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The Memo Comes In From the Cold

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, June 8, 2005; 2:09 PM

After six weeks in the political wilderness, the Downing Street Memo yesterday finally burst into the White House -- and into the headlines.

The memo, which dates back to 2002, conveys a British intelligence official's conclusion that President Bush was manipulating intelligence to build support for war with Iraq -- and that he was already set on invasion long before acknowledging as much in public. The Sunday Times of London first published a leaked version on May 1.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair was visiting with Bush yesterday, and when a question about the memo came up at their abbreviated joint press conference -- the first time Bush has been asked to comment about it -- Blair threw himself at its potentially explosive allegations in an attempt to muffle the damage.

Bush then followed, insisting that he had tried to resolve the standoff with Saddam Hussein peacefully, but that in any case the world is better off with Hussein gone.

But the hard-to-explain memo today is making headlines far and wide, after more than a month during which the American press largely kept its silence on the issue.

It remains unclear how big of a blowup the memo represents for the White House. Bush partisans consider it either old news, or flatly wrong, or both.

And the American press still demonstrates no intention of aggressively following it up.

But even if the memo doesn't detonate, there are suddenly several other potential scandals sputtering away in the press today to cause the White House worry.

· The New York Times is reporting that a White House official with ties to the oil industry repeatedly edited government climate reports to play down global warming issues.

· The Guardian reports on new State Department documents suggesting that Bush's decision not to sign the Kyoto global warming treaty was partly a result of pressure from ExxonMobil.


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