Pelosi enters the picture – new questions raised in Jane Harman scandal

Starting around lunch time today, Nancy Pelosi found herself much more embroiled in the unfolding Jane Harman scandal. Two new reports tie Pelosi to the story. The first is that she had been informed about Harman getting caught up in the wiretap "a few years ago." This is funny because just yesterday she said:

As you know, this is a breaking story, so 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.

Nice that she remembered.

The second piece of news is that Pelosi herself was discussed on Harman's recorded call. Jeff Stein reports on CQ's Spy Talk blog:

Harman was heard lamenting to the suspected Israeli agent how the tactics of a major Jewish fundraiser to use the threat of withholding political donations to California Democrat Nancy Pelosi to win Harman the gavel of the House Select Committee on Intelligence had badly backfired, the former official said.

Harman's conversation with the suspected spy was picked up by federal counterintelligence eavesdroppers as part of an investigation into the activities of the alleged Israeli agent.

The New York Times on Tuesday identified the California donor as Haim Saban, "a vocal supporter of Israel" who made a fortune his Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Harman and the target of the NSA intercept mutually rued the tactics of Saban, a major Democratic donor, to influence Pelosi, said the former national security official.

The former official, who has provided accurate information on Harman's intercepted conversations, did so only on the condition of anonymity because the material remains highly classified.

In the wiretapped conversation, the target was heard telling Harman that "Pelosi went ballistic" when Saban allegedly warned her that if Harman were not made chairman of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections "'you'll get no more contributions from me,'" according to the former official's paraphrase of the conversation.

This new piece of information is confusing to me. Was this the same call Stein reported on earlier? A different follow up call? I had thought Saban was only going to pressure Pelosi if Harman injected herself into the AIPAC espionage case. But, if this is the same call Stein reported on earlier, it would seem to indicate that Saban was already putting the screws to Pelosi on Harman's behalf regardless. Mondo correspondent F.E. Felson puts it in perspective:

I may be wrong, but I don't think this is a second conversation. It's important to remember that Harman's bid to keep her Intel slot was an ongoing thing throughout 2005 and 2006. It may even have started in 2004. The recorded conversation in 10/05 was not the start of it. She'd been angling behind the scenes long before then, and her supporters had been privately twisting Pelosi's arm for a long time. Just read this passage from a Roll Call story from July 2005, three months before the phone call apparently took place:

Pelosi is the ultimate decision maker on Harman's status, since leadership appoints the membership of the Intelligence panel. Sources said that even though Harman can technically keep her post, Pelosi is unhappy that her fellow Californian is pursuing the position this far from the start of the next Congress and is ready to give another Member a shot at the job.

So it makes perfect sense, to me at least, that in 10/05 Harman and her interlocutor would be talking about how the arm-twisting hadn't worked with Pelosi and how it had in fact backfired.
The other thing that I'd point out is that I'm noticing the media using shorthand in outlining Harman's motive — saying simply that she wanted to gain the chairmanship of Intel after '06. To laymen, this is probably a good enough way of explaining it. But the truth is actually more complex, and more damning to Harman.
This wasn't just a case of an ambitious Democrat who had an eye on a prospective chairmanship that might or might not have come open more than a year down the line. This was a woman whose meal ticket in DC was already under attack. She was already the Ranking Member of Intel, and Pelosi was threatening to take that away at the start of the next Congress. No other Democratic Ranking Members on any other committees were facing that kind of threat in 2005; they were all assured of becoming the chairmen of their committees if the Dems won in '06. This is because Intel is different than other committees, and had historically had a term limit (two terms) for ranking members and chairmen. The Republicans had waived those limits in 2003 for Porter Goss, but Pelosi was saying that — even though the Repubs had changed the rules — she would still pull Harman from the Ranking Member slot after two terms. As the Dem Leader, this was her prerogative.
This became public knowledge in the spring of 2005. Harman's campaign to keep her slot (by forcing Pelosi to change her mind) began then (if it hadn't already begun). By the way, I don't doubt that many others called Pelosi on Harman's behalf, and probably also made fundraising threats. Harman had, and has, plenty of establishment friends. Any politician in her position would lean on his/her friends the eact same way, if it meant keeping his/her job. So it's sort of a no-brainer that among the friends Harman leaned on were members of the Israel lobby. And it's equally unsurprising that they would have pushed Pelosi on Harman's behalf. That's how Washington works.

Update: TPM is reporting that the taped conversation in Klein's report today "appears to be a separate, later conversation between Harman and the "suspected Israeli agent."

Posted in Israel Lobby, Israel/Palestine, US Policy in the Middle East

{ 38 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. D. says:

    It's not just "laymen" who benefit from the oversimplification of treating the espionage case intercession as something forced on her by career ambition. It also allows our media to avoid mentioning any other possible motivations she may have had for helping out Rosen/Weissman.

  2. Ed says:

    I seriously doubt this report that: ' "Pelosi went ballistic" when Saban allegedly warned her that if Harman were not made chairman of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections "'you'll get no more contributions from me,'" according to the former official's paraphrase of the conversation.'

    I suspect this source of being in the bag for Pelosi, and trying to distance her from what is quickly becoming known as 'The Israel Lobby scandal' and 'Lobbygate.'

    After all, if Pelosi was so upset by the whole corrupt scheme, then why did she go on to promote Harman to the Chairmanship of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence & Terrorism?

    Pelosi may well be guilty of acquiescing to the extortion plot, but negotiating a slightly less prestigious chairmanship in exchange for continued bribes from Saban.

  3. Nothing to see here says:

    I find it highly amusing that Harman's Likudnik friends were so willing to throw Pelosi under the bus. Pelosi has whored for AIPAC and Likud since day one. Apparently it wasn't good enough. Nope, nosiree. You may have a 100% approval rating from AIPAC, but at the end of the day you're still expendable scum to them. What would make a great screenplay now would be if Pelosi decided to do a total 180 and adopted the most radical pro-Palestinian positions in Congress. Alas, that would be a screenplay that Hollywood would never buy.

  4. Oscar says:

    Adam, my reading of the Jeff Stein follow-up was that he got additional information from his source(s) to rebut the spin Harman is attempting to put on the situation. According to the Spy Talk blog:

    "Harman was heard lamenting to the suspected Israeli agent how the tactics of a major Jewish fundraiser to use the threat of withholding political donations to California Democrat Nancy Pelosi to win Harman the gavel of the House Select Committee on Intelligence had badly backfired, the former official said."

    This is a separate conversation and it suggests at least one other call being tapped between Harman and the Israeli-agent-to-be-named-later. Think about it: Jeff Stein is the only reporter these disgruntled (career?) Justice and FBI agents can trust as AIPAC infiltrates the highest levels of government and starts to destroy the case against Rosen and Weissman.

    As Jane digs herself deeper into a hole, the sources will give Jeff more tidbits to show she is lying, and his blog will continue to play them out, keep the story alive, shine light on the government's efforts to derail the prosecution of the AIPAC spies.

    If Pelosi doesn't distance herself from Harman instead of closing ranks like Hoyer and Feinstein, this chocolate mess is going to get all over her as well.

    PS — Note her comment: "As everybody knows, threats don't work very well" with her. Hint, hint: Saban already tried that gambit and failed. That's why the follow-up call had Harman lamenting that it "backfired."

    This is a criminal act. Prosecution is absolutely necessary.

  5. Oscar says:

    A side note to the great Mondo correspondent F.E. Felson (like I.F. Stone, I might add):

    It makes no sense that this is not a second conversation. In conversation #1, Jane says she'll "waddle in if you think it will be helpful." Jeff Stein would have reported the other quotes about "badly backfiring" in the original CQ article if that had been said in the single conversation. No, this is a follow-up conversation beyond the one that Jane describes as having "never existed."

    It makes sense that there would be at least one follow-up call, and I'm willing to bet, several follow up calls that were tapped. Jane's rolling the dice; if this is an NSA wiretap, no transcripts can be released. If it's FBI, well, that's an entirely different kettle of fish.

  6. D. says:

    "If Pelosi was so upset by the whole corrupt scheme, then why did she go on to promote Harman to the Chairmanship of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence & Terrorism?"

    I was given the impression the Homeland Security Subcommittee was a backwater, about as great a demotion as was realistically possible. But I don't know. I bet Mr. Felson could tell us.

  7. Ed says:

    And even if Pelsoi really "went ballistic," it was likely only because the whole plot was so nakedly illegal that she was taken aback by Saban's willingness to implicate her in that manner.

    Pelosi calculates: hell, if I give Harman the Intelligence Chairmanship now, I'm implicating myself. I've got to cover my tracks and keep my Saban sugar daddy and the Israel lobby happy. I know! Homeland Security Subcommittee Chair.

  8. Richard Witty says:

    Its planted information in the same way that Valerie Plame was planted.

    Maybe the conversation happened, and as interpreted even, but releasing the tape was illegal, and likely the action of someone that is intentionally vindictive.

    To get a phone call is illegal? Unethical even?

    I'm sure that Phil has said to someone that he has no intention of helping in some ways, "sure I'll do what I can".

  9. Sin Nombre says:

    Oscar wrote:

    "A side note to the great Mondo correspondent F.E. Felson (like I.F. Stone, I might add):"

    Well, let's hope not *too* much like I.F. Stone:–i-f–stone–soviet-agent-case-closed-15120

    And Oscar also wrote:

    "if this is an NSA wiretap, no transcripts can be released. If it's FBI, well, that's an entirely different kettle of fish."

    I'm not so sure about that Oscar. First of all as I understand it the FBI can call in the NSA for help in tapping in at least some instances. And second of all remember when the Soviets shot down that airliner going to South Korea? In the Reagan era I think. It took some prying but didn't the NSA eventually admit that it had recorded the conversations between the Soviet fighter pilot and his controller and then released it too?

    As regards the question of whether there was a second call it might seem to support the idea that indeed there was one given Stein's talk of how prosecutors felt there had been a "completed" crime. That is, the second call showed that the first wasn't just talk and that in fact as was promised action was indeed taken in furtherance of the previously arranged quid pro quo in the form of Saban bracing Pelosi. And then of course you have Harman complaining that it had backfired meaning—if indeed it's a second, later call—that she for sure knew that it wasn't just idle jabber originally and that indeed a hard bargain had been struck.

    Makes sense; in lots of criminal prosecutions of legislators the frequent defense is that the legislators didn't *really* make a tit-for-tat agreement but instead were just puffing about their intentions anyway and perhaps using awkward words that only suggested a quid pro quo.

    Not definitive, but suggestive.

  10. Mooser says:

    "I'm sure that Phil has said to someone that he has no intention of helping in some ways, "sure I'll do what I can".

    Witty, when someone call me up and suggests an unethical or illegal deal, I don't tell them "Sure, I'll do what I can", I tell them "This doesn't sound right to me and I want no part of it". That's what they told me to do in Hebrew school. I presume Jane Harman went to Hebrew school?

  11. Mooser says:

    Anyway, I get a whole bunch of naches (a sort of Kosher Nacho) from thinking how richly Harman and Pelosi will be repayed for their support of Bush and his illegal wiretapping.

  12. Ed says:

    Witty: "To get a phone call is illegal? Unethical even?"

    Sounds like an argument employed by the defense lawyers of innumerable Cosa Nostra hit men. This is what our nation has come to.

  13. Sand says:

    I'm not in law enforcement, or a lawyer etc… but I'm going to throw this out anyways …. don't law officials on a case sometimes leak something out in public to push a suspect to try and come clean, or to dig a deeper hole?

  14. rykart says:

    Ever since I saw Slobodan Pelosevich waving that gavel around like a pregnant lemur at her Speaker of the House coronation, she's given me the creeps.

  15. SAMUEL BURKE says:



    it is becoming evident that somewhere in the intelligence community a decission has been made.

  16. Duscany says:

    The LA Times coverage of this story really burns my buns. Columnist Tina Daunt wrote a powderpuff story in today's paper which, in the headlines, described Saban as a "loyal friend to Israel." I don't know what that's supposed to do for the readers. Make us all feel warm and cuddly toward the guy. If they really want us to like him (and to forget about the propriety of his using his big bucks to lobby on behalf of a foreign power) the paper ought to have headlined Daunt's story "Loyal Friend to America."

    The other thing about the story that irks me is the assumption at the end that we readers are alarmed over the possibility that Saban would actually abandon Pelosi for not supporting Harmon for the intelligence committee chairmanship. Perish the thought the story assures us. "Friendship and loyalty" are "important" to Saban, gushes Daunt. Not only did the admirable gentleman not abandon Pelosi, last month he even held a cocktail party and fund raiser for her at her house.

    Well, there's just no doubt. This Saban is quite a winning fellow. Maybe we ought to ask if he'd possibly be available to serve a term or two after Obama leaves office.

  17. Duscany says:

    "waving that gavel around like a pregnant lemur"

    we do have some colorful writers around here.

  18. Ed says:

    @ Duscany: "Not only did [Saban] not abandon Pelosi, last month he even held a cocktail party and fund raiser for her at her house."

    More proof that their deal on behalf of Harman was consumated.

  19. Jim Haygood says:

    Aren't we kind of losing the focus here? The bombshell allegation from the first conversation was that an Israeli agent asked Harman to intervene with the Justice Dept. in the Rosen/Weissman prosecution. Her ending the exchange with 'this conversation doesn't exist' implies that she agreed to proceed. And the standstill in the case to date suggests that she succeeded.

    The core issues here are obstruction of justice, at the instigation of a foreign agent (which could imply treason as well). Will Harman's potential prosecution — quashed thanks to Bush's go-fer, Alberto Gonzales — be reactivated? Will Congress — under majority leader Pelosi, who spoke proudly of singing the Israeli national anthem with a Jewish lobbying group in the fraught days after 9/11 — investigate? Not bloody likely, I suppose.

    The Israel lobby may have failed to slot Harman into the Intel committee chairmanship, but they imposed Rahm Emanuel as the president's zionist minder — an even bigger coup. As Saddam Hussein used to say, 'Anything is possible now, my brothers.' Oy vey …

  20. Citizen says:

    @ Witty

    "To get a phone call is illegal? Unethical even?
    I'm sure that Phil has said to someone that he has no intention of helping in some ways, "sure I'll do what I can"

    And "This conversation never happened."

    I'm with Ed and Mooser on this. Witty must have gone to a different sort of Hebrew School than Mooser. Or perhaps whatever he learned was supplanted by his years as an accountant? Of course there too, there are accountants, and then there are accountants.

  21. LR says:

    The first NYT article says:
    "One official who has seen transcripts of several wiretapped calls said she appeared to agree to intercede in exchange for help in persuading party leaders to give her the powerful post."

  22. Witty's anonymous critic says:

    Witty, you seem awfully sure Harman is innocent, or rather, you seem awfully eager to argue that she's innocent. Maybe she is, but what makes you so sure she's the innocent politician being victimized by evil Ivy League grads?

    It's possible, you know, that the people trying to get her have ulterior motives AND that's she guilty of unethical behavior. In fact, in Washington that's probably the norm.

  23. Duscany says:

    "What would make a great screenplay now would be if Pelosi decided to do a total 180 and adopted the most radical pro-Palestinian positions in Congress."

    I've been listening to Pelosi a long time now. When the subject is the middle east she never opens her mouth but to give Israel a BJ. I heard her once talking about all the Seders she went to as a kid, two a week sometimes, three times on Sunday. She'd be at mass saying the Lord's Prayer and before she knew it she'd be mentally lighting the menorah. Pelosi is not only Israel's best friend, no other country even comes close, including the one she's the speaker for.

  24. spork says:

    The ins and outs if this story aside, it strikes me as an inter-party power redistribution. Call it a Rahm op.

    My one question: why is the "Israeli agent" being protected?

  25. afan says:

    Check this out! Larry Franklin is not in prison.
    link to

    Franklin was sentenced to just over 12.5 years, it is true – and that was by all accounts not a lenient sentence – but his time was deferred until after he testifies at the Rosen and Weissman trial. I heard from sources at the time that prosecutors would recommend a reduction to three years should he cooperate, and that Judge T.S. Ellis was likely to take the deal.

  26. Jim Haygood says:

    'My one question: why is the "Israeli agent" being protected?' — spork

    Good question. Jane Harman has stated categorically that whomever she talked to on the recorded line was a U.S. citizen.

    Which U.S. citizens would be interested in getting Rosen and Weissman of AIPAC off the hook, while also having access to the rarified social circle of Haim Saban? Presumably, we're talking about a heavy-hitter Jewish leader here, a Conference of Presidents type.

    Of course, most of those folks ARE Israeli agents. But publicly labeling one of them as such would be rather, errrr, awkward. After all, they keep the Democratic Party in business.

  27. anonymous says:

    Has anyone mentioned this?

    link to

    Seems relevant, as background.

  28. Sin Nombre says:

    One interesting question is where all this may go and I have to say that so far as I can reason the answer is nowhere.

    Who after all is going to be in favor of seeing this go anywhere? Or, rather, who that matters?

    The Dem's surely aren't I can't imagine. Why air their dirty linen in public? Nor the Republicans if only because they hardly want to see Gonzalez implicated, not to mention perhaps his superiors who he may have briefed and etc.

    And then there's Obama and the White House, and he can hardly be crazy enough to want anything more on his plate than he's already got, much less rip open his party's diapers.

    So what can he do to put the kibosh on things? Easy, in the first and perhaps biggest place simply refuse to release the transcripts. In one fell swoop just kind of limits the story to where it is at present which is essentially a he said/she said affair with Harman saying her lines badly, true, but still being able to live with them so long as nothing further appears.

    And then of course all Obama has to do is tell Justice to take no action and justify that if need be by saying that they simply aren't going to revisit every prosecutorial decision ever made under Bush, period.

    Really kind of robs the story of any new fuel, and pretty soon it's forgotten.

    Maybe the leaker(s) here or other new leakers will provide that new fuel in some way (copies of the transcripts?), but without same and right now I'd bet in the end officially at least it'll end up a non-event that everyone pretends never happened.

  29. American says:

    Trust me it won't be forgotten by the public. The drip, drip of Israelis transgressions, Gaza, Spies,etc. has seeped ito the public subconsious…Israel bad, Jewish Israelis bad,US Israeli politicans bad…it's imprinted now in our minds.

    But let's get straight what happened.

    People are confusing themselves by reading all the pro zionstisa writers on the Harman deal.

    Here's what happened.

    NSA was wiretapping a (known or suspected) Israeli agent, it could have been one in Israel or one in the US. There were probably overseas call to parties in Israel also.
    They could have been tapping Agent Number One (perhaps the ex-Israeli Embassy official) who led to a Agent Number Two,perhaps American, and on down the line,eventually to Harman.

    When Harman popped up answering a call from the "Agent" on the wiretap NSA had on him, NSA notified the FBI because Harman is a "domestic" and member of congress.

    THAT is when the FBI, whose purvue is "domestics" got a "warrant" to tap Harman herself. And of course, once Harman was wired anyone she spoke to would be taped.

    Neither the NSA or FBI is stupid, they did it by the book…there is bound to be a string of tapes of many different people as the "Agent" made his calls around the spy and influence world and added names of the people he called to both the NSA spy kitty and the FBI log after their entrance into the affair.

    You can bet there is more than one tape of Harman, there are probably tapes of Peliso and Hoyer and other congressional zionistas and even non zionistas who were no doubt jawjawing with Harman about the intelligence appointment question.

    I will bet a huge sum that the NSA and the FBI has far more than we will ever hear unless and until they want us to.

    You have to love warrentless wiretap Isralei Jane getting caught on a warranted LEGAL wiretap. The irony!

  30. americangoy says:

    Thank You, Phillip and Adam, for staying on this subversion espionage case.

    I have taken a great liberty and stole (errrr, quoted) your blog at length in my article trying to make sense of it all.

  31. American says:

    BTW…..let's also quit acting confused about Harman being bribed with the chairmanship if she interferred with the AIPAC trial or set up or etc,etc.

    One true thing she said was "they" didn't have to cut a deal with her.

    Of course they didn't, she has always been an agent for AIPAC in congress…they wanted her to have the intell position and she wanted it so she could keep on top of US intell for the jewish lobby and Israel's benefit.

    What the 'agent' offered to do for her they would have done anyway…put one of tbeir 'own' jewish Israelis in a 'intell' position so she could take the information she would be privy to and pass it to US jewish and Israeli operatives for Israel.

    The Harman affair is about treason. That's all it's about.It's not about warrantless wiretapping or the revenge of the CIA for the torture memos or anything else. It's about treason and crime by a Jewish congressperson because of her loyalty to her 'tribe' and the 'foreign' country of the Jewish State.

    So every time you see someone going on about the nuts and bolts you can be certain of one of three things…1)they are trying to change the real meaning of the scandal…2)or they can't see the forest for the trees because the wiretapping issue is one of their little single issues pet peeves…..3)or they just wanna play Sherlock Holmes and discuss the clues.

    It's about an Israeli agent asking a US congressperson to use her influence to get dismissed or reduced a United States of America vrs Two People indicted for espionage for Israel trial..and her agreeing to try and do it.

    Try and remember that. That's the story.

  32. Janey says:

    It seems Phil constantly invokes the jewish ancestry of a famous person or the jewish relation to a topic in order to claim that he can give better insight into a news story or scandal that that person is involved in. Phil is merely using his jewishness as a tool to connect himself to famous people or events in history. He just wants to make himself seem more prominent and more connected then he actually is. This is not just a jewish phenomenon-other ethnic groups constantly point out members of their respective ethnic group-whether theyre prominent or infamous. Many have embraced scandals involving members of their ethnic group as controversial publicity for that respective community. I remember many Armenian Americans embraced Dr Kevorkian as a controversial figure for the Armenian community and members of the hispanic community are not hesitant to talk about hispanic crime and drug cartels in an ethnic sense some even express pride about it. They do so to get publicity for their ethnic group and for reasons related to personal egotism. Many individual people, non prominent members of a respective culture believe they can use their shared ethnic ancestry to connect themselves to a famous person with shared ancestry and use that shared ancestry to claim that they can provide further insight into the subject because of their shared ancestry. Or many of them just use their shared ancestry to talk about their culture more. I believe this is true with Phil. He believes he can use his jewishness as a tool to connect himself with far more prominent or infamous people and also, despite his claims that he is an "assimilated jew," he is obsessed with jewish culture and history and constantly invoking one's jewish ancestry, or a topic's relation to jewishness, whether it is relevant or not allows him to talk about jewish culture. A typical "assimilated jew" would not care about intermarriage, day schools, famous jews etc. Thats what this blog is all about. Phil is using his jewishness to connect himself to news stories and scandals-and to claim he can provide insight into the minds of others simply because of shared ancestry This is not about political ideology its just about Phil Weiss's ego.

  33. Janey says:

    Timothy Geithner is not jewish, neither is Paul Volker, Mary Schapiro, or Sheila Bair.

  34. Ed says:

    Phil is just demonstrating his Jewish bona-fides to make it clear that anti-semitism isn't the reason behind the fact that he and growing number of Jewish anti-Zionists have apparently concluded that you Israelis and Jewish Zionists have to be kicked under the bus to ensure the survival of Judaism. I can't say that I blame them, but I'm still holding out in the hope that imposition of the two-state solution will stem your psychotic, irrational ambitions to tolerable levels.

  35. chris berel says:

    I blame them. I blame antisemites like you, also. While you're holding out, please hold your breath. This has nothing nothing to do with any solution, but you holding your breath is good for the world, ED.

  36. Citizen says:

    Speaking only to American Gentiles here: If you have moved in inner Jewish circles in the USA, have you ever known another group of Americans who are as obsessed with their ethnic ID? Sports, Entertainment, politics, no matter the subject of social news or entertainment, ever hear another
    group so quickly to point out who is a member of their tribe? Another group so quick to ask, what's good for my ethnic group? Isn't that an interesting happening in the propositional nation?

    Please don't answer by using fake gentile names as your sock puppet.

  37. Citizen says:

    Or real gentile names, e.g., Jim Haygood.

    Also, you can include topics that come up in your social circles, such as the reasons for the bailout, and the claimed cure.

  38. Stoolie says:

    Looks like Chris Berel has the runs again. Eat more fiber, Chris.