Perino Blindly Defends White House’s Political Briefings Without Knowing Any Facts

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"Perino Blindly Defends White House’s Political Briefings Without Knowing Any Facts"

White House officials have admitted that they “conducted 20 private briefings on Republican electoral prospects in the last midterm election for senior officials in at least 15 government agencies covered by federal restrictions on partisan political activity.” Today, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino tried to defend these briefings, stating, “There’s nothing in the law that says you can’t do that. It’s not unethical.”

But the Hatch Act prohibits partisan campaign activities on federal property. CNN’s Ed Henry pointed out that six witnesses remember that at one of the briefings, Lurita Doan, the head of GSA, asked Karl Rove-deputy Scott Jennings, “What then, after getting this briefing, can we do to go help Republican candidates? And he said, Let’s talk off-line about that.”

Perino responded that she didn’t know what Jennings meant, adding, “I haven’t spoke to Scott Jennings about this. I don’t think that I will.” Henry asked Perino how she could “make a blanket statement saying no laws were broken” without knowing any details. Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/04/perino426.320.240.flv]

Transcript:

QUESTION: Can I follow up on it?

Well, I just want to — why then did, according to apparently six witnesses that have apparently spoken to Congressman Waxman, say that, at the end of one of these briefings, the head of the GSA said to I think it was Scott Jennings, one of Karl Rove’s aides, What then, after getting this briefing, can we do to go help Republican candidates? And he said, Let’s talk off-line about that.

PERINO: I never talked to Scott Jennings about that.

I think that…

QUESTION: Well, why would they suggest that…

PERINO: Well, I’m not going to speculate as to what he would have meant by that or not. I mean, he could have meant that that was an inappropriate comment to make in front of other people.

(CROSSTALK)

PERINO: … off-line, instead of embarrassing her in front of other people.

QUESTION: If you don’t know the answer to that, how do you know that no laws were broken or there was nothing unethical…

PERINO: You can check with counsel’s office, and talking about informational briefings about political landscape, that that is OK, that that is acceptable. There’s nothing in the law that says you can’t do that. It’s not unethical. And it is something that is absolutely reasonable and appropriate, to provide political appointees with information about the landscape in which they’re working.

QUESTION: What if, at the end of those briefings, there were other conversations about, then, how you can help…

PERINO: What if? What if? I’m not answering what ifs.

QUESTION: But you don’t know the answers to those questions, do you? I mean, how can you make a blanket statement that no laws were broken, as you said this morning, when you don’t really know what happened at these briefings or after the briefings?

PERINO: You’re asking me to prove a negative, and I can’t — nobody can do that.

QUESTION: Then how can you make a blanket statement saying no laws were broken? You just made blanket statements without knowing the details…

PERINO: The question is whether or not the political briefings are inappropriate, are unethical or unlawful. And the answer to all three of those questions is no.

QUESTION: Even if, at the end of it, an aide to…

PERINO: But even if, even if. I’m not — you can…

QUESTION: But six people who were there say it. It’s not just…

PERINO: But what I’m saying is that you don’t — I haven’t spoke to Scott Jennings about this. I don’t think that I will. If the Office of the Special Counsel wants to look into this, they are more than welcome to, but I’m not going to get into the middle of someone else’s investigation.

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