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GOP denied seeing Iraq report early

- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 9, 2007

The White House said it has not yet seen the testimony of Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker on the situation in Iraq, defending President Bush from criticism that he has not shared a preview of the report with top Republicans.

"Although the president has been briefed by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, we're not reviewing their testimony, so that's not something we can share," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.

The top U.S. military commander in Iraq and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq will testify before a joint House committee tomorrow and before two Senate committees on Tuesday. Their testimony precedes a written report from the White House, which will be released later in the week.

Republican leadership aides said their requests for briefings went unanswered by the White House. They said they could not even obtain colorful anecdotes or other previews of Gen. Petraeus' and Mr. Crocker's testimony.

"It would sure make things easier if we could get a heads-up on what the testimony will be," said one Senate aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Gen. Petraeus has not submitted his testimony to any of the congressional committees, a military source close to the general said.

"This may be frustrating, but everyone should understand that they are delivering the testimony, and we'll all have to wait to hear them," Mr. Fratto said.

Republican congressional aides said there has been a "hands-off" approach by the White House to the testimony.

"It's become increasingly clear that the White House is taking a hands-off approach to the Petraeus-Crocker testimony, which means I'll be hearing it the same time everyone else does," said one Republican aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "That's frustrating as hell, but I understand the constraints they're under, and their desire to keep this an independent report."

Democratic leaders have already criticized the status update from Gen. Petraeus and Mr. Crocker as being part of the "Bush report" because they think the White House is dictating what the two men can and cannot say about conditions in Iraq.

The White House has adamantly denied the claim.

However, Rep. Rahm Emmanuel, Illinois Democrat, said he does not think Gen. Petraeus and Mr. Crocker will say anything that deviates from Mr. Bush's written report.

"Petraeus is a military man first, but he is clearly conscious of his political surroundings and of the administration's position, and I think you'll see that reflected in his testimony," Mr. Emmanuel said.

Mr. Bush's written report will be released after the testimony, so that it can be "informed" by what Gen. Petraeus and Mr. Crocker say, Mr. Fratto said.

As for congressional outreach, Mr. Bush will host a bipartisan meeting of House and Senate leaders at the White House either tomorrow or Tuesday, sources said. The president also plans to deliver a nationally televised address Tuesday on Iraq.