Feinstein backs Harman, wiretap release

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSteyer endorses de León in bid to unseat Feinstein Amid struggle for votes, GOP plows ahead with Cabinet picks Feinstein comes out against Pompeo for secretary of State MORE (D-Calif.) came to Rep. Jane Harman’s (D-Calif.) defense Tuesday, calling her a “friend” and supporting her request that the Justice Department release any transcripts of her calls that were wiretapped by the National Security Agency or the FBI.

Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she hopes the Department of Justice grants Harman’s request.

“I like Jane — I’m a friend of hers,” Feinstein said of the fellow Californian and like-minded Democrat on defense and intelligence maters. “I believe she has the highest integrity and would never do anything to harm our government.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was more neutral.

“She’s a very, very valued member of Congress,” Pelosi told reporters.

Harman’s request comes in the wake of reports that the NSA wiretapped a discussion in 2005 between her and a “suspected Israeli agent” in which she offered to intervene in a Justice investigation into espionage charges against a lobbyist for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in exchange for helping her convince Pelosi and other members of the California delegation to promote her to full chairwoman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Pelosi instead tapped Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) for the post.

The Speaker also commented on another critical aspect of the story — that in exchange for Harman’s assistance with the Justice Department, the suspected Israeli agent would get major Hollywood fundraiser Haim Saban to threaten to withhold donations to Pelosi if she failed to give the gavel to Harman.

Asked whether “a prominent supporter” would withhold funds in retaliation if Harman wasn’t made chairwoman, Pelosi did not respond directly.

“What is true is that everybody knows I don’t respond to threats, so it wouldn’t be useful to use them,” Pelosi said. “But it isn’t true. It isn’t true. No. Congresswoman Harman has many friends who advocate for her.”

Earlier Tuesday Harman went on the offensive, taking her case to the airwaves and challenging Justice to investigate whether any other members of Congress were under NSA surveillance. The New York Times reported last week that the NSA had considered but then backed off a plan to conduct surveillance of an unnamed member of Congress who was on a trip to the Middle East in 2005 or 2006 and in touch with an “extremist” who was also under surveillance.

In an interview with Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC, Harman vehemently denied that she intervened with anyone including Justice or the White House in the AIPAC spying case.

“If there are tapes out there, bring it on!” she said.

In that TV appearance and in a letter to Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderEric Holder headed to New Hampshire for high-profile event Holder: 'Our democracy is under attack' McAuliffe touts his record as governor as he seeks to boost Dems MORE, Harman said she was outraged that the FBI or NSA secretly wiretapped her conversations.

“This abuse of power is outrageous and I call on your department to release all transcripts and other investigative material involving me in an unredacted form,” Harman wrote to Holder. “It is my intention to make this material available to the public.”