Even at Cheney's Holiday Party, CIA Chief Faces Interrogators

By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, December 13, 2007

After being grilled by the Senate intelligence committee for more than an hour Tuesday, CIA Director Michael Hayde n went to Vice President Cheney's annual holiday party, where he endured more interrogation for a full 20 minutes from the Fourth Estate.

Ensnared in a scandal over the destruction of waterboarding videotapes, Hayden fielded questions -- off the record -- from eggnog-lubed reporters. He withstood the friendly Q and A with smiles and a relaxed air (aided by a nice, cold beer) until he spotted someone who could stop the torture: Cheney chief of staff David Addington. "David, save me!" Hayden jokingly shouted.

Addington obliged and physically pulled the Air Force general from the scrum of reporters. (Hayden received no assists from three Iraq war architects who also attended the party: former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, former defense undersecretary Doug Feith and their boss, former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.) CIA chief spokesman Mark Mansfield told On the Hill that it was all in good fun. "He was just kidding around," Mansfield said. Hayden, who took his wife, Jeanine, to the vice president's party, was in "good spirits" all day, Mansfield said.

Hayden used Addington's helping hand to break away from the Fourth Estate interrogators because, Mansfield said, he "was out of Schlitz."

Lott's Hill Tell-All: JFK-style 'Profiles in Courage'

Just days away from retiring for greener K Street pastures, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) has decided to write another book about his time in the House and Senate. For anyone hoping for an insider's tell-all about 35 years of backroom deals and misbehaving senators, don't put this one on the must-purchase list for 2008.

Lott will revisit his idea from five years ago to write a congressional version of "Profiles in Courage," the 1950s book that won then-Sen. John F. Kennedy a Pulitzer Prize. Instead of the Kennedyesque profiles of courageous Americans, Lott is writing 20 chapters on lawmakers who took courageous stands. Tired of hearing all the stories about how bad Congress is, Lott said, "I want to tell some stories of some of the good."

Democrats who will have their own chapters include former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle (S.D.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (N.Y.).

Lott started such a book in late 2002, while he was preparing to become Senate majority leader. But, as he recalled yesterday, "intervening events" preempted that effort -- the 100th birthday party for then-Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), which led to Lott's intemperate remarks about Thurmond's 1948 segregationist presidential campaign. Those words led to Lott's resignation from the Senate leadership. Last year, he triumphantly returned as minority whip.

Almost five years to the day of the Thurmond party, a bipartisan group of senators feted Lott last night in a ceremonial room just off the Senate floor.

A Skittish Kennedy

The guessing game is in full swing among the disciples of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), whose annual holiday party tonight in the Dirksen Senate Office Building is as big a draw as ever. The party, for years, has featured off-the-record skits with the senator in full costume and wife Vicky lending a hand. Last year's included Kennedy, now 75, in a penguin costume, paying homage to the 2006 movie "Happy Feet."

In 2004, Kennedy sported a Boston Red Sox uniform to honor his beloved baseball team's World Series victory and presented a skit that took several shots at the presidential campaign of his Bay State colleague, Sen. John Kerry (D).

Kennedy once dressed up as Austin Powers, but his most politically biting attire was a December 2000 Grinch costume -- the Jim Carrey movie had just been released -- for a "Grinch Who Stole the Election" theme.

What's in store tonight for his friends, family, staff and former staff? Kennedy's office was mum yesterday.

'Don't I Know You?'

FEMA Deputy Administrator Harvey E. Johnson finally fessed up yesterday to Congress that he had his suspicions about the disaster relief agency's Oct. 23 fake news conference even as he was presiding over it.

Johnson, who was facing a confirmation hearing, told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that he realized that the first five questions he was asked came from employees of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The sixth and final question also came from a FEMA worker, he learned later, he said, and not from a real reporter. Members of the news media were listening in via a telephone conference call and were barred from speaking.

"If I had a press conference and walked in and my staff was asking me one question, red flags would go up. . . . Why didn't you just say, 'Hold it, what's going on?' " Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) asked.

Johnson said that he recalled thinking "it was odd" that his staff was asking questions, and that he expected reporters to follow up. "I've certainly gone over in my mind a number of times the actions that I should have taken -- could have taken, that could have changed the course of that press conference," he said, acknowledging what he has called "clearly a regrettable error in judgment."

The committee hopes to vote next week on Johnson's nomination. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said at the hearing that she will not vote for him unless he shows he could be "an agent of change."

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has called the fake news conference "one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I've seen since I've been in government." FEMA's press secretary has since resigned, and the agency's director of external communications at the time of the phony news conference was denied a similar job at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

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