- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006


Former disaster agency chief Michael D. Brown is indicating he is ready to reveal his correspondence with President Bush and other officials during Hurricane Katrina unless the White House forbids it and offers legal support.

Mr. Brown’s stance, in a letter obtained yesterday by the Associated Press, follows senators’ complaints that the White House is refusing to answer questions or release documents about advice given to Mr. Bush concerning the storm that hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29.

Mr. Brown quit as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency days after Katrina struck. He left the federal payroll Nov. 2.

In a letter to White House counsel Harriet Miers, Mr. Brown’s attorney wrote Monday that Mr. Brown continues to respect Mr. Bush and his “presidential prerogative” to obtain candid and confidential advice from top aides.

The letter from Andrew W. Lester also says Mr. Brown no longer can rely on that protection because he is a private citizen.

“Unless there is specific direction otherwise from the president, including an assurance the president will provide a legal defense to Mr. Brown if he refuses to testify as to these matters, Mr. Brown will testify if asked about particular communications,” the attorney wrote.

Mr. Brown’s desire “is that all facts be made public.”

Messages left with the White House were not returned yesterday.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Bush defended his administration’s stance on withholding some information, saying that providing all the material would chill the ability of presidential advisers to speak freely. The White House has given thousands of documents about the storm response to Senate investigators.

Mr. Brown is set to testify tomorrow at a Senate inquiry of the slow government response to Katrina.

Contacted yesterday, he referred questions about the letter to Mr. Lester. The lawyer described his client as “between a rock and a hard place” between the administration’s reluctance to disclose certain high-level communications and Congress’ right to demand it.

“Mr. Brown is going to testify before Congress. If he receives no guidance to the contrary, we’ll do as any citizen should do — and that is to answer all questions fully, completely and accurately,” Mr. Lester said.

The letter set a 5 p.m. deadline yesterday for the White House to reply to Mr. Brown. That passed without a response, Mr. Lester said.

Some administration officials have refused interviews by Senate investigators or have declined to answer even seemingly innocuous questions about times and dates of meetings and telephone calls with the White House.

The leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee have accused the White House of crippling their inquiry after FEMA attorneys prohibited Mr. Brown from responding to some questions during a Jan. 23 staff interview.

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