Harman hires Lanny Davis


I just filed this brief, based on this terrific story by Laura Rozen at FP:

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) hired a top Democratic lawyer as a media handler in her pushback against allegations that she intervened on behalf of two pro-Israel lobbyists.

Harman hired Lanny Davis, who once served as a special counsel to former President Bill Clinton, The Cable, a web publication of Foreign Policy magazine, reported late Tuesday.

Former and current security officials have leaked to various media in recent weeks details of a wiretapped phone call that took place between 2004 and 2006 in which Harman allegedly agrees to a request from an “Israeli agent” to  intervene on behalf of Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, former senior staffers for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who were charged – or were facing charges, depending on the timing of the call – in a classified information leaks case.

In exchange, the “Israeli agent” was to ask entertainment magnate Haim Saban, an Israeli American and a major donor to the Democratic Party, to lobby for Harman’s continued status as senior Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.

Saban did lobby for Harman – unsuccessfully – but there is no evidence that Harman intervened on behalf of Weissman and Rosen, and Harman has called on the Justice Department to release transcripts of the tape, unredacted.

Rosen and Weissman, indicted in August 2005, are slated to go to trial on June 2, although Justice Department officials are reportedly reconsidering the case.

Davis has most recently served as a spokesman for the pro-Israel project, The Israel Project.

Laura’s is the clearest narrative yet of how this case appears to have more to do with internecine warfare at the spy agencies and on the House intelligence committee – and with spooks obsessed with Israel – than it does with any alleged impropriety by Harman.

See how she delicately suggests a role in the current mess for David Szady, the former counterintelligence specialist at the FBI who headed the Rosen-Weissman investigation, precisely because he shows up claiming he knew of no wrongdoing by Harman:

Former FBI counterintelligence official David Szady, who led the investigation that targeted the AIPAC figures, told the New York Times in an interview last week that he was confident Harman had never sought to intervene in the case. "In all my dealings with her, she was always professional and never tried to intervene or get in the way of any investigation," Szady told the Times. The remark, while exonerating, is still perhaps puzzling. Why would an official who had been involved in a sensitive counterintelligence investigation yet to go to trial comment about the actions of someone who the government has not acknowledged was a subject of investigation in the case? How would he know who Harman had or had not lobbied on the matter? The Justice Department, for its part, denied comment. Szady could not be reached.

Laura elsewhere has noted the Iago-like practice among some sources of dishing dirt on a powerful target off the record on the condition that they are quoted on the record praising the target to the Gods.

She also wonders why FBI boss Robert Mueller didn’t want to touch this with a ten foot pole. She notes the central role of Porter Goss, the former CIA director who had an unhappy history with Harman dating to their joint service on the intel committee:

Goss’s decision to authorize a FISA warrant that would tap a former fellow lawmaker and rival seems potentially troubling. What’s more, it raises the question of why FBI Director Robert Mueller was unavailable — or perhaps made himself unavailable — to sign off on the FISA warrant himself. A  report this week by CQ said then Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte also tried to shut down what became a seeming rogue effort to pursue investigation of Harman.

One final thing: she notes a recent, unrelated victory for the "Harman camp."

Meantime, in the seemingly low level proxy war between competing factions, the Harman camp has scored perhaps one under the radar victory. A former top Harman aide and minority general counsel on the House intelligence committee, Jeremy Bash, has become chief of staff to Obama’s new CIA director, Leon Panetta.

Not only that, I have it on good authority that Bash – most recently a senior official of the Obama transition – is a former AIPAC staffer.

As we say in this neck of the woods, David Szady must be shpritzeh naches.

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