Washington Post: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (Calif.) assertion at a press conference this morning that the Bush administration and the Central Intelligence Agency misled her and the Congress regarding the treatment of suspected terrorists adds further fuel to the fire on an issue that has been on a low boil for weeks.
Asked whether she was accusing the CIA of lying to her during a 2002 briefing on the use of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," Pelosi said: "Yes, misleading the Congress of the United States, misleading the Congress of the United States. I am."
She went on to call on the CIA to release the details of briefings they provided to Congress and for the creation of a truth commission to "determine how intelligence was misused and how controversial and possibly illegal activities like torture were authorized within the executive branch."
Pelosi's press conference comes amid a series of allegations from Republicans -- inside and outside of Congress -- that she knew far more about the treatment of detainees in the early part of the decade than she initially let on.
"The Speaker has had way too many stories on this issue," said House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) at a press conference moments ago. He added that he has "not one doubt" that interrogations of detainees were conducted "within the law" and that he was opposed to the idea of a truth commission.
As the Post's Paul Kane notes, Pelosi acknowledged publicly for the first time today that she was aware that detainees were being waterboarded as long ago as 2003 when a member of her staff was part of a briefing in February of that year in which it was revealed that waterboarding was ongoing.
Pelosi's press conference has both short term and long term political impact.
In the short term, it snuffs out President Obama's preferred message of the day -- pushed at a scheduled town hall today in New Mexico -- regarding credit card reform. Obama and/or White House press secretary Robert Gibbs are certain to face questions about Pelosi's remarks whenever reporters are given access to them today.
Pelosi's comments -- and the firestorm they will almost certainly set off -- could speed up the timetable for an announcement of Obama's Supreme Court nominee, which has been speculated as coming either next week or shortly after Memorial Day. If the torture debate dominates the news for the next several days, the White House may want (or need) a way the change the subject and the announcement of a Supreme Court justice would almost certainly provide the necessary distraction.
The long-term political prognosis is less clear. The Obama administration has made no secret of the fact that they would prefer not to spend time looking back at what happened under President George W. Bush since it distracts from what they believe to be the important tasks at hand -- most notably turning around the economy.
And, it's hard to imagine that the White House is pleased with Pelosi's press conference today -- knowing that the allegations she has made further complicate an already sticky political entanglement, making it far more difficult for the issue to be dismissed out of a desire to look forward rather than backward.
Pelosi's comments are also -- almost certainly -- not her last words on this subject. As indicated by Boehner's comments, Republicans are going to continue to paint Pelosi as telling a series of conflicting stories about what she knew and when she knew it.
While Pelosi's press conference this morning was clearly intended to put to rest a process story that all politicians hate, it may well have the opposite effect -- raising more questions about her timeline and her past statements.
Make no mistake: Pelosi would not have held this sort of press conference unless she and her inner circle believed that she was losing altitude -- politically -- on the issue. But, her decision to do so could have wide-ranging political implications that will reach from Congress to the White House and back.
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