Loading the player leg...
During the July 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report, national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin reported that several Democratic members of Congress who are "pushing for a troop withdrawal" were "[n]otably absent" from a briefing by Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. Griffin reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV), and Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY) and Joseph R. Biden Jr. (DE) did not attend the briefing. However, Pelosi, Reid, and Biden have all publicly explained their absences, which Griffin did not report. Nor did Griffin report, as other news outlets have, that several Democratic senators said they were unaware of the briefing because the Bush administration "blast faxed" the invitations to the publicly listed fax numbers for their Senate offices.
In a July 19 article discussing why a number of Democratic senators missed the briefing, The Hill reported that Reid "noted on Thursday that an Aug. 1 Petraeus briefing for senators has long been in the works." The Hill also noted that Biden "did not attend in order to chair a Foreign Relations Committee hearing, during which Crocker testified via satellite."
The Hill further reported that Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Patty Murray (D-WA) said they "were unaware that they had been invited and questioned the White House's use of faxes to notify senators of the high-profile briefing." The senators asserted that the Bush administration's method of informing members of Congress about the briefing was unusual:
Durbin said the White House's communication about upcoming Iraq briefings is "usually very reliable," but wondered aloud why the invitation to Thursday's [July 19] event came through a mass fax rather than staff notification.
"I'm just going to write it off as [due to] poor staff work," Durbin said. "I'm not going to make it more sinister than that."
Murray echoed Durbin's puzzlement: "It was faxed in our public fax [machine], where thousands of constituent faxes are," she said.
Similarly, a July 19 CNN.com article reported that "Senate Democratic leaders are accusing the Bush administration of mishandling invitations to classified Pentagon briefings about the Iraq war, causing many colleagues to miss the event." The article stated that "[i]t's not known how many senators didn't attend because their invitations were not received" and reported that Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D-NY) office said the invitation "was later found buried in faxes at the machine reserved for faxes from his constituents and the public," while Reid's spokesman said Reid "only found out about the briefing by calling the White House two days ago, after his staff heard rumors about it." CNN.com further reported that "Senate Republicans reported no similar problems getting their invitations."
The CNN.com article also reported that while Pelosi did not attend, she has "requested a briefing in person with Defense Secretary Robert Gates next week." As Media Matters for America documented (here, here, and here), several media outlets reported that Pelosi "did not attend" Petraeus' April 25 briefing on Capitol Hill but did not note that Pelosi's staff reportedly said that she had "requested a one-on-one meeting with Petraeus but that could not be worked out," or that Pelosi and Petraeus had spoken on the phone for 30 minutes on April 24.
From the July 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
HUME: One day after the Senate failed to approve a deadline for a troop reduction in Iraq, large groups of lawmakers from both chambers got a secret briefing from top U.S. officials over there. The American ambassador and the commanding general delivered their assessments of the political and military situation. Few details of what they actually said have leaked out, since the briefing was classified. But were any minds changed? National security correspondent Jennifer Griffin reports.
[begin video clip]
GRIFFIN: The congressmen were ferried from the Hill by bus early this morning. A bipartisan group of 50 representatives and 40 senators arrived at the Pentagon for a top-secret classified briefing inside this room, the National Military Command Center.
General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker answered their questions from Baghdad. Notably absent, however: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senators Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Chuck Hagel [R-NE], who are all pushing for a troop withdrawal. Those who attended spoke after returning to the Hill.