Levin’s Scheduling Sparks GOP Complaints

Posted April 25, 2008 at 6:05pm

Senate Armed Services Republicans are crying foul over Chairman Carl Levin’s (D-Mich.) handling of the panel’s detainee-abuse investigation, accusing him of conducting closed-door interviews at purposely inconvenient times.

In a letter last Tuesday to Levin, nine committee Republicans requested that Levin reschedule an April 25 interview with former Defense Department General Counsel Jim Haynes because many of them had prior commitments.

Haynes is a central figure in the investigation because he reportedly requested a March 2003 Justice Department memo that later was used to justify harsh interrogation tactics against detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, military prison. The Friday interview went on as planned, according to committee aides.

The nine GOP Senators complained that Levin had not coordinated the timing of Haynes’ interview with them, and they quoted Levin as previously saying that he would “reschedule the interview with Mr. Haynes so that all Committee Members will have an opportunity to be present.”

“Scheduling these interviews during recess or on Mondays and Fridays goes counter to your stated intent that all Committee Members have an opportunity to be present,” the nine wrote.

A letter from Levin responding to the complaints noted that the committee has been attempting to interview Haynes since January and already postponed the session at the request of ranking member John McCain (Ariz.), who since has become the Republicans’ presumptive presidential nominee. Levin also stated that he told Republicans to expect the April 25 interview following an April 17 meeting in which the panel voted to subpoena Haynes.

“Mr. Haynes’s interview has been delayed for far too long,” Levin wrote on April 23. “I just cannot agree to any further delays.”

Levin spokesman Tara Andringa declined to comment, saying, “We don’t discuss matters under investigation publicly.”

Notably absent from the Republican letter were McCain and Sens. John Warner (R-Va.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Even when Republicans were in control of the Senate, all three found themselves out of step with the rest of their party for pressing for a Congressional investigation into detainee-abuse issues and for criticizing the administration’s stance on interrogation techniques.

The nine Republicans who signed the letter were Sens. James Inhofe (Okla.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Susan Collins (Maine), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Elizabeth Dole (N.C.), John Cornyn (Texas), John Thune (S.D.), Mel Martinez (Fla.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.). It was unclear as of press time which Republican Senators were able to attend Friday’s interview session.

But GOP aides said this is not the first time that interviews of key former military and Bush administration figures were scheduled when many Republicans would be out of town.

“The view on our side is that Levin and his staff have purposely set up many of these sessions so as to ensure limited Republican involvement,” said one aide to an Armed Services Republican. The aide added that Republicans feared Democrats would be able to “hammer away at [Haynes] all day and because of scheduling problems, almost all the SASC Republicans are not able to be there.”

Additionally, attendance at the sessions is limited to Senators and Armed Services staff, meaning that some Senators’ personal office legislative directors could not attend for their bosses, the aide said.