The Washington Times reports that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s penchant for off the cuff remarks (witness last weeks “loser” comment) has surfaced again, this time in a particularly slanderous fashion.
Minority Leader Harry Reid strayed from his prepared remarks on the Senate floor yesterday and promised to continue opposing one of President Bush’s judicial nominees based on “a problem” he said is in the nominee’s “confidential report from the FBI.”
Those highly confidential reports are filed on all judicial nominees, and severe sanctions apply to anyone who discloses their contents. Less clear is whether a senator could face sanctions for characterizing the content of such files.
“Henry Saad would have been filibustered anyway,” Mr. Reid said on the floor yesterday, about the Michigan Appeals Court judge who is nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.
“All you need to do is have a member go upstairs and look at his confidential report from the FBI, and I think we would all agree that there is a problem there,” Mr. Reid continued.
Republican staff members and supporters of Mr. Bush’s nominees were outraged.
“Can you think of a better way to trash someone’s reputation?” Sean Rushton of the conservative Committee for Justice asked after seeing a transcript of the remarks. “Say that there is bad stuff from an FBI investigation in a file somewhere and leave that hanging. This is character assassination of the lowest order and completely improper.”Reid’s spokesman Jim Manley defended the statement, “The fact that there’s an issue regarding Henry Saad’s background is well-known.”
Let’s see what Google has to say about a phrase that appears in the reports of the June 2004 closed door session where the background investigation was discussed. Here’s a search for a phrase from the Detroit Free Press account of the session:
“information from Saad’s FBI background check” [Results 1 – 5 of 5]
That pretty much shoots down Reid’s “well known” defense.
So what exactly was discussed at that “well known” meeting? According to the Free Press account:
After spending more than an hour Thursday in a rare private meeting, a Senate committee again delayed a vote on whether to recommend Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Henry Saad to a seat on the federal appeals court.
Saad was nominated to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bush in November 2001. Michigan’s Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow have been blocking his nomination because Republicans blocked two of President Clinton’s nominees for the 6th Circuit.
Michigan’s Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow have been blocking his [Saad’s] nomination because Republicans blocked two of President Clinton’s nominees for the 6th Circuit.
Levin and Stabenow testified Thursday during the private meeting. They said before the meeting that they would discuss information from Saad’s FBI background check that raised doubts about his ability to serve, but they wouldn’t elaborate. One topic that was expected to be discussed was an e-mail message Saad sent to a friend last fall that was inadvertently sent to Stabenow. In the message, Saad said Stabenow was ‘abusing the system and undermining the constitutional process’ by opposing his nomination. He added, “perhaps someday she will pay the price for her misconduct.’ The e-mail has been released before, but Democratic staffers released it again Thursday.
Hatch said after the meeting that no new charges were levied against Saad.Is it possible that the errant e-mail sent by Saad (humorously recounted in this Washington Post article) was the major topic of the closed door meeting? Did Stabenow contact the FBI about the “perhaps someday she will pay the price for her misconduct” line, which in the context of the short message was indicative of an electoral comeuppance.
In short I suspect that is the entire story behind Reid’s smear. Saad evidently wants the report released to prove there’s noting actually in it, but since neither Saad nor Reid can cause the background report to be made public the only thing known about it it the insinuations floated around by the ranking Senate Democrat.
Democrats who loudly trumpeted that there was a bipartisan call for investigation into the Valerie Plame affair (we supported the special prosecutor and the recusion of Attorney General Ashcroft), should join us in calling for a Congressional investigation into Reid’s reprehensible use of classified information to slander a judicial nominee.
Update: Byron York provides additional detail to the contention that the e-mail message is what Democrats are referring to.