosi to award her the chairmanship of the House intelligence committee.
In a series of interviews on Tuesday, Harman denied the allegations and demanded the release of a full transcript of the wire-tapped call. She has also said that she has been fielding calls from irate lawmakers concerned that they, too, were the subject of secret surveillance.
Pelosi said today that she wasn’t at liberty to let Ms. Harman know that she had been overheard in conversations during eavesdropping by the federal authorities.
The donor has been identified by the Times and other sources as Haim Saban, a Democratic fundraiser, fervent supporter of Israel, and one of the richest men in the world.
The Times reported that Saban, a mutual friend of Pelosi and Harman, was wiretapped telling Harman he would demand Pelosi appoint Harman to the post. In return, Saban reportedly asked Harman to use her influence with the Bush administration to stop or soften their prosecution of two pro-Israel lobbyists accused of espionage.
Pelosi also denied suggestions that the wiretap somehow influenced her decision not to give the chairmanship to Harman, the Times added.
“The only reason Jane is not the chairman is because she already served the two terms,” Pelosi said during a roundtable discussion with reporters at the Capitol. “It had nothing to do with her position on Iraq. It had nothing to do with donors, nothing to do with eaves-dropping, wiretapping.
“It had nothing to do with anything. It had only to do with the fact that this extraordinarily talented member of Congress had served her two terms.”
Pelosi had previously denied any knowledge of the surveillance. On Tuesday, she told reporters that “I don’t know the particulars but I do think that I don’t know that Congressman Harman was wiretapped, I mean somebody was wiretapped and there may have been a conversation. I really do not know enough about it to be an authority on the subject.”
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