Speaker Nancy Pelosi struck a discordant chord with the White House on Wednesday, claiming a "difference of opinion" with the administration's approach to litigating warrantless wiretapping lawsuits as well as the president's hesitance to investigate the Bush years.
Appearing on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Pelosi repeatedly praised Barack Obama for a fresh style of governance, saying on multiple occasions that she had the utmost confidence in his political agenda. But on a few contentious issues, there was noticeable distance between her and the White House.
The daylight was most apparent on the issue of immunizing public officials from lawsuits over their participation in the government's warrantless wiretapping program. The Obama Justice Department wants these suits tossed, citing a need to protect "state secrets" and an amendment to the Patriot Act that bars disclosure of such intelligence information unless it is done willfully.
Pelosi, meanwhile, noted that the law used to justify the administration's position was due to lapse, or "sunset," later this year, and indicated that Congress may not renew it.
"The amendments to the Patriot Act, the sunset-ed part of it, will expire by December of this year, so we will have an opportunity to address this in the consideration of the Patriot Act, because sovereign immunity... it shouldn't be that way," said Pelosi. "And my credentials going into the Speaker's office has been... trying to protect the civil liberties of the American people. So I know the White House wants to protect the prerogatives of the presidency, the executive branch; we -- the legislative branch -- we all have a responsibility to the constitution."
"You cannot," she added, "say that your rights have not been violated if we don't disclose the information, but it's okay for us to find it out."
Notably, Pelosi also suggested that the Justice Department's position on this issue may change in the future. "[W]hat has been said already is not necessarily the last word from the administration," she said.
Differences of opinion between the White House and the Speaker's office are traditionally rare when the two hail from the same political party. And Pelosi couched her remarks by noting her "trust" in Obama on this front. Later in the interview, however, she found herself once again at odds with the president. Asked about pursuing a so-called "truth commission" to investigate the Bush years -- a concept the administration has largely refused to discuss -- the Speaker acknowledged "a little bit of difference of opinion between the White House and the Congress."
"The White House wants to go forward," she said, "and that's appropriate for them. We believe that we have to take a look at what happened.... There has to be a way for the truth be known (a) and (b) acted upon, if people are engaged in illegal activity. And hopefully we'll learn a great deal more from the inspectors general when they have their reports in June on this subject."
"I have," she added once more, "confidence in Barack Obama, constitutional lawyer."
Lest the wrong impression be left, Pelosi did spend much of the interview championing the president and hammering his critics. In particular, she offered a biting rebuke to the charges leveled by Sen. James Inhofe that Obama's plans to reform the defense budget (and add four percent in expenditures) somehow constituted a "cut."
"I think it's desperation," she said. "I really do think it's desperation to a certain extent that a Senator would criticize the president while he, the senator, is on foreign soil, [it] appears to be he was at a military base and saying the president is gutting the military budget and that others here were criticizing the president when he was overseas on a foreign policy issue. The budget, that's fair game, that's domestic, and we can criticize at home on that. But resorting to levels of desperation that I think show the bankruptcy of their ideas: if these weapons systems are so great, they should be able to defend them on their merit."
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