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Inside Politics

Rumsfeld faces angry Congress

Defense secretary prepares for grilling by panels


VIDEO
CNN's Ed Henry on Rumsfeld's coming testimony.

Sen. Tom Harkin calls for Rumsfeld's resignation.

Rep. Charles Rangel says he's preparing articles of impeachment against Rumsfeld.
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start quoteFor the good of our country, the safety of our troops, and our image around the globe, Secretary Rumsfeld should resign.end quote
-- Sen. Tom Harkin
start quoteThey want to win the White House more than they want to win the war, and our enemies know it.end quote
-- Rep. Tom DeLay
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, under fire for his handling of reports about the U.S. military abusing some Iraqi captives, faces an angry Congress and what promises to be a tough grilling when he testifies Friday about the furor.

Rumsfeld is scheduled to appear first before the Senate Armed Services Committee, followed by an afternoon appearance before the House Armed Services Committee.

His testimony comes at a time when some Democratic lawmakers have called for his resignation and many Republican lawmakers have expressed anger with the Pentagon leadership over the controversy.

Even the White House leaked out word that President Bush was "not satisfied" with how Rumsfeld has handled the matter. Bush, however, said Thursday that Rumsfeld "will stay in my Cabinet."

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum say the photographs of prisoners being abused at the hands of their U.S. captors have undercut U.S. efforts to win over the Iraqi population. U.S. forces have occupied Iraq for a year since a U.S.-led invasion toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein.

"He's going to be grilled pretty good about what happened, how it happened and how far up the chain it looks like it went," said Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

Rumsfeld is due to appear before the open session of the Senate committee at 11:45 a.m. for a hearing that is scheduled to last two hours.

After the open session, Rumsfeld will head to a secure room on Capitol Hill for a private session with the full Senate.

The House session is scheduled to start at 3 p.m.

Rumsfeld will be accompanied at each session by Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and several top officials of the Army.

Sources said Rumsfeld will bring a poster-sized blowup of a January 16 press release announcing an investigation of "reported incidents of detainee abuse" in Iraq. (See releaseexternal link)

Rumsfeld will apparently use that prop to underscore his assertion that the U.S. Central Command had disclosed the reported abuse early on.

And according to a senior administration official, Rumsfeld will announce at his testimony plans for an independent panel to review how the Pentagon handled the abuse investigation.

On Thursday, Rumsfeld canceled a speech in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to spend the day preparing for his testimony.

Among the questions lawmakers say they want answered:

  • Were enlisted personnel acting on their own, or carrying out orders from higher-ups?
  • What role did private contractors play at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad?
  • Why didn't Rumsfeld tell lawmakers about the controversy last week when he briefed them hours before CBS first aired the graphic abuse photos?
  • "The secretary testified without even indicating to the members of the Senate that this story existed, about to be disclosed to the American people. That is unacceptable," said Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois.

    Criticism of Rumsfeld grew stronger throughout the week.

    Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa called on Rumsfeld to resign Thursday as did House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. Others have strongly hinted that he do so.

    "For the good of our country, the safety of our troops, and our image around the globe, Secretary Rumsfeld should resign. If he does not resign forthwith, the president should fire him," Harkin said in a written statement.

    Without mentioning Rumsfeld by name, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, suggested on Wednesday that the defense secretary should go.

    "It is time for a little grace and dignity here," Biden said. "It is time for someone to step forward and take a hit for the team. It is time for us to demonstrate that this is in fact a consequential undertaking."

    But Thursday, Biden appeared to soften his comments, calling the speculation about Rumsfeld's future "a bit of a sideshow."

    Biden told reporters it is up to Bush to decide whether Rumsfeld stays.

    "We should not focus on the issue of whose scalp should be delivered. We should be talking about what we are going to do quickly, dramatically and graphically about the circumstance we find ourselves in at this moment," Biden said.

    But Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York delivered a speech on the House floor saying that Rumsfeld should be impeached if he does not resign.

    "I think America and the world wants us to show the outrage not by rhetoric, but by taking action," Rangel said.

    The Constitution allows for impeachment of "all civil officers of the United States" on the grounds of "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors." In 1876, Secretary of War William Belknap was impeached for bribery and he resigned from office.

    No Republican has yet to call for Rumsfeld to resign, but several GOP lawmakers have used sharp words to describe their anger and disappointment in the defense secretary.

    Earlier this week, for example, Sen. John McCain of Arizona blasted Rumsfeld for what he described as "a pattern on the part of the Defense Department of not keeping the Congress informed on a variety of issues."

    And Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine lamented what she called a "failure of leadership."

    Some Republicans, however, said they believe Democrats are using this scandal to score political points.

    "They want to win the White House more than they want to win the war, and our enemies know it," charged House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas.

    Rumsfeld met Thursday morning with four Republican members of the Senate Armed Service Committee.

    One of those members, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, told CNN that Rumsfeld was upbeat and confident that he can deal with Friday's testimony.

    CNN's John King, Jamie McIntyre, Ted Barrett, Karla Crosswhite-Chigbue and Sean Loughlin contributed to this report.


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