State Dept. Blows Off Waxman’s Niger Inquiry, Falsely Claims Rice Has ‘Answered In Full’

Today, House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote another letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice requesting her testimony regarding President Bush’s claims that Iraq attempted to procure uranium from Niger. Waxman writes that his previous letters to Rice produced “an insufficient response from the State Department’s Legislative Affairs office.”

In today’s State Department press briefing, spokesman Sean McCormack claimed the letter “answered in full” all of Waxman’s inquiries. He added that he was “very curious” as to why Waxman believed the previous response to be insufficient:

QUESTION: Apparently, in Congress, the House reiterated its request for Secretary Rice to testify on April 18th, on…

MCCORMACK: Is this from Mr. Waxman’s committee?



MCCORMACK: I don’t really see the need. I think the letter that we replied to answered in full all of his inquiries.

QUESTION: No, he said, After receiving an insufficient response from the State Department…

MCCORMACK: I don’t know what makes — it would be interesting for them to detail in what regard it’s insufficient, in that we detailed some correspondence — and through all the correspondence that they alleged was not responded to, and detailed for them exactly how it was responded to, including a letter that they said that they sent that nobody could find any evidence it had been sent.So, clearly, we were answering our mail, looking at it, and responding to it. I’m not quite sure that they have done the same.

QUESTION: So she refuses to testify?

MCCORMACK: I haven’t asked her. I haven’t put the question to her.But I think the question needs to be, when they talk about an insufficient response, I’m very curious as to in what regard it’s insufficient.

Note to McCormack: Read the letter. Waxman lays out plainly why the State Department’s response has been “insufficient.” Specifically, he states that the State Department has not been forthcoming about Rice’s knowledge about the false Niger uranium claim that made its way into Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address:

In my March I2 letter, l requested information about what you knew about this assertion and how it ended up in the State of the Union address. I asked you to answer specific questions raised in a June 10, 2003, letter and a July 29,2003, letter, both of which I enclosed. These questions included: (1) whether you had any knowledge that would explain why President Bush cited forged evidence about Iraq’s efforts to procure uranium from Niger in the State of the Union address; (2) whether you knew before the State of the Union address of the doubts raised by the CIA and the State Department about the veracity of the Niger claim; (3) whether there was a factual basis for your reference in aJanuary 23,2003, op-ed to “Iraq’s efforts to get uranium from abroad”; and (4) whether you took appropriate steps to investigate how the Niger claim ended up in the State of the Union address after it was revealed to be fraudulent.

Rather than address any of these questions, Mr. Bergner forwarded copies of two old State Department letters that have no bearing whatsoever on your knowledge of, your role in, or your statements about the Niger claim.

Rice’s days of blowing off Waxman’s letters are over. If the State Department can’t find time to read and adequately respond to his inquiries, Waxman said he will request her testimony on April 18. Stay tuned.

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