2nd Official: WH Asked Me to Change Testimony

Tuesday, 20 Sep 2011 02:01 PM

By Martin Gould

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A second high-ranking official has come forward to say the White House asked him to change his evidence to Congress to help a company run by a billionaire Democratic donor.

But just like Four Star Air Force General William Shelton, who made a similar claim last week, Anthony Russo refused to go along with the White House request.

Russo’s revelation adds fuel to accusations that the White House has formed policies to help companies that have given money to President Barack Obama’s election campaigns, in a growing scandal dubbed “Cronygate.”

Both Shelton and Russo say they were asked to change their testimony on a plan by the satellite company LightSquared to set up a nationwide WiFi network to bring high speed Internet to virtually the entire country.

Critics say the network could interfere with GPS systems, including those used by millions of drivers and by the military.

Philip Falcone, the major investor behind LightSquared, its CEO Sanjiv Ahuja and the company’s political action committee have all donated tens of thousands of dollars to Obama campaign funds and other Democratic causes.

Falcone insists that no-one at his company has tried to influence any evidence. He called Shelton’s accusation that LightSquared officials had been given a copy of his evidence in advance “wrong.”

“I didn't have it, nobody in the company had it, so I don't know where that came from. It's just people planting things,” Falcone told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly.

But Rep. Mike Turner, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, says he will call on the House Oversight Committee to investigate to see if the administration had interfered inappropriately.

The Ohio congressman linked the LightSquared case to that of bankrupt solar panel company Solyndra, saying both companies are led by major Democratic donors and received favors from the Obama White House.

“We cannot afford to have federal telecommunication policy, especially where it affects national security, to be made in the same way this White House has parceled out a half billion dollars in loan guarantees to the failed Solyndra Corporation, a large political campaign contributor of the president,” Turner said.

Russo, the director of the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing told the Daily Beast that the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) asked him to amend his evidence.

Both Russo and Shelton say they were asked to say that testing to assess the threat of interference could be completed in 90 days. Both refused to comply.

“I have low confidence that we can complete all of the testing in 90 days,” Russo said, claiming it would likely take around six months.

The White House has already admitted that it suggested to Shelton, the head of Space Command, that he alter his evidence “to ensure consistency in the administration’s policy positions.” It said such suggestions are routine and not influenced by politics.

Russo described the advice he got from OMB “guidance rather than pressure.”

During his Fox News interview, Falcone said problems with GPS interference have been fixed. He said LightSquared’s plans are under attack from entrenched Internet companies because they would revolutionize the way 260 million Americans could access the net.

But GPS manufacturers and others such as the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials say tests continue to show problems and wants LightSquared to pay them billions of dollars for necessary upgrades should its plan ever come into being.

 

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