NOMINATION ON HOLD
FEBRUARY 27, 1997
President Clinton's nonimee for Director of Central Intelligence, Anthony Lake, has run into trouble. Some Republican senators have questioned Lake's ethics and his activities when he headed the National Security Council. After a background report, Elizabeth Farnsworth discusses the Lake nomination with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), chair of the Senate Intelligence Commitee, and Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE), the Intelligence Committee's vice chair.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We get the views of two Senators now. Alabama Republican Richard Shelby is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Nebraska Democrat Bob Kerrey is the committee's vice chairman.
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
February 27, 1997:
Elizabeth Farnsworth reports on the controversy surrounding Anthony Lake's nomination for Director of Central Intelligence.
January 29, 1997:
The Senate continues to consider President Clinton's appointees to the cabinet.
January 22, 1997:
Former Senator William Cohen breezes through the confirmation process.
January 8, 1997:
The Senate holds hearings to confirm Madeleine Albright to be the next Secretary of State.
Thank you both for being with us. Sen. Shelby, as you just heard--as we just heard, you've raised a number of concerns about this nomination, and your committee's been investigating some of those. What have you found?
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY, (R) Chairman, Intelligence Committee: Well, we're not through with our investigation. The staff has worked on it and is continuing to work on it. We have some ongoing investigations into what role, if any, that the National Security staff played in the fund-raising. We don't know if there's any role. We do know that one of the senior staffers, Sandra Kristoff, met three times with Pauline Canchenalak, who is now a target of a massive investigation by the Justice Department. We want the--want to be able to question some of the staffers, i.e., the Intelligence Committee staffers would like to question the National Security staffers regarding this to get at the bottom of this. It might be that it works out fine, but I believe we have that obligation. We're also interested in some information dealing with Mr. Lake's role in some Haiti items. The House was denied some of that information. We feel like some of us on the Intelligence Committee that the White House ought to come forward with that. We also want -- and I know I do and a lot of the Republican Senators -- want to have access to Mr. Lake's entire FBI file. We've done that before with John Tower. I started out with just wanting to do it myself, with the members of the Intelligence Committee. Now it's spread to the Republican Congress.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sen. Kerrey, let's go through those three, beginning with access to the FBI file, what do you think about that?
SEN. BOB KERREY, (D), Vice Chairman, Intelligence Committee: Well, it's unreasonable. It's a new standard. Sen. Shelby said it was like we did with Tower. The Tower investigation produced a member on the Republican side, the side of the FBI report, and it opened up the question as to whether or not all Senators ought to look at it. It didn't begin with us saying that we're going to do this, and it's a brand new precedent, and I think it's unwarranted, and it's--the FBI background investigations are supposed to be held very, very privately, and I--frankly, I think it's one more effort to delay the hearings, and I think it's quite unfortunate, because I think it risks our capacity as a committee to do the kind of oversight that we're supposed to be doing in a very bipartisan fashion.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you think that's what's happening here, that the--for some reason some Senators just want this to be delayed indefinitely?
SEN. BOB KERREY: Yes, I do. I think there are some Senators. I'm not saying that Sen. Shelby. Indeed, I supported the chairman's efforts to get additional information about Haiti. I support the chairman's efforts to make sure that the NSC staffers in regards to campaign financing are interviewed. I've supported the chairman's efforts in a number of areas. Indeed, I've got my own questions. And I think we need to focus this thing on the turnover of the CIA, his capacity to be independent, his ability to run the agency, but we have all the information we need in order to conduct these hearing. And I think there are some Senators who are hoping by delaying, delaying, delaying, and constantly raising one more concern that can't be satisfied without another two or three weeks, continuing to raise the bar, and I think make it more likely that we can have this kind of turnover in the future in reducing our capacity as a committee to do the oversight that we need to do.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sen. Shelby.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY: Well, with all due respect, I disagree with Sen. Kerrey on several of the items, notably the FBI files. We do work together. We've worked together on other committees, and I know we'll continue to work together on this. But I believe that when we on the Intelligence Committee ask for the FBI files, this is a controversial nomination. Otherwise, I wouldn't ask for it, that we're entitled to it. And I believe that the Republican Caucus is not going to let this nomination go anywhere unless we have some effort to help us from the White House. I believe we've got time. March 11th is the date of the hearings, but the White House needs to cooperate. I would like to get this over with and vote on Mr. Lake up or down, but I believe sincerely that we have an obligation to rigorously examine this nomination.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sen. Shelby, excuse me one minute. Why do you want the FBI files?
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY: Well, I want to look at it because Mr. Lake has been a controversial nominee from the beginning, and I asked to look at it because I served on the Armed Services Committee when we look at Tower's file. He was a controversial nominee. I see nothing wrong with it, and no one in the Republican caucus that I was meeting with yesterday, 35 or 40 Senators, they all agree with my position.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sen. Kerrey. Sorry for interrupting.
SEN. BOB KERREY: Well, I just completely disagree. We've been given a background summary by the FBI, and what Sen. Shelby essentially is saying is that I don't trust the FBI. I don't trust that the FBI's summary is telling his whole story, and so I want to go back and look at all the details, and it's not what happened to Tower. What happened with Sen. Tower was lots of public accusations that were going on, and his supporters came to the floor and said, you ought to look at the FBI report because in the FBI report are none of the things that are being tossed about in the public, a much different standard. Indeed, I mean, I think it would be terrible for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to set the bar down as low as we had for Tower. That was a dark day for the Senate. That was not a good moment in the United States Senate--lots of leaks, lots of problems, lots of damage to a man's reputation that was undeserved, and I fear the same sort of thing will happen right now, and we're on a slippery slope, deteriorating this committee's capacity to make sure that we reduce the turnover in the CIA; that we get somebody over there that's got the capacity to operate the agency; that's got the credibility to be independent. All these are legitimate questions. I haven't declared my support for Mr. Lake. I've got lots of questions I want to ask him in the hearing and lots of concerns that I've got, but until we have these hearings, we have no capacity to express those concerns.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Sen. Kerrey, just briefly, what about the point that Sen. Shelby made about any NSC role with fund-raisers who are under investigation?
SEN. BOB KERREY: I have supported the chairman's effort to get that. I've co-signed a letter with him to make sure that we have the opportunity to interview those individuals. That's a legitimate request. And I've supported the chairman and many others, but these kinds of delays, you know, we had a delay earlier, and we've got another potential delay. I just think at some point you've got to stop raising the bar and further delaying, hoping. Again, I'm not saying the chairman wants to do this, but there are some members who are hoping that if we delay this thing long enough the President will pull the nomination down.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY: Well, the bottom line tonight is if the White House wants to go forward, the hearing on March 11th. I certainly do. Let's cooperate. Let's get this hearing process moving.
SEN. BOB KERREY: Well, Tony Lake, in fact, is willing to negotiate with Chairman Shelby on this. I've advised him not to. I think it's a mistake.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: On what, Senator?
SEN. BOB KERREY: On this FBI--on the FBI files. I think it's a mistake to provide more than the FBI has given us. Understand that the FBI has given us a document based upon their interviews, and they're saying this is what we know. It's their summary document, so when we say we want more, we're saying we don't trust the FBI, and their capacity to identify things that might be a problem, that could present issues that we ought to confront. There's nothing in the FBI background that's produced a suspicion, just a general suspicion, that has precipitated this request plus I think some desire on the part of some to extract a pound of flesh based upon what happened to John Tower.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY: Well, I don't want to extract a pound of flesh on anyone, but I do want to look at the FBI file, and we're going to look at it. We're not going to move forward to the hearings, and it's not just me saying that. I think it's the basic membership of the Republican Congress.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sen. Shelby, former CIA Director Robert Gates, who as you know has endorsed this nomination, made a strong case for it in the Wall Street Journal, and he also said it would be a tragedy if the Republican and Democratic leadership of a very sensitive committee were to allow its special nonpartisan character to be weakened. He pointed out that even his nomination was dealt with very--in a nonpartisan fashion when the Democrats were in charge. Do you think that's what's happening here, that the nonpartisan nature of the committee is being weakened?
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY: I hope not. I said earlier I've worked with Sen. Kerrey. We're colleagues; we're friends; we've worked on other committees together where we were the chairman or the ranking person. We want to continue to work together, but this is a controversial nominee. Make no mistake about it. Otherwise, it would already be confirmed.
SEN. BOB KERREY: Well, it was quite a remarkable thing, in fact, with Bob Gates because in that time we had David Boren, the Democratic chairman of the committee, coming around not only introducing but endorsing Bob Gates in the face of Democratic opposition. I have a great deal of respect for Chairman Shelby, but I think in this case he needs to say to the Republican caucus the SJ Res 400 that authorizes his bipartisan committee that's done oversight for years and years and years is threatening its capacity to do oversight of his very sensitive--these very sensitive agencies, if we allow partisan politics to enter into it, and I think we're getting very, very close to doing that.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY: I think sooner or later we will, and I hope sooner, we will confront the late nomination one way or the other, as we should, move on, and we'll get into what we do best, and that's oversight.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So, Sen. Shelby, you do think that March 11th, the hearings will begin?
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY: I hope so, but they're not going to begin unless we have cooperation from the White House.
SEN. BOB KERREY: Well, they've had cooperation from the White House. Tony Lake is willing to negotiate right now against my--what I think is my very good advice to him. Senator, he's going to talk to you and he's willing to negotiate it, but it's got to be negotiated in good faith. We ought not go back to the days of John Tower and try to smear somebody, indeed, by a standard that I think is lower than anybody in the United States Senate wants to say.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Gentlemen, that's all the time we have, but thank you very much for being with us.