Ethics committee says Rep. Harman is not under scrutiny
By Paul Kane
The ethics committee is not investigating Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), whose conversation with an Israeli operative four years ago drew scrutiny from the Justice Department and for a time from the committee.
The committee's top lawmakers assured Harman that there is no investigation in a letter Wednesday, a week after The Washington Post reported that Harman was one of nearly three dozen lawmakers whose activities were under scrutiny by the committee and the new Office of Congressional Ethics.
"While the committee does not confirm or elaborate on media reports, the committee is not conducting an investigation regarding your conduct," wrote Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the panel's chairman, and Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), its ranking member.
On June 9, the ethics committee approved subpoenas to the Justice Department, FBI and National Security Agency for "certain intercepted communications," a reference to Harman's call to the Israeli operative, according to a 22-page document outlining the committee's work in July. Harman was reportedly heard agreeing to a request to try to obtain leniency for two pro-Israeli lobbyists in exchange for the agent's help in lobbying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to name her intelligence chairman.
The call was intercepted by U.S. spy networks monitoring the Israeli operative, and the Justice Department reviewed the case to see if Harman had been offering an official act in exchange for help to become committee chairman.
Harman has always denied any wrongdoing, saying she did not call the Justice Department about the pro-Israel lobbyists' case. She was passed over for intelligence committee chairman.
The ethics committee sometimes pursues cases after federal prosecutors have passed on them, to see if the House's rules might have been violated even if there was no criminal activity.
In this instance, the Justice Department and the other federal agencies resisted the ethics committee efforts to obtain the sensitive materials on the Harman call. Notes in the ethics committee document showed that the committee's chief counsel had followup conversations with Justice officials on July 20 but was again rebuffed.
"They would like written, high-level call before subpoenas issued," the document said of Harman's case.
A former U.S. official told The Post that the Justice Department rejected the request.
November 5, 2009; 6:20 PM ET
Categories: Ethics and Rules , House
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