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Perino Spins Administration Knowledge Of Bush Donor’s Oil Deal, Dismisses The Contacts As ‘Routine’

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"Perino Spins Administration Knowledge Of Bush Donor’s Oil Deal, Dismisses The Contacts As ‘Routine’"

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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.

Watch 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.”

Transcript:

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.

QUESTION: Is it unusual that somebody in the State Department wouldn’t have told someone in the White House that this was going on, since this ran contrary to administration policy?

PERINO: I’m not sure. And I think a lot of the conversations actually happened in Iraq, and so I’m not sure how all that happened. So I’d refer you over there.

I think one of the things that — one of the questions has been that there was notification by Mr. Hunt that he would be traveling overseas. Just want to make sure something’s very clear on that. It is the law and it is routine and it is required that any member of the PFIAB board, if they’re going to be traveling overseas, send a letter notifying that they will be doing so. So that suggestion that that letter is suspicious is, I think, just headed in the wrong direction.

QUESTION: And the notification went to State, not — didn’t come here or…

PERINO: It goes to the PFIAB, but that doesn’t necessarily — I don’t know what’s in the letter, but I don’t think it had anything to do with substance of the travel.

QUESTION: It just says, I’m traveling abroad ?

PERINO: Yes. You have to list where you’re going.

QUESTION: And it didn’t raise any flags when he said, I’m going to Iraq ?

PERINO: Not that I’m aware of, and, again, it’s the PFIAB, and I don’t know who all saw — who all would have seen it at that time.

So I’d refer you to the State Department, because they had said that they had had the contacts beforehand, and that’s what they’re maintaining today. I don’t know of anybody else in the White House who would have known about the letters. QUESTION: And if you’d talk — and you probably discussed in the gaggle a little bit — but on camera if you could talk a little bit about when the president was first informed that there was some intelligence that maybe would lead to this Colombian rescue mission. How early was he looped in? How involved was the president? Just kind of broadly speaking.

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