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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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March 26, 2008 2:55 PM

Was McDermott's pre-war Iraq trip paid for by Saddam agents?

Posted by David Postman

It looks as if that's what the U.S. government thinks. AP just moved this story:

WASHINGTON (AP)- Federal prosecutors say Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agency secretly financed a trip to Iraq for three U.S. lawmakers during the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion.

An indictment in Detroit accuses Muthanna Al-Hanooti of arranging for three members of Congress to travel to Iraq in October 2002 at the behest of Saddam’s regime. Prosecutors say Iraqi intelligence officials paid for the trip through an intermediary.

In exchange, Al-Hanooti allegedly received 2 million barrels of Iraqi oil.

The lawmakers are not mentioned but the dates correspond to a trip by Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, David Bonior of Michigan and Mike Thompson of California. There was no indication the three lawmakers knew the trip was underwritten by Saddam.

I'm trying to reach McDermott or his staff.

In September, 2006, federal agents raided a Michigan-based Muslim charity that helped pay for McDermott's trip. I wrote about that here.

The charity, Life for Relief and Development, and the Church Council of Greater Seattle paid for the trip for McDermott and the other Democratic congressmen.

When I talked to McDermott spokesman Mike DeCesare about this in 2006 he said that McDermott was invited on the trip by the church council, not the Michigan group. And when he learned where the money had come from he reported it on his disclosure forms.

I just spoke with DeCesare. He is confident the Department of Justice will say that the congressmen knew nothing of the source of the money and violated no law. He says McDermott went to Iraq before the war "for all the right reasons, to see what was happening with children."

If some of the money came from sources with secret connections to Saddam, he said, that woud be "outside our purview."


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Posted by Trey

3:11 PM, Mar 26, 2008

Finally, a scandal bad enough to force Rep. Do-Nothing (D-Africa) into retirement!

Posted by ldandad

4:14 PM, Mar 26, 2008

Posted by soothsayer

4:34 PM, Mar 26, 2008

Bagdad Jim may claim that he didn't know that the trip was financed by Saddam - but he was sure hoping it was to keep up with apparences!

Posted by Will in Seattle

4:39 PM, Mar 26, 2008

Are these the same people who were appointed based on their religious affiliations to the position of Federal Prosecutor?

The ones who are so out of it they can't clue in that bin Laden is in Pakistan?

Yeah, like we'd believe anything THEY say ... NOT!

Posted by tom ross

5:35 PM, Mar 26, 2008

This is the second ethical difficulty (putting it mildly) for Rep. McDermott. I dont care whether the indictment comes from a GOP or D. What matters is whether it is accurate. As far as something being 'outside' the purview of the donee, what does that mean? No responsibility to ask? Not caring about the source? Who taught DeCesar to think? Evidently, nobody. Why would any member of Congress not have made an inquiry about a trip to Iraq at that moment in time? I doubt this will force McDermott into retirement. But, its a sad state of affairs when he's more concerned about this trip than actually accomplishing something in Congress. I've always voted for him, but he's wearing pretty thin, these days.

Posted by Bill

6:34 PM, Mar 26, 2008

And this is a surprise because....? Oh wait, it's not!

Posted by Michele

6:41 PM, Mar 26, 2008

As Michelle Malkin would say: "Yes, question their patriotism..."

Posted by Scooter

8:04 PM, Mar 26, 2008

I don't believe that McDermott will have a problem with this even if it is true, and maybe he even knew where the money was coming from. At the time he had no problems with Saddam being in power and he wanted to do everything he could to keep him there. I think that he still thinks that he should be in power even today. Sorry Jim I think he kind of lost his head.

Posted by chris

8:58 PM, Mar 26, 2008

The Voters that keep re-electing this joker need to have there heads examined.

Posted by blathering michael

9:34 PM, Mar 26, 2008

When can we have a real congressman like they do in the First District?

Posted by Diane

10:25 PM, Mar 26, 2008

This blog seems incredibly imbalanced. Is this a forum for the WA State Repuplicans only? Why don't you wait for the facts before passing judgement?

The Iraq war is a mess....and it will take cooperation from the Republicans, Democrats, Independants, Green Party, and whomever else is interested in working for a solution.

Please keep that goal in mind, and refrain from these ignorant comments. Act like adults, for goodness sakes!!

Posted by Benjamin

10:36 PM, Mar 26, 2008

I hope someone does some investigation into the Church Council of Greater Seattle's role in all this. Their role and the source of the money should be open for all to see. It really is classic that they were used as the willing front for Saddam's anti-Americanism.

Posted by upchuck

10:46 PM, Mar 26, 2008

OK, so apparently most of the commenters on here have a bigger problem with a congressman accepting travel money unknowingly from nephrarious source, then bombing the F*** out of 100's of thousands of people becasue of a lie.

By the way, the deaths per year in Irar over the last 5 years are higher than they were under Sadamm.... Heck of a job there dubya!

Posted by Johnny

3:15 AM, Mar 27, 2008

Yet more proof why no Democrat should be near national security. They are traitors to the nation.

Posted by elliott

8:00 AM, Mar 27, 2008

Man, the anti McDermott bloggers here are RAD! I love Seattle Times readers who still think they have a shred of Republican dignity left! Move to Spokane and hang out with Jim West

Posted by Vindi

8:34 AM, Mar 27, 2008

What I want to know is if McDermott was claimed this trip, that was already paid for, for reimbursement from the congressional travel fund.

Posted by HomeToRoost

9:29 AM, Mar 27, 2008

Elliott,

How does pointing to Jim West change at all this treachorous act by McDermott?

Thompson and McDermott would have us believe that they visited a sworn enemy of the United States -- one who had tried to assassinate a former president and declared that the "Mother of all Battles" had never ended -- without doing even the most basic research about who was funding their trip? That's hard to believe.

Posted by SeaSounder

10:11 AM, Mar 27, 2008

McDermott needs to resign. How about Ron Sims for a replacement? He would bring home the pork.

Posted by kevin bjornson

10:32 AM, Mar 27, 2008

Perhaps "Baghad Bob" didn't know at first, but I'll bet the Church Council of Greater Seattle knew; they were fronting their allegedly good name on behalf of a Muslim "charity".

How fitting--two Middle Eastern cults cooperating to keep a mass-murderous middle eastern dictator in power. It's time for Western Civilization to fully wake up from it's long slumber, and have a new renaissance of humanism.

Posted by P

11:07 AM, Mar 27, 2008

Reacting to the latest news, Mike DeCesare, a spokesman for Jim McDermott, one of the three congressmen, said his boss wasn't aware that the money came from Saddam Hussein's regime when he accepted it. He told me the same thing in 2004, when I asked him about the $5,000 McDermott had accepted for his legal defense fund from Shakir al Khafaji, one of Saddam Hussein's biggest U.S. boosters before the war. Khafaji, who accompanied the congressmen and made the arrangements for their visit, had run "expatriate" conferences in Baghdad for Saddam as recently as 2000. He also provided $400,000 to former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter for Ritter's propaganda film on behalf of the former Iraqi regime. In an interview back in 2001, Ritter told me that Khafaji was "openly sympathetic" with Saddam Hussein.

Posted by upchuck

3:18 PM, Mar 27, 2008

would that be the 5k he returned when he found out where it came from?

you're entitled to criticize mcdermot if that's how you feel, but you're leaving out important details in your narrative.

the fact that our congressman was concerned about the human cost of war is admirable and a lacking quality in too many in this dc administration.

Posted by scottyg

3:21 PM, Mar 27, 2008

Here's a scandal on top of the scandal. This is more proof that our local media is completely liberal and totally biased. Shame on you Seattle Times- a story of this magnitude is tucked away in the Local section?? Is McDermott that loved and adored by your editors? How is this not front page news?

Posted by tom ross

4:44 PM, Mar 27, 2008

Mr. Postman, the question about the placement of the story is a fair one. Can you provide the readers an answer?

Posted by Quincy

6:50 PM, Mar 27, 2008

it's not a fair question. it's the same old right wing complaint about the media. whatever is done is not good enough. if it had been on the front page, then the question would be why wasn't it above the fold. if it were above the fold, why wasn't it in bigger font etc., etc., etc. they never tire of this game.

Posted by Jim

6:54 PM, Mar 27, 2008

The real problem is that not many of those who voted for him will find this objectionable. Seattle is in the throes of cultural/moral decay. Move away for awhile to see this more clearly.

Posted by Mike B

6:54 PM, Mar 27, 2008

Jim McDermott is a pinhead!

He was just live on King 5 and said he went because all the children who were dying because of the sanctions.

Considering that the man who paid for his trip to Iraq was paid with 2 MILLION barrels of Iraqi oil it is quite obvious that the children were dying because Jim's good friend Saddam was corrupt and the oil for food program was being misused and abused by the Iraqi government.

More proof, along with Saddam's attempts to deceive the world into believing that he had WMD's (how many times did he kick the weapons inspectors out of Iraq anyway?) that a regime change was the only solution.

The handling of the occupation is a whole other story.

The fact is that Saddam wanted Jim McDermott in Iraq because he knew that "Baghdad Jim" would sing his tune like a canary.

Posted by right

8:42 PM, Mar 27, 2008

Sea Times couldn't bear to say he actually did get a trip from Sadaam....had to be evasive in its headline

that's the other part of the story; enablement by the far left seattle media...

HE DID IT

Posted by JD

9:52 PM, Mar 27, 2008

Where are the WMD's - I was sure you said they were there!
.
find those and then vist this trivial matter.
.
JD

Posted by Mike B

10:36 PM, Mar 27, 2008

WMD's?? Saddam admitted that he had them in the 90's but that the UN did destroy some (what??? the UN actually did something??) and what they didn't destroy he had decomissioned. BUT he also said he tried to decieve the world into believing he still had them to prevent Iran from invading.

Face it... McDermott is caught with egg on his face. He didn't do anything illegal, but the fact that Saddam wanted him to come to Baghdad because he knew he would play right into his hands has to be great embarassment to the Congressman from Baghdad.

Then again, maybe Saddam just wanted to learn how to intercept and tape cell phone conversations.

Posted by Quincy

11:19 PM, Mar 27, 2008

Mike B, you for got to add to the end of your last sentence "...not that there's anything wrong with that."

Posted by right

6:37 AM, Mar 28, 2008

red Jim was either stupid/naive, or devious/traiterous in accepting a trip to Iraq. Did he really think some old ladies putting money in the church tills was behind the big $$ offer to visit Iraq.

Either way, i don't want my Gov't to be hoodwinked by foreign agents. (same for Clinotons and the chinese $$ they entertained)

Posted by SeattleRan

7:10 AM, Mar 28, 2008

The Seattle Times should be ASHAMED that they did not print this as a front page story. They will not print news that does not fit their left agenda.

The people on Cap Hill should be ASHAMED that they keep sending the traitor - Baghdad Jim - back to Congress time and time again.

What a joke.

Posted by Turbine

7:32 AM, Mar 28, 2008

Be careful what you wish for...The story is on the front page of today's TIMES. It is also the subject of the Editoral boards comments. Both basically coming down on the side of " So what? " . McDermott's office actually called and asked Bert Sacks to arrange the trip and pay for it. They were able to get it done in three days. The mystery donor "unknown" to Sacks called him unsolicited almost simultaneously and offered to pay for the trip. hmmm. Later in the story we find out McDermott refused funds from the same "mystery" donor and his organization for McDermott's legal defense funds because of his ties to Saddam. Hmm. Maybe Jim didn't care where the money came from until he was caught with his hand in Saddam's cookie jar.

Posted by R. Travaille

9:23 AM, Mar 28, 2008

So J. D went to Iraq because of the kids dying because of the Sanctions?? Did he Ever wonder where Saddam got all the money to build 20 New Palaces after the Gulf War?? Gee do ya think it mite have come from the Oil Program, and Saddam just kept the money insted of gettin food and medicines for the People of Iraq insted of Saddam and Sons!! What really gets me tho is the fact that he Jim D will retire in part on some of My Tax Money!

Posted by thatcher

11:47 AM, Mar 28, 2008

McDermott is absolutely perfect for Seattle in the same way that Marion Berry is perfect for DC. and Barney Frank is perfect for Mass. He's going to be Representative for Life and he knows it.

Posted by joe

8:59 PM, Mar 28, 2008

To those who call McDermott a traitor because he cares about human beings in general - including those in other countries:
You help me understand why Adolf Hitler rose to power and was able to accomplish the evil he committed: there were enough German citizens with similar attitudes as yours that shared the "Germans First" superiority complex. Your goose-stepping attitude of "america first" at the expense of soldiers lives and the lives of citizens of other countries is what creates the potential for more terrorism.

Try applying the Golden Rule here (do unto others as you would have done unto you)

If we had a despotic dictator in this country such as Saddam Hussein (which I think Bush-Cheney-Rice are similar to him in many ways), would you accept another country such as China coming in and bombing the heck out of Wash D.C., removing that dictator, therefore "liberating us" with a result of 1 million Americans dead in the process?

Your Us and Them mentality is ignorant, callous, fearful, and small-minded.

Posted by joe

9:01 PM, Mar 28, 2008

To those who call McDermott a traitor because he cares about human beings in general - including those in other countries:
You help me understand why Adolf Hitler rose to power and was able to accomplish the evil he committed: there were enough German citizens with similar attitudes as yours that shared the "Germans First" superiority complex. Your goose-stepping attitude of "america first" at the expense of soldiers lives and the lives of citizens of other countries is what creates the potential for more terrorism.

Try applying the Golden Rule here (do unto others as you would have done unto you)

If we had a despotic dictator in this country such as Saddam Hussein (which I think Bush-Cheney-Rice are similar to him in many ways), would you accept another country such as China coming in and bombing the heck out of Wash D.C., removing that dictator, therefore "liberating us" with a result of 1 million Americans dead in the process?

Your Us and Them mentality is ignorant, callous, fearful, and small-minded.

Recent entries

Mar 28, 08 - 04:41 PM
McDermott doesn't remember suspected Saddam agent

Mar 28, 08 - 10:07 AM
What the top-two primary might look like

Mar 28, 08 - 07:24 AM
More on McDermott's trip to Iraq

Mar 26, 08 - 02:55 PM
Was McDermott's pre-war Iraq trip paid for by Saddam agents?

Mar 26, 08 - 12:36 PM
Cantwell could reconsider Clinton support, Murray holds steady

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