View Full Version : Bush Didn't Know About Port Deal Until It Was Done

02-22-2006, 06:17 PM
Bush Unaware Of Port Deal Until After Approval
White House: President only learned recently of handover to Arab firm

(PG: I guess this is proof that Bush is an empty suit. He's just the guy brought in to win the elections.)


WASHINGTON - President Bush was unaware of the pending sale of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports to a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates until the deal already had been approved by his administration, the White House said Wednesday.

Bush on Tuesday brushed aside objections by leaders in the Senate and House that the $6.8 billion sale could raise risks of terrorism at American ports. In a forceful defense of his administration’s earlier approval of the deal, he pledged to veto any bill from Congress that would block the sale of a British company to the Arab firm.

Bush faces a rebellion from leaders of his own party, as well as from Democrats, over the deal, which would put Dubai Ports in charge of major shipping operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

Republican Rep. Peter King and Sen. Charles Schumer, both of New York, said they will introduce emergency legislation to suspend the ports deal.
“I will fight harder than ever for this legislation, and if it is vetoed I will fight as hard as I can to override it,” said King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., also indicated Bush faced a serious struggle. "Frankly, I think we can override a veto. We have more than enough votes to do it," he said.

Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., expressed the anger of many lawmakers when she sent Bush a one-sentence letter that read:

Dear Mr. President:
In regards to selling American ports to the United Arab Emirates, not just NO — but HELL NO!

Myrick's office said she had been getting a lot of angry constituent phone calls and e-mail.

Firm’s connection to Bush appointee questioned
Sen. John Kerry sent a letter to Treasury Secretary John Snow, seeking full disclosure on the deal with DP World.

“As you know, the CSX rail corporation, where you previously served as chief executive officer, sold its port operations to DP in 2004,” wrote Kerry, D-Mass., in a letter. “Moreover, the president’s nominee for administrator of the Maritime Administration, David Sanborn, was DP’s head of operations for Latin America while this transaction was being reviewed ...”

While House spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed any connection between the deal and David Sanborn of Virginia, a former senior DP World executive whom the White House appointed last month to be the new administrator of the Maritime Administration of the Transportation Department. Sanborn worked as DP World’s director of operations for Europe and Latin America.

“My understanding is that he has assured us that he was not involved in the negotiations to purchase this British company,” McClellan added.

“In terms of David Sanborn, he was nominated to run the Maritime Administration because of his experience and expertise,” the spokesman said. Sanborn is a graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. He is an operations professional.

The Atlanta-based law firm Alston & Bird has advised Dubai Ports for several months as it worked for clearances for foreign investment in the United States, a source told NBC News. Now former Sen. Bob Dole, special counsel at the firm, has become part of the team working on the Dubai company's case, according to the source, who is close to Dole.

On Tuesday, the office of his wife, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., said she was "deeply concerned" about the Dubai deal.

Administration steps up pressure
The White House and supporters planned a renewed campaign this week to reassure the public the sale was safe. Senior officials were expected to explain at a press conference Wednesday what persuaded them to approve the deal, the first-ever sale involving U.S. port operations to a foreign, state-owned company.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Guiterrez, told The Associated Press in an interview: “They are not in charge of security. We are not turning over the security of our ports. When people make statements like that you get an instant emotional reaction.”

Treasury Secretary Snow said failure to complete the transaction would send the wrong message overseas.

“The implications of failing to approve this would be to tell the world that investments in the United States from certain parts of the world aren’t welcome,” Snow told reporters Wednesday following a speech in Connecticut to a fuel cell manufacturer. “That sends a terrible message.”

The sale — set to be completed in early March — would put Dubai Ports in charge of major shipping operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. “If there was any chance that this transaction would jeopardize the security of the United States, it would not go forward,” Bush said.

Defending his decision, Bush responded to a chorus of objections this week in Congress over potential security concerns in the sale of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.
Bush’s veto threat sought to quiet a political storm that has united Republican governors and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee with liberal Democrats, including New York Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Schumer.

To assuage concerns, the administration disclosed some assurances it negotiated with Dubai Ports. It required mandatory participation in U.S. security programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials; roughly 33 other port companies participate in these voluntarily. The Coast Guard also said it was nearly finished inspecting Dubai Ports’ facilities in the United States.

A senior Homeland Security official, Stewart Baker, said U.S. intelligence agencies were consulted “very early on to actually look at vulnerabilities and threats.”

Frist cites ‘serious questions’
Frist said Tuesday, before Bush’s comments, that he would introduce legislation to put the sale on hold if the White House did not delay the takeover. He said the deal raised “serious questions regarding the safety and security of our homeland.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., asked the president for a moratorium on the sale until it could be studied further. “We must not allow the possibility of compromising our national security due to lack of review or oversight by the federal government,” Hastert said.

Maryland’s Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, during a tour of Baltimore’s port, called the deal an “overly secretive process at the federal level.”