July 19th, 2007
06:54 PM ET
4 years ago

Dems complain about missing briefing on Iraq

Reid said Thursday whoever was in charge of the invitations to a closed-door Iraq briefing “didn’t do a very good job.”

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Senate Democratic leaders complained Thursday that many of their members may have missed an important classified briefing at the Pentagon on Iraq because invitations were “blast faxed” to the publicly listed fax numbers in their Senate offices and many went unnoticed until it was too late to attend.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he doubted the foul up was “sinister” but said he thought the Bush administration was “just desperate to get their message out on Iraq and whoever put this together didn’t do a very good job.”

At issue are notifications for two back-to-back closed-circuit video conferences Thursday morning with Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker to which lawmakers were bussed to the Pentagon to attend.

According to two administration sources, one at the White House and one at the Pentagon, faxes were sent to all 100 senators and a list of about 100 to 150 House members who sit on relevant committees – like Armed Services and Foreign Affairs.

But the sources couldn’t agree on who sent the faxes. The White House source said the Pentagon sent them. The Pentagon source said the White House did.

An administration official told CNN the “Democratic leadership certainly knew about it early in the week.”

CNN obtained a copy of the fax sent to Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, a member of the Democratic leadership, which is stamped at the top with the initials of the legislative affairs office in the office of the secretary of defense at the pentagon.

The fax was sent and received last Friday about 5pm. An aide to Murray said by the time the fax – which was boldly labeled “short notice request, please pass to scheduler” - made it to the senator’s scheduler it was too late for her to attend.

Aides to Sen. Murray said they typically get emails or phone calls about key briefings like this and having it sent to the public fax machine doesn’t make sense.

50 House members and 40 Senators – evenly split between Democrats and Republicans - did show up for the classified briefings, a senior defense department official said.

It’s not known how many senators didn’t attend because their invitations were not received.

But three of the top four Democratic leaders in the Senate said they didn’t get their invitations or didn’t get them in time.

“No, I didn’t receive an invitation,” complained Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois who said the notification system from the Pentagon and White House is “usually very good.”

“I’m just going to write it off as poor staff work. I’m not going to make it anymore sinister than that,” Durbin said. “They should have gotten it right.”

The invitation for Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York was later found buried in faxes at the machine reserved for faxes from his constituents and the public, his office said.

Reid only found out about it after calling the White House two days ago after his staff heard rumors of a briefing, spokesman Jim Manley said.

Several Democrats said they were concerned the White House would blame Democrats for criticizing the war but not showing up to a key briefing.

“We’re happy to be briefed but this was a little unusual. I think this was put together very quickly because of the votes on Iraq,” Reid said referring to key Senate votes that were scheduled this week on the war.

Senate Republicans reported no similar problems getting their invitations although a senior aide acknowledged “there is some confusion about how it was noticed to offices.”

On the House side, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office said she received her invitation yesterday but no other problems were apparent. Pelosi did not attend but requested a briefing in person with Defense Secretary Robert Gates next week.

– CNN's Ted Barrett, Dana Bash, and Mike Mount


Filed under: Iraq
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Ann Brunwick ME

    Pathetic Democrats.

    July 19, 2007 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  2. Bry Brunswick ME

    No-one believes that! Dems would have to let go of their stupid agenda if they'd heard the briefing. Lame Duck/Brain Congress!!!

    July 19, 2007 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  3. Brian ME

    REID SHOULD BE ASHAMED, HE REMOVED MILITARY PAY RAISES AND PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT FROM THE SENATE FLOOR OUT OF PETTINESS ABOUT PULL OUT VOTES.

    MILITARY WILL NOT GET PAY RAISES – REID TOOK IT OFF THE FLOOR.

    CHECK IT OUT YOURSELF!

    July 19, 2007 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  4. B.Prosser ME

    REID MISSED MORE THAN MEETING.

    REID PULLED BILL FOR PAY RAISES FOR MILITARY.

    REID PETTINESS TAKES PAY RAISES FROM MILITARY FAMILIES. REID PULLED THE BILL SO IT CANNOT BE VOTED ON. REID TOOK BILL OFF THE FLOOR OUT OF PETTINESS.

    July 19, 2007 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  5. Jonathan, Summerhill, PA

    What does this say about our lawmakers that the faxes from the public and their constituents pile up and they don't read them? They have dozens of staffers and no one bothers to read the messages from the public fax machines? What kind of politicians are being elected that no one in their office takes the time to read messages from the public?

    July 19, 2007 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  6. B.ProsserME

    PELOSI did not attend; demanded personal briefing by Gates?
    WHAT STUPIDITY IS THIS?

    July 19, 2007 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  7. Lizzy, Nashville TN

    Imagine how their constituents must feel when their faxes go unnoticed. What a joke.

    July 19, 2007 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  8. Josh

    Poor Sen Reid, fumbling the ball and blaming others, as usual. Does this guy have a clue about what is going on about anything, let along the complexities in Iraq?

    July 19, 2007 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  9. JS Dyer, Tn

    This is just another display of arrogance from this dictatorship.
    When will people demand an end to
    our new USSR?

    July 19, 2007 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  10. Salvesen, Chicago IL

    As you can tell, some of our elected officials care deeply about faxes from constituents. They don't even read them and don't consider it an important communication channel. Way to serve the public.

    Ron Paul 2008!

    July 19, 2007 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  11. Dale, Pasco, WA

    A little w(h)ine with the cheese, Senator Reid? The lesson from this story is that constituents' fax messages to Senators, and possibly Representatives as well, are in all likelihood not read or even noticed. If a fax from the White House or the Pentagon is not recognized, who is to say that the fax from Joe Citizen in whatever State makes an impression.

    July 19, 2007 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  12. Glenn,B'ham,Al

    LOL the leadership of this Congress is a joke. As voters we have to realize that voting new leaders isn't working. If it walks like a duck & acts like a duck & looks like a duck it is a duck. In this case idiot. Doesn't matter if its a democrate or republican. Dumb is just dumb.

    July 20, 2007 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  13. Bob Roberts

    There is a normal method for this type notification. Instead of using that it was sent to public fax machines. That's the point here. They do read those faxes but it takes a while. Unlike a lot of you they don't stare at the machine waiting for something pop up. The faxes are usually batched by a worker and the sen/cong reviews them later. GOP get a plan. Your party is in ruins.

    July 20, 2007 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  14. CMS, California

    I can't stop shaking my head in shame over this Congress (and WH). How about a little personal responsibility? It is your office's fault that you don't have an effective method of reading YOUR CONSTITUENTS FAXES!

    July 20, 2007 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  15. Tom Dedham, Mass

    Maybe Sandy Berger stole the faxes.

    July 20, 2007 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  16. GOP

    Let's face it, all the dems have done since they weasled their way into the White House is cause dissention – nothing more, nothing less. I feel sorry that President Bush has to put up with them. Have of them are 90 years old and out of touch with society! Byrd needs to retire – he's like 150 years old. He's a crackpot!

    July 20, 2007 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  17. Mary, Beaver, PA

    Our Washington establishment plainly has contempt for those who voted them in. And why shouldn't they? When the incumbent runs against a little known contender, the incumbent wins 95% of the time. If you don't like what you see in Washington, stop rewarding these cretins by voting them back in!

    July 20, 2007 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  18. John, Kalamazoo, Mich.

    The only blame for the democrats is that they should know this administration is not Straight forward about anything. I am surprised the Pentagon even knew about it.
    I also know that a phone call would have been more effective and reliable but again why would the administration suddenly become effective and reliable?

    July 20, 2007 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  19. Rick, Chicago Illinois

    GOP ... "Let’s face it, all the dems have done since they weasled their way into the White House is cause dissention – nothing more, nothing less. I feel sorry that President Bush has to put up with them."

    Strike 1: They didn't "weasel" their way into the WHITE HOUSE. Unless you consider the White House a one-vote majority of CONGRESS (with Republican in Dem clothing Lieberman the one vote and Cheney as the tie-breaker)? You're obviously confused and/or remedial. And astonishingly so.

    Strike 2: the "weaseling" you refer to was actually the people of this country getting sick of repub scandals and Dubya's lies about all the "progress" in the Iraq war and us "absolutely" winning it (before his Sec of Defense admitted we WEREN'T). Nice try buddy!

    Strike 3: You're talking about the Dems obstructing and causing dissention? Here's a partial list of how the repubs in congress and the White House played politics when they controlled both the legislative and executive branches! They: 1) accused anyone who didn’t agree with them of being anti-American and a traitor; 2) changed or removed laws that stopped them from doing things they shouldn’t have been doing in the first place (like increasing deficits and the national debt); 3) redrew congressional districts to help them get seats in congress (orchestrated by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in 2003); 4) pushed wedge issues (like gay marriage amendments, flag burning, etc) in blatantly transparent attempts to appeal to their evangelical voting base; 5) tied separate issues to others (a permanent cut in the estate tax to an increase in the minimum wage) to prevent the Democrats from passing their legislation rather than simply allow a vote on a SINGLE issue; 6) buried pork (earmarks) in spending bills (“bridge to nowhere”) before they criticized Dems for doing it; 7) changed definitions to make themselves look better (like “manufacturing” and “murder” in Iraq); 8) chose polarizing candidates instead of collaborative ones and then forcing them on the other party via recess appointments to bypass the confirmation process (John Bolton); 9) had senior administration officials mislead the public by changing scientific reports to inject doubt into the science of global warming in an effort to minimize the potential danger of it; 10) made last minute changes to a bill (via Arlan Specter) in the Patriot Act that made it possible for the Bush Administration to appoint U.S. attorneys WITHOUT senate approval; 11) introduced bills 24 hours before passage with little opportunity for review, discussion or amendment; 12) blocked Democrats from participating in conference committee activities where final versions of bills are hammered out and provisions are snuck in (Specter’s provision into the Patriot Act); 13) hid at LEAST one damaging National Intelligence Estimate from congress (by refusing to declassify it) and then only selectively did so after the press got ahold of it; 14) voted along party lines to block investigations; 15) delayed the result of the investigations until AFTER elections (Foley investigation, Iraq Study Group).

    And let's not forget the adminstrations refusal to disclose the politics behind the selective dismissal of U.S Attorneys for “performance related” reasons – after favorable job reviews – while they hide behind the following to save their ass: fuzzy memories of DOJ officials; the (illegal) use of unofficial e-mail accounts and servers for government business to hide e-mails; the "lost" and redacted emails and documents from the official servers; Gonzales blatant lies; Dubya wanting oath-less and transcript-less testimony behind closed doors; Dubya using executive privilege to protect White House aids from testifying; others promising to plead the 5th and then abruptly resigning; Goodling admitting she broke civil service laws by inappropriately taking political considerations into account but not knowing specifically how; Sampson saying Gonzales testimony was “innacurate”; Goodling saying Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty’s testimony was "not fully candid"; etc!

    Yep .. it's those damn obstructionist Democrats eh?

    Ann Brunwick ME .. maybe we should just "get over it" while you complain about the Dems?

    Where was all your complaining about the "pathetic" repubs that were obstructing and causing dissention THEN?

    Thanks for posting and thus giving me the opportunity to correct you.

    July 20, 2007 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |