Ms Rice may testify over Iraq


Summary

Ms Rice may testify about discredited assertions about Iraq's prewar nuclear intentions, but her spokesman said she would resist.

Democrat Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said the panel is interested in learning how the White House came to make bogus assertions that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had been trying to obtain enriched uranium from Niger.

Mr Waxman said at a hearing that Ms Rice's tenure as President George W. Bush's national security adviser during his first term in the White House gives her unique insights into why the administration pressed its claim about the Niger uranium, which the president amplified in a State of the Union speech shortly before the 2003 invasion.

But her spokesman Sean McCormack said her discussions with the president on the matter were off limits to the committee.

"It's the position of the White House that those matters are covered by executive privilege," Ms Rice's spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Wednesday, when asked whether she would comply if subpoenaed.

Mr McCormack said Ms Rice's discussions with the president were privileged, and as such off limits to Congress, although she would try to provide whatever information she could.

"We are going to continue to work with Chairman Waxman's committee to try to answer his questions," he said.

Allegations that Iraq was seeking to build weapons of mass destruction provided the main justification for the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

Mr Waxman, a California Democrat and longtime Bush Adminstration gadfly expressed frustration with Ms Rice's cooperation thus far.

"For four years I have been trying to get information from Secretary Condoleezza Rice on a variety of issues, including the reference to uranium and Niger in the president's 2003 State of the Union speech," Mr Waxman said.

"My goal is to conduct investigations without subpoenas. But if we are stonewalled, then we can't hesitate then to call up the powers that are available to us," he said.

Deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey, speaking as the House panel met, said the issue had been scrutinized extensively in the past and he questioned the Democrats' motives in authorizing a subpoena for Ms Rice.

"This is perhaps the most investigated single issue we have over the last several years," Mr Casey said. "It's been addressed by various commissions … and any number of other bodies that have looked at this."

He added: "I think you have to question the motivation behind looking at something that, in effect, has been addressed and answered multiple times."

Mr Waxman said that he and Ms Rice for the past several weeks have exchanged correspondence about her possible testimony, but no agreement was ever reached.

"I deeply regret that the secretary of state is giving us no choice but to proceed with a subpoena," said Mr Waxman.

"We have hit a brick wall," he said. "She will not propose a date to testify. She will not agree to testify. And she insists that our committee be satisfied with partial information that was previously submitted to other committees."

Meanwhile, the head of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, Minority Leader John Boehner, called the move a Democratic ploy to embarrass the president.

"Subpoenaing Secretary Rice has more to do with political theatre than legitimate oversight goals," he said.

"This inquiry is designed more to obfuscate than to address the threats facing this country today and for the foreseeable future," said Mr Boehner.


Ms Rice may testify about discredited assertions about Iraq's prewar nuclear intentions, but her spokesman said she would resist.

Democrat Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said the panel is interested in learning how the White House came to make bogus assertions that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had been trying to obtain enriched uranium from Niger.

Mr Waxman said at a hearing that Ms Rice's tenure as President George W. Bush's national security adviser during his first term in the White House gives her unique insights into why the administration pressed its claim about the Niger uranium, which the president amplified in a State of the Union speech shortly before the 2003 invasion.

But her spokesman Sean McCormack said her discussions with the president on the matter were off limits to the committee.

"It's the position of the White House that those matters are covered by executive privilege," Ms Rice's spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Wednesday, when asked whether she would comply if subpoenaed.

Mr McCormack said Ms Rice's discussions with the president were privileged, and as such off limits to Congress, although she would try to provide whatever information she could.

"We are going to continue to work with Chairman Waxman's committee to try to answer his questions," he said.

Allegations that Iraq was seeking to build weapons of mass destruction provided the main justification for the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

Mr Waxman, a California Democrat and longtime Bush Adminstration gadfly expressed frustration with Ms Rice's cooperation thus far.

"For four years I have been trying to get information from Secretary Condoleezza Rice on a variety of issues, including the reference to uranium and Niger in the president's 2003 State of the Union speech," Mr Waxman said.

"My goal is to conduct investigations without subpoenas. But if we are stonewalled, then we can't hesitate then to call up the powers that are available to us," he said.

Deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey, speaking as the House panel met, said the issue had been scrutinized extensively in the past and he questioned the Democrats' motives in authorizing a subpoena for Ms Rice.

"This is perhaps the most investigated single issue we have over the last several years," Mr Casey said. "It's been addressed by various commissions … and any number of other bodies that have looked at this."

He added: "I think you have to question the motivation behind looking at something that, in effect, has been addressed and answered multiple times."

Mr Waxman said that he and Ms Rice for the past several weeks have exchanged correspondence about her possible testimony, but no agreement was ever reached.

"I deeply regret that the secretary of state is giving us no choice but to proceed with a subpoena," said Mr Waxman.

"We have hit a brick wall," he said. "She will not propose a date to testify. She will not agree to testify. And she insists that our committee be satisfied with partial information that was previously submitted to other committees."

Meanwhile, the head of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, Minority Leader John Boehner, called the move a Democratic ploy to embarrass the president.

"Subpoenaing Secretary Rice has more to do with political theatre than legitimate oversight goals," he said.

"This inquiry is designed more to obfuscate than to address the threats facing this country today and for the foreseeable future," said Mr Boehner.