Yesterday, the House Oversight Committee released documents revealing that the Bush administration knew in advance that a major Bush donor’s oil company, Hunt Oil, was trying to sign a contract with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to develop oil fields in the Kurdish region of Iraq in 2007. At the time, the State Department claimed it had “actively warned Hunt Oil” against the deal and President Bush said he “knew nothing about the deal.”
In the White House press briefing today, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino tried to spin the dissonance between the administration’s 2007 public comments and the documents released yesterday:
QUESTION: Who in the White House was aware of the negotiations between the Hunt Oil Company and the Kurdistan government?
PERINO: As far as I know, I don’t know of anybody who was aware of it, as we had said before. But the State Department had said that they had been aware of it and they had raised questions about it, and that’s what they’re maintaining today. So I don’t know of anybody in the White House who was aware of it.
Perino’s description of what happened in Sept. 2007 is selective and misleading. According to the documents released by the Oversight Committee, it actually appears that “State Department officials raised no objections to the contract.”
Three days before the oil deal was signed, Hunt’s general manager informed the State Department’s Regional Reconstruction Team that “Hunt is expecting to sign an exploration contract.” According to the general manager, no State Department officials said Hunt should “not pursue” the contract:
There was no communication to me or in my presence made by any of the 9 state department officials with whom I met prior to 8 September that Hunt should not pursue our course of action leading to a contract. In fact there was ample opportunity to do so, but it did not happen.
Unprompted, Perino brought up Hunt Oil CEO Ray Hunt’s letter to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, informing them that “he would be traveling overseas.” She dismissed it as “routine.”
But Perino neglected to mention that more than a month before he informed the board of his travel plans, he sent a separate letter “making clear his intentions to pursue oil exploration in Kurdistan.”
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