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Pelosi looks past Hastings for intelligence committee post

From Andrea Koppel
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Fresh from a defeat in her bid to appoint a controversial congressman as House majority leader, incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday she will not appoint Rep. Alcee Hastings to head the House intelligence committee.

Hastings, elected to his seventh term from Florida earlier this month, was considered next in line for the post when the new Democratically controlled Congress convenes in January.

Pelosi has said she would not consider the committee's ranking Democrat, Jane Harman of California.

Tuesday's decision came despite Hastings pleading with colleagues to ignore the "sometimes venomous attacks" stemming from a bribery investigation in the 1980s.

Hastings, then a federal judge, was acquitted of the criminal charges that resulted from the probe, but he was later impeached and removed from the bench by Congress.

It also came fewer than two weeks after Pelosi's colleagues tapped her as the first female House speaker, then quickly snubbed her in her bid to propel longtime ally Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania to the majority leader post. (Full story)

Murtha, also the subject of a federal bribery investigation in the 1980s (he was never charged), lost to Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland for the post in a vote by the party caucus.

Hoyer was elected after a watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, blasted Murtha as one of the most corrupt members of Congress and accused Pelosi of paying only lip service to ethics reform.

In beating the GOP in the November 7 elections, Democrats attacked what they called a Republican "culture of corruption."

Critics of Hastings, appointed by President Jimmy Carter 1979 as the first black federal judge in Florida, are wary of his alleged involvement in a bribery scandal in 1981.

According to the Miami Herald, Hastings and Washington lawyer William Borders were accused of soliciting a $150,000 bribe in exchange for lenient sentences for two men convicted on racketeering charges.

Hastings was acquitted of the charges, but a panel of federal judges later recommended that he be impeached, and the House obliged in 1988 by a vote of 413-3, the Herald reported.

The Senate removed him from office a year later, but he was not barred from holding office again. Hastings was elected to Congress in 1992.

Pelosi told Hastings of her decision Tuesday afternoon at the Capitol, two Democratic sources said. There was no indication of who will lead the intelligence committee, which oversees U.S. spy agencies.

"Alcee Hastings has always placed national security as his highest priority," Pelosi said in a written statement Tuesday afternoon. "He has served our country well, and I have full confidence that he will continue to do so."

Last week, Hastings asked his colleagues to ignore the "noise" and "sometimes venomous attacks" surrounding his prospective appointment.

He further said that his 1989 impeachment was politically driven and shouldn't have happened, because he was acquitted by a jury.

Democrats, fearing more attacks on their promise to overthrow the "culture of corruption," urged Pelosi to leave Harman in place or pick the committee's third-ranking Democrat, Rep. Sylvester Reyes of Texas.

After meeting with Pelosi, Hastings issued a statement saying he would support Pelosi's choice to lead the committee.

"Our nation's national security is far more important than my professional security," he said, adding that he would seek "better and bigger opportunities" when the new Congress convenes.

"Sorry, haters, God is not finished with me yet," his statement said.

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