The Corner

Levin Defends Hagel, Calls GOP Disclosure Request ‘Unprecedented’

Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D., Mich.) on Friday blasted Republicans for their “unprecedented” request for financial-disclosure information from former senator and prospective defense secretary Chuck Hagel. 

Levin argued in a letter to Republicans on Friday that their request, outlined earlier this week in a letter signed by 26 GOP senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), gave him “some concern” because it “far exceed the standard practices of the Armed Services Committee and go far beyond the financial disclosure required of previous Secretaries of Defense.” 

Republicans are still seeking transcripts and other documents pertaining to the hundreds of speeches Hagel has given over the years, as well as information about the various groups that have paid him to speak, including financial information about those organizations. Hagel has already refused to provide most of the information Republicans are looking for. 

“There is nothing unprecedented about asking a potential secretary of defense which foreign groups he’s spoken to and how much they paid them,” a GOP Senate aide told National Review Online in response to Levin’s letter. “This sounds like another politician trying to cover for a vulnerability.”

Rumors abound on Capitol Hill that a full disclosure of Hagel’s professional ties would reveal financial relationships with a number of “unsavory” groups, including one purportedly called “Friends of Hamas.” The GOP aide said it was “noteworthy” that the White House has yet to deny the association. “Maybe it’s not true, but why not provide a list of groups he spoke to and remove all doubt?” the aide said. 

Levin abruptly cancelled a committee vote on Hagel’s nomination scheduled for Thursday, raising suspicions about the former senator’s prospects for confirmation. Republican committee aides say they have not received any word on when the vote might take place. Levin’s office told Talking Points Memo he plans to reschedule the vote “as soon as possible.”

Aides suspect Levin may have postponed the vote because several Democratic senators are getting cold feet, or to ensure that no “explosive details” are likely to turn up before proceeding. CBS News reports that Levin is simply giving Hagel time over the weekend to comply with the GOP request. However, his strongly-worded criticism of the Republican effort indicates that, even if Hagel does disclose additional information, it will fall well short of expectations.

If that’s the case, it will only embolden GOP opposition to the nomination. Foreign Policy writer Tom Ricks suggests Hagel’s chances of becoming the next secretary of defense are 50/50, “but declining by the day.” The GOP aide concurred with that assessment: “As any college-admissions officer will tell you, if someone doesn’t provide a full transcript it’s hard to give them admission.” 

Andrew StilesAndrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

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