House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denied being threatened by a powerful Democratic fundraiser if she did not name Rep. Jane Harman, a fellow California Democrat, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
According to a report first published in Congressional Quarterly, Mrs. Harman was overheard by government officials in a 2005 wiretapped conversation telling a suspected Israeli spy that she would lobby Mrs. Pelosi for leniency for two men accused of spying for Israel if the agents would in return push the speaker on her behalf.
The suspected Israeli agents then promised that a prominent Democratic fundraiser would threaten to withhold donations from Mrs. Pelosi unless she gave Mrs. Harman the coveted chairmanship, according to the New York Times.
“What is true is that everybody knows that I don’t respond to threats, so it wouldn’t be useful to use them. But [the report] isn’t true,” Mrs. Pelosi said Tuesday afternoon.
Mrs. Harman sounded a defiant note Tuesday, saying she had asked the Justice Department to release the secretly taped telephone calls to show that she did not intervene in the espionage investigation.
“If there are tapes out there, bring it on!” she said in an interview on MSNBC.
“Let me be absolutely clear,” Mrs. Harman wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that she released publicly on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. “I never contacted the Department of Justice, the White House or anyone else to seek favorable treatment regarding the national security cases on which I was briefed, or any other cases.”
The New York Times quoted former and current government officials who maintained that Mrs. Harman was heard on calls intercepted by the National Security Agency in which she appeared to agree to seek lenient treatment from the Bush administration for the two pro-Israel lobbyists, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman.
The congresswoman was not the initial target of the probe.