Brief of the Week April 27, 2009

PELOSI AND THE HARMAN CAPER: Amid the revelations last week that Rep. Jane Harman (D.-Calif.) had been picked up on a wiretapped conversation as part of a government investigation, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) told reporters that she had been briefed about this as part of a routine process when lawmakers are picked up on wiretaps. But she said she was given no details. Later, Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly told reporters that Pelosi had misspoken, that she had intended to say that “she did not know who the targets of the surveillance were but that she was aware Ms. Harman had been recorded taking part in a conversation.” The secretly recorded conversation apparently took place before the November 2006 elections in which Democrats won the House and made Pelosi speaker. According to published reports, Harman was recorded agreeing to intercede on behalf of two lobbyists for the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) who were under investigation for violations of the Espionage Act. In exchange AIPAC was to put pressure on Pelosi to make her fellow California Democrat chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Pelosi passed over the Harman for the position, denying there was any personal rift with her more moderate colleague and explaining that Harman had already served two terms as ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Panel and thus had to step down from the select committee. (Although she was correct in citing the two-term rule of House select committees, Pelosi did not address the fact that the rules changed when she became speaker.) One of the worst-kept secrets in Congress is that Pelosi holds Harman in “minimum high regard” for her support of the Iraq war and closeness to Republicans such as fellow Intelligence Committee member Pete Hoekstra (Mich.), who once suggested Harman to head the CIA.