Security

Exclusive: Republican Delegation Currently Visiting Syria, Spared From White House Attacks

The White House today lashed out at Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for daring to visit Syria in the coming days. White House spokesperson Dana Perino:

I do think that, as a general rule — and this would go for Speaker of the House Pelosi and this apparent trip that she is going to be taking — that we don’t think it’s a good idea. …

I’m not sure what the hopes are to — what she’s hoping to accomplish there. I know that Assad probably really wants people to come and have a photo opportunity and have tea with him, and have discussions about where they’re coming from, but we do think that’s a really bad idea.

Not only are the administration’s attacks on Pelosi hypocritical, but the timing suggests they are a partisan hit. ThinkProgress has learned that a delegation of Republicans is currently in Syria. (This has not been previously reported by the press.) Why did the White House wait until Pelosi’s imminent visit to raise this issue publicly, and not make mention of the Republicans already there?

Here’s what the White House isn’t talking about:

Republican Reps. Aderholt and Wolf are currently visiting Syria. According to a congressional official on Rep. Robert Aderholt’s (R-AL) staff, Aderholt and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) are currently visiting Israel and Syria.

Republican Rep. Hobson accompanying Pelosi on Syria visit. Speaker Pelosi will be traveling with a contingent of members of Congress to Syria. The delegation includes Reps. David Hobson (R-OH), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Tom Lantos (D-CA), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Nick Rahall (D-WV).

Moreover, as the AP reports, “Earlier this month, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey held talks with a senior Syrian diplomat on how Damascus was coping with a flood of Iraqi refugees, the first such talks in the Syrian capital for more than two years.”

UPDATE: Bloomberg confirms our account:

Michael Lowry, a spokesman for Representative Robert Aderholt, said that the Alabama lawmaker will visit Syria as part of a Republican delegation led by Representative Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican. Wolf is the top Republican on the House appropriations subcommittee that funds the State Department.

Perino wasn’t available to comment about that trip.