McCain’s “Favors” for One Special Lobbyist: The Bob Bennett Angle

If I’m not mistaken, NYT’s blockbuster detailing McCain’s inappropriate relationship with a telecom lobbyist is the matter in which Bob Bennett was representing the good Senator (no, I’m not–Bennett’s out working this story hard tonight). If you haven’t already read about this on every other lefty blog, here’s the jist:

Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

Now, there are many angles to this story. The "McCain in charge of Senate oversight of telecoms" angle. The "McCain dalliance with a torture lobbist" angle. The "why does this woman look just like McCain’s wife?" angle. But for now, I’m just interested in the Bob Bennett angle.

Bennett’s been out pitching his new book; as part of that, I heard him on Diane Rehm. Bennett said he was representing McCain in a matter in which he allegedly gave a lobbyist special "favors."


But that’s not the part I’m a bit stunned by. Actually, there are three parts I’m stunned by, just off the top of my head:

  • This story broke in the NYT. The last time we saw Bennett (before he was giving Jose Rodriguez’ story when Rodriguez refused to do so himself, I mean), he was standing in a hallway in the Prettyman Courthouse accepting Max Frankel’s thanks … "you did a good job for us today." Meaning "us," the NYT. In some twisted way, Bennett only recently rescued the NYT from its embarrassment named Judy Miller. But here his next big client save one is, having his Presidential aspirations seriously rocked by the same NYT. If I’m Bob Bennett right now, I’m bitching about those ingrates at the Times. Read more

No Immunity, Yet, for Rodriguez

Well, Crazy Pete Hoekstra hasn’t managed to slip a little immunity deal to Jose Rodriguez–at least not yet.

The former CIA official who destroyed videotapes showing harsh interrogation tactics has been granted a temporary reprieve by the House intelligence committee, officials said last night.

The committee had demanded that Jose Rodriguez Jr. testify before it on Wednesday, but after being told that he would not answer questions without a grant of legal immunity for his testimony, the panel withdrew its demand, according to officials familiar with the arrangement.


Officials said that a subpoena for Rodriguez will remain in effect and that talks between lawmakers, Justice Department officials and Rodriguez’s attorney, Robert S. Bennett, will continue.

I’m not sure what to make of the description of on-going talks. Hopefully, HPSCI has agreed not to do anything to impede the criminal investigation. But I’d be a lot more comfortable if HPSCI said it would hold off entirely on Rodriguez testimony until DOJ gave the okay.

They Really Don’t Want Us Learning About the Torture Tapes, Do They?

I noted several weeks ago that Bob Bennett sounded an awful lot like he was beginning to float excuses for his client, Jose Rodriguez, to ask for immunity before he testified before Congress.

The article also includes a clear signal from the masterful press manipulator, Bob Bennett, that he intends to advise his client John Jose Rodriguez to plead the Fifth.

Bennett told NEWSWEEK that his client had been "a dedicated and loy­al public servant for 31 years" and "has done nothing wrong." But he warned that Rodriguez may refuse to cooperate with investigators if he concludes that the probes are a "witch hunt." "I don’t want him to become a scapegoat."

In case you missed it, Bennett uses the same phrase Monica Goodling’s lawyer, John Dowd, used, "witch hunts," just before he snookered Congress into offering her immunity for a bunch of stuff that Congress already had evidence she was doing. As a reminder, Monica said almost nothing that incriminated Rove or Harriet and only sort of incriminated AGAG. But she managed to get herself immunity for "crossing the line" and politicizing DOJ’s hiring practices. Bennett’s use of precisely same language as Monica’s lawyer may be no accident.

Well, surprise, surprise! Bennett just told Congress he wants Rodriguez to receive immunity before he’ll testify before Congress (h/t maryo2).

Attorneys for Jose Rodriguez told Congress that the former CIA official won’t testify about the destruction of CIA videotapes without a promise of immunity, a person close to the tapes inquiry said Wednesday.


Defense attorney Robert Bennett told lawmakers, however, that he would not let Rodriguez testify because of the criminal investigation into the case. Without a promise of immunity, anything Rodriguez said at the hearing could be used against him in court.

Of course, Bennett’s excuse has changed. Rather than use the tired excuse Monica Goodling used–she was the "victim" of a witchhunt–Bennett is using the even more tired Iran-Contra era excuse that, um, maybe Congress can get his client out of all criminal liability if Bennett pulls a fast one … ? But honest, Bennett’s not worried about any real criminal liability, nosiree.

Meanwhile, Judge Mark Kennedy has decided he trusts DOJ a lot more than Judge Mark Wolf does, and he doesn’t see the need to conduct an inquiry into why the CIA was destroying tapes that might have been relevant to cases before him. Read more

Isikoff to Congress: Make Sure You Ask for the Negroponte Memo

For all his faults, Michael Isikoff is certainly a reliable journalist through whom people can launder leaks. Take his story (with Hosenball) today (h/t bmaz). Note the grammar of these first two paragraphs:

In the summer of 2005, then CIA director Porter Goss met with then national intelligence director John Negroponte to discuss a highly sensitive matter: what to do about the existence of videotapes documenting the use of controversial interrogation methods, apparently includ­ing waterboarding, on two key Al Qaeda suspects. The tapes were eventually de­stroyed, and congressional investigators are now trying to piece together an extensive paper trail documenting how and why it happened.

One crucial document they’ll surely want to examine: a memo written after the meeting between Goss and Negroponte, which records that Negroponte strongly advised against destroying the tapes, according to two people close to the investigation, who asked for anonymity when discussing a sensitive matter. The memo is so far the only known documentation that a senior intel official warned that the tapes should not be destroyed. Spokespeople for the CIA and the intel czar’s office declined to comment, citing ongoing investigations. [my emphasis]

This article is framed in terms of what Congressional investigators want, not in terms of what the DOJ investigation is finding. Indeed, the leak about the Negroponte memo appears to come from two people involved in the investigation in some manner–whatever that investigation may be–who want to make sure news of this memo comes out and who seem to have little faith that news of Negroponte’s clear instructions to Goss will come out otherwise.

Also, note the curious no comment in this paragraph. "Spokespeople for the CIA and the intel czar’s office." You might assume, forgetting the last year of jostling within the Bush Administration, that it means that Isikoff called Negroponte’s office and got a no comment. But while Negroponte was "intel czar" when he wrote this memo, he’s not now; he’s at State running things for Condi. So unless Isikoff forgot all these details, I’d suggest this article only appears to record a "no comment" from Negroponte, and it certainly doesn’t exclude a pretty big comment from him. As in, "Mikey, I’d like you to write about this memo I wrote to Porter, because I’m afraid it’s getting buried in the DOJ investigation." Read more