I mentioned today’s LA Times article on Ken Mehlman’s alleged role in firing a State Department official who was taking positions adverse to Jack Abramoff’s client, the government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Mehlman was asked about the LAT story in his appearance today on CNN. It is a model of saying nothing while seeming to deny everything, yet still managing to stick a few shivs in your opponents, so I’m going to post the entire exchange:
BLITZER: There’s a story in the Los Angeles Times today that directly involves you. And I want to give you a chance to respond to it.
It suggests that an official at the State Department was fired, a man named Allen Stayman, who was involved in the tiny Pacific Island nations of the Northern Mariana Islands. He was fired because Jack Abramoff, the disgraced Republican lobbyist, now confessed felon, came to you and basically said, fire this guy; he’s not allowing the policies in the Northern Mariana Islands that Abramoff and his clients wanted.
“Newly disclosed e-mails,” the L.A. Times reports, “suggest that the ax feel after intervention by one of the highest officials at the White House: Ken Mehlman, on behalf of one of the most influential lobbyists in town, Jack Abramoff.”
You were then the political director.
MEHLMAN: I was.
BLITZER: Is that true?
MEHLMAN: It is not true. And I’m not sure that those e-mails suggested that. First of all, I did not have the authority, as the political director, to fire anybody. It wasn’t my decision.
As political director — now second of all, I also don’t recall the specifics of this matter involving Mr. Stayman. But as a matter of course, and certainly the first term, I had, frequently, people come to see me with political issues they wanted talked about.
BLITZER: Including Jack Abramoff?
MEHLMAN: Or personnel issues that they wanted talked about. And when they would come see me, what I would do…
BLITZER: Jack Abramoff, also?
MEHLMAN: Again, I don’t recall that specific matter that he came to me for, but I had a way of dealing with all these matters, which is to let the policy-makers or the personnel deciders know exactly what people said. And they made the decisions.
What’s interesting about this, though, Wolf, while I don’t recall it specifically, I have seen some articles since then, since this came out. And what they suggest is that Mr. Stayman violated the Hatch Act, which is a federal law that prohibits employees of the government engaging in politics on their official clock.
And it also suggests he may have been working with the DNC on some things. So while I certainly didn’t have the authority to fire anybody and I don’t recall this specific matter, it does appear, from what other news reports indicate that there was apparently cause for Mr. Stayman to be removed.
BLITZER: Because, in the L.A. Times, it quotes an e-mail from one of Abramoff’s associates, as saying, “Mehlman said he would get him fired.
MEHLMAN: Yes, Mehlman didn’t have that authority. Mehlman wouldn’t say he had that authority. And remember, you’re dealing with individuals who, as we know, have pled guilty to defrauding their clients by saying they did things they weren’t able to get done.
My job as a political director, and any job as a political director, is to hear from people, whether it’s about personnel or about policy, and make sure that the policy-makers understand their concerns.
Three Ken Mehlman posts in one day. I feel like the poor guy with the shovel following the elephant.