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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lake Quits As Clinton's CIA Chief Nominee

WASHINGTON -- Anthony Lake has suddenly withdrawn as U.S. President Bill Clinton's nominee to be CIA director, saying that continued Republican opposition led him to conclude over the weekend that there was no end in sight for his confirmation process.


In an impassioned, 2 1/2-page letter to the president Monday, Lake said: "Washington has gone haywire'' in partisanship and called the process he had gone through "nasty and brutish without being short.''


The former national security adviser asserted he had sufficient votes for Senate confirmation but said he could no longer tolerate postponements that were hurting the CIA and National Security Council staff.


Lake's nomination was opposed from the start by Republicans led by Senator Richard Shelby, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Shelby twice delayed the start of Lake's confirmation hearings, while raising questions over Lake's foreign policy role in Clinton's first term, personal stock investments and management ability.


Lake's letter cited three new developments that he said would create "endless delay'': Shelby's demand for broader dissemination to senators of files of Lake's FBI background investigation; the committee Republicans' desire to question Lake's NSC staff members about meetings with Democratic campaign contributors; and a newspaper report alleging possible Democratic Party contacts with the CIA regarding a Lebanese-American campaign donor who met an NSC aide and the president.


In a 20-minute meeting with Clinton in the White House residence Monday, Lake did not give the president a chance to talk him out of withdrawing, according to sources close to Lake. They said Lake told the president that he was "not going to spend the next few months being a dancing bear in a political circus.''


White House press secretary Mike McCurry said Monday night that the president told Lake: "I want you to stay and fight, but I'll respect your personal judgment. What's happened to you is outrageous.'' Clinton said he was willing to "fight for Lake for a year'' if that was what it took to get him confirmed, McCurry said.


White House staff members had grown concerned that Lake had shown physical signs of the pressure. "We had become worried that he might burst with anger,'' one colleague said Monday. "If Shelby wants to claim this as a victory, it shows how puny-minded this town has become,'' he added.


Shelby issued a brief statement, saying: "This nomination has been fraught with controversy from the beginning. Although I found Mr. Lake to be intelligent and amicable, I continued to have strong reservations about his fitness to be the director of central intelligence. I wish Mr. Lake well.''


Senator Bob Kerrey, ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, laid blame for the withdrawal on both the "unfair treatment'' of Lake by the committee and Lake's own failure as head of the NSC staff to establish an effective procedure for subordinates reporting to him requests for help from political fund-raisers and donors.


Republican criticism of Lake has increasingly focused on Lake's admitted lack of knowledge of an FBI briefing given in June to two of his own NSC staff members about alleged Chinese efforts to influence congressional elections.