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Lake's withdrawal letter to President Clinton

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Lake Drops Out

CIA nominee "frustrated" by process with "no end in sight"


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 17) -- Former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake asked President Bill Clinton Monday to withdraw his nomination as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The president said he would honor the request, with regret.

Following a "heart-to-heart" discussion between himself and Clinton yesterday, Lake drafted a letter explaining his frustration at the prospect of a forever-delayed Senate vote.

In the letter Lake calls his nomination process "nasty and brutish," and writes, "I have gone through the past three months and more with patience and, I hope, dignity, but I have lost the former and could lose the latter as this political circus continues indefinitely."

Concluding that Washington has gone "haywire" with partisanship, Lake said, "It is time that senior officials have more time to concentrate on dealing with very real foreign challenges rather than with the domestic wounds that Washington is inflicting on itself."

Lake explained that he is pulling out to minimize the damage done to the CIA and National Security Council -- organizations that he says have already been hurt "in ways I can no longer tolerate."

Insisting that he is not afraid of a further fight, Lake chastised those in Washington who would toy with the nomination process. "This is not a game...It is about the future of the Central Intelligence Agency."

"The longer this goes on the worse the damage. The controversy and its effects could linger on after my confirmation. The men and women of the CIA deserve better than this," Lake said.

Lake also vigorously defended his former staff at the NSC, saying, "The process is also impugning through a new form of guilt by association the names of NSC staff members who have done nothing wrong."

White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said that though the president supports Lake and understands "the personal toll" the process has taken on him, that Clinton was "angry" and almost "despondent" at the way this nomination has gone.

"It is clear that what we were gonna face was interminable delay, the likelihood of damage to professional, career people who work at the NSC, the likelihood that Tony would have paid an extremely heavy human price for waging a fight that in the end he didn't want to wage," McCurry said.

Lake was nominated to replace John Deutch, who left the helm of the CIA last year after the president's re-election.

Confirmation hearings were scheduled to wrap up this week. Lake withstood hostile GOP questioning last week as he faced criticism over why he kept secret from Congress the administration's policy of allowing Iran to ship arms to Bosnia.

Senators also wanted to know why Lake didn't know more about the briefing that FBI agents gave National Security Council staff regarding possible attempts by China to give money to congressional campaigns.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer contributed to this report.

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