Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair announced today that Ambassador Charles W. Freeman Jr. has requested that his selection to be Chairman of the National Intelligence Council not proceed. Director Blair accepted Ambassador Freeman's decision with regret. Freeman released a statement asserting that the Israel Lobby had distorted his record. Democratic Representative Steve Israel said that he spoke of his concerns last week to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and later sent him materials about the former ambassador's statements and associations. Israel, a member of the House Appropriations Committee's Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, said in a phone interview, "As I was leaving the White House this afternoon, they told me of Blair's statement" of Freeman's withdrawal. "I think Blair's defense of Freeman was indefensible, and people in the White House realized that."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly criticized Freeman's ties to China. A well-placed Democratic source said Pelosi, a strong supporter of the Chinese human rights movement, was incensed about public remarks that Freeman once made that seemed to justify the violent 1989 Chinese government crackdown on democracy protestors at Tiananmen Square. The source, who asked not to be identified, said Pelosi thought Freeman's views were "indefensible" and complained directly to President Obama about his selection. Senator Charles Schumer said, "I repeatedly urged the White House to reject him, and I am glad they did the right thing." Joshua Block, a spokesman for AIPAC, said Tuesday that his organization had not taken a formal position on Mr. Freeman's selection and had not lobbied Congress members to oppose it. The Wall Street Journal says Democrats pressured the White House to withdraw Freeman's nomination.
Jake Tapper of ABC says, "What's perplexing about this that so much of what critics objected to were Freeman's statements, in full context. His record was picked apart like that of any other controversial nominee -- sometimes fairly, sometimes not so -- but only in Freeman's case does the nominee make an allegation that a foreign power was lurking nefariously somehow behind it all."