Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) is once again embroiled in a trans-Atlantic battle royale with British Member of Parliament George Galloway, whom Coleman this week accused of lying to Congress about money he allegedly received in an Iraqi oil-for-food scam.
This time, Galloway is bringing the fight not just to Washington, D.C., but also to Minnesota — where Galloway has plans to rent out a venue to challenge Coleman to a public debate, Galloway spokesman Ron McKay said.
“We’re going to certainly make sure that that man never gets elected again,” McKay said in an phone interview. “We’re going to surprise him, and we’re going to embarrass him.”
McKay refused to give the specific dates that Galloway would arrive in D.C. or Minnesota, but he said it would happen before the end of the year.
“The idea is that we’ll organize a big Washington event,” McKay said. “We’ll go to Norm’s constituency. We’ll go to the Twin Cities. … We are not going to run away from this.”
Coleman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on investigations, rejected Galloway’s attempts to engage him in debate.
“We’re way past the debate stage,” Coleman said in an interview. “He wants theater. This is not Broadway. This the United States Senate.”
Indeed, when Galloway initially testified before Coleman’s subcommittee on May 17, the flamboyant British lawmaker made headlines around the world by belittling the hearings and calling Coleman a “pro-war, neocon hawk and the lickspittle of [President] George W. Bush.”
During his often-heated exchanges with Coleman and other subcommittee members from both parties, Galloway repeatedly denied ever having solicited Iraqi oil options for his own profit. Under United Nations sanctions imposed before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, sales of Iraqi oil were supposed to be used by Iraqi officials only for the purchase of food and medicine — a process former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein allegedly hijacked to reward companies and individuals who supported him and who, in turn, could sell the oil at a higher profit.
But Coleman released a report Tuesday that concluded that Galloway, a strident critic of the Iraq war and a supporter of ending U.N. sanctions on Iraq, “knowingly gave false and misleading testimony” to the subcommittee when he denied being involved in the alleged oil-for-food scam.
Coleman’s report cites bank records showing that Galloway’s wife, Amineh Abu-Zayyad, received nearly $150,000 from Fawaz Zureikat, a Jordanian businessman reportedly involved in oil-for-food transactions. It also shows that the Mariam Appeal, a charity Galloway started to provide medical help for Iraqi citizens, received nearly $450,000 from Zureikat, who also served as Galloway’s point man in Iraq for the charity. Several Iraqis, including former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, also told the subcommittee staff that Galloway solicited such donations in the form of oil options.
“We have independent testimonies that say they gave him the oil-for-food money because he was a friend of the regime,” Coleman said.
McKay said Galloway, who is now separated from his wife, did not know that she had received money from Zureikat, but he assumed the funds were intended to support her research into the link between depleted uranium and childhood cancers in Jordan and Iraq.
McKay also said the donations made to the charity were cleared by the British Charity Commission in 2004.
A primer on the case of the Mariam Appeal, which is on the commission’s Web site, notes the commission did not find any intentional wrongdoing by Galloway or others involved in the charity, nor that they accepted any undue compensation. But it also says the commission was unable to obtain all the books and records of the charity, because Galloway said they were transferred to Jordan and Iraq when Zureikat became chairman of the charity in 2001.
Coleman said Galloway’s explanations are not sufficient.
“His explanations don’t make any sense. They’re almost laughable,” he said.
The U.N. also has issued a report, authored by former U.S. Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Paul Volcker, that is due out today, and Coleman spokesman Andrea Wuebker said that Coleman is “confident that it will corroborate the information that we found.”
However, McKay said Galloway has already seen at least two of the findings in the Volcker report, and that they show he did not profit from any money from the oil-for-food program.
Coleman’s report, however, has been sent to the Justice Department, where a determination will be made on whether Galloway should be charged with perjury and impeding a Congressional investigation.
Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra said the Coleman documents had not yet been received, but that they were expected and would be reviewed upon receipt.
Sierra said the fact that the case involves a foreign national would not necessarily complicate any potential indictment because the United States has a good extradition relationship with Britain.
Similarly, evidence that Galloway lied to British courts and failed to disclose his full financial interests as required by British law has been sent to authorities in the United Kingdom, Coleman said.