Pelosi's Story Snowballs

No matter what happened in September 2002 or February 2003, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made her big story bigger yesterday by claiming the CIA lied to her. What has happened in the 24 hours since makes it even bigger.

Not only did CIA Director Leon Panetta — a former congressman from California — push back with a statement calling the briefings "truthful," but the White House is refusing to back her up. Sure, former Sen. Bob Graham's (D-Fla.) account of not being briefed on waterboarding either at the time raises questions about just what happened at those briefings. But there are no longer questions about whether Pelosi objected to any enhanced interrogation techniques or whether she told the press everything she knew last month. She did not.

The problem now is that no matter what happened back then, the House Speaker has accused the CIA of lying not only in 2002 but again last month, in 2009, about the substance of those briefings, and has thus given the Republicans a credible issue on which to question her.

A one-week story has turned into at least a one-month story, but we don't know how long it will last. Pelosi calls it a GOP distraction, but it is her distraction, as I pointed out in my column this week, published before Pelosi's wild press conference. It is still true now — but the distraction is even bigger.

While they aren't likely to see Pelosi lose the Speaker's gavel, this is a gift to the GOP, no doubt about it.


WHAT WILL PELOSI'S CHARGE ABOUT THE CIA LEAD TO? Ask A.B. returns Monday, May 18. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.