Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Well done. Reid forces Frist and Roberts to stop blocking the senate investigation into White House manipulation of WMD intel prior to the Iraq war. Details to follow ...

Late Update: The details I'm told involve a November 14th deadline for a report from a group of three Republican and three Democratic senators on the status of the phase two inquiry. Also, do not miss the piece Mark Schmitt just posted at TPMCafe on what this victory may mean. It's good stuff, don't miss it.

I'm told Sen. Reid has taken the senate into closed session to discuss the senate's failure to "phase two" of the Senate Select Committee on Inteligence report on the Iraqi WMD intelligence failure. Phase two, you'll remember, was to examine alleged administration manipulation of intelligence.

Click here to read the statement Reid gave before taking the senate into closed session.

The name of Stephen J. Hadley (first term Deputy National Security Advisor and now National Security Advisor) has come up again and again in the Niger-uranium story.

In early 2002 Hadley was tasked with shutting down the unauthorized meetings Harold Rhode, Larry Franklin and Michael Ledeen were holding with Iraqi and Iranian exiles, and Italian intelligence figures including the head of SISMI, Nicolo Pollari, in Rome in late 2001.

On September 9th, 2002, Hadley met with Pollari in Washington. According to the Italian daily La Repubblica Pollari was there to press the details of the Niger-uranium story. The NSC has now confirmed that the meeting took place but claims it was a brief meeting and that no one present remembers the yellowcake story coming up.

In other words, it's a quite hazy denial if it's even a denial at all.

Less than a month later Hadley and others at the NSC tried but failed to get the Niger story into President Bush's October 7th WMD speech in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Days later copies of the forgeries surfaced in Rome.

Three months later Hadley and the same colleagues at the NSC succeeded in getting the Niger story included in the president's 2003 State of the Union address.

In July, Hadley took personal responsibility for allowing the bogus claim to be included in the State of the Union address and apologized publicly to the president.

Much of what I've just laid out here has been known for some time. But Hadley is doing a press briefing tomorrow afternoon at the White House to discuss the president's upcoming visit to Latin America.

It would certainly be welcome to get some clarification directly from Mr. Hadley about just what he discussed with Pollari at that September 2002 and whether the claims contained in the La Repubblica article is in fact false.

What did the president say to Berlusconi?

From this morning's gaggle ...

QUESTION: Thank you. Any more explanation of the Berlusconi-President discussion about Italian intelligence on Iraq -- is this to say that Mr. Fitzgerald's finding that the Niger claim had its genesis in Italian intelligence was wrong?

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Mr. Fitzgerald's -- I'll have to look back at what his finding was. I don't recall the specifics of that.

QUESTION: Fitzgerald found that what we had been calling British intelligence, the document -- the forged document --

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Maybe I missed that. I don't think so. I don't think so.

QUESTION: -- alleging an Iraq --

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Okay, I don't think he did.

QUESTION: I'm wrong on this?

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Maybe I'm wrong. But I don't think he --

QUESTION: That's not ringing any bells.


QUESTION: It's not ringing any bells with other people either.

QUESTION: No, it is, it is. And I can't remember if it's Fitzgerald or somebody else, but there's this is the central issue is --

QUESTION: The central issue was --

QUESTION: -- the source of the --

QUESTION: The source of the forged document was Italy, who handed it to --

SCOTT McCLELLAN: No, the -- we actually briefed on the source of the information back in July of 2003, and the source was the National Intelligence Estimate and British Intelligence. That was the basis for the reference in the President's State of the Union address.

QUESTION: Fitzgerald found an Italian tie, and I presume this is what the discussion between the President and Berlusconi was about.

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Yes, they -- like I said they -- Prime Minister Berlusconi brought it up, and as they indicated, that there wasn't any documents that were provided to us on Niger and uranium by --

QUESTION: Wait, no documents or no intelligence?


QUESTION: The press report out of Italy is a transcription -- it's a transcription of the forged documents, not the actual documents themselves. But Berlusconi said yesterday was, no information passed from Italy to the United States.

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Yes, I think he was accurately reflecting what he indicated in the meeting.

QUESTION: So that accurately characterizes the President's position, that the United States never received any intelligence --

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Well, Prime Minister Berlusconi was reflecting that within the meeting, and we've previously said in regards to a question that came up about a meeting here at the White House that no one here has any recollection of Niger and uranium being discussed at that meeting, much less any documents being provided.

More to come.

Possible Correction: Yesterday I reported that the Bush-Berlusconi press conference had been cancelled and I suggested that it had happened because both were worried about taking questions about the brewing Niger-Uranium controversy. The two also refused to take any questions when they appeared in front of reporters before their meeting in the White House.

The report of the cancellation came out of the Italian press. But I'm now told, by a reliable source, that there was actually no press conference scheduled. I think what this means is that the decision not to hold a press conference was made before it ever made it on to the schedules handed out to reporters. So I think the underlying issue is the same. But I just wanted to clear that up.

In Washington today, at a session with members of the Italian press, PM Silvio Berlusconi said, "Lo stesso Bush mi ha confermato che gli USA non hanno avuto alcuna informazione dai servizi italiani." That loosely translates to "Bush himself confirmed to me that the USA did not have any information from Italian agencies." And the answer was reference to whether the United States had gotten any of the Niger intelligence from Italy.

The claim here is simply a lie. US suspicions about Niger and Iraq began with intelligence reports from Italy in October 2001. Those reports were based on the forged documents. Did President Bush really say that? Berlusconi must know this is false.

Question of the day.

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi is in Washington today.

Later this week Berlusconi's intelligence chief will be questioned before a closed session of a committee of the Italian parliament about allegations he was responsible for using back channels to funnel the Niger uranium forgeries to the White House.

Last week a top White House official was indicted on five counts stemming from the Niger scandal.

Please let us know if any journalist in Washington today puts a question regarding Italy's role in the Niger caper to Bush, Berlusconi or spokespersons for either man.

It won't be as easy as it might have been: their scheduled joint press conference was cancelled and reporters were not permitted to ask questions after the two gave brief statements today at the White House.

The White House doesn't want to answer any questions about this story; and few reporters seem inclined to press the point.

Just out from the veep's office ...

The Vice President today appointed David S. Addington of Virginia to be the chief of staff to the Vice President. The Vice President also appointed John P. Hannah of the District of Columbia as the Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs.

Mr. Addington has served in the position of Counsel to the Vice President since January 20, 2001. In prior Federal service, Mr. Addington served at the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, the White House, and four congressional committees. In the private sector, he headed a multicandidate political action committee, practiced law with two firms, and headed the law department of a trade association. Mr. Addington is a graduate of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and the Duke University School of Law.

Mr. Hannah has served on the national security staff in the Office of the Vice President since March 2001 and is currently the Principal Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs. In prior Federal service, Mr. Hannah served at the Department of State. In the private sector, Mr. Hannah practiced law in Washington, D.C. and served as a senior official of a Washington-based foreign policy research organization. Mr. Hannah is a graduate of Duke University and the Yale Law School.

Circling the wagons.