Under one proposal, Rice’s testimony would be released to the public shortly after her appearance, but it was not immediately clear whether this would satisfy members of the bipartisan commission or quell Democrats’ demands to hear openly from the key aide to President Bush.
Members of the independent panel investigating the hijacked airliner attacks have insisted that Rice give public testimony under oath, particularly in the wake of last week’s bombshell charges by former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke that Bush did not move quickly enough against the al Qaeda threat.
The White House is refusing to let Rice testify publicly based on a long-standing position that presidential advisers who have not been confirmed by the U.S. Senate cannot give public testimony.
“Various options are being discussed,” said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Some Republican supporters of Bush feel the White House strategy is flawed in the face of a potentially damaging election-year controversy that has allowed Democrats to portray Rice as willing to talk to the news media at every opportunity but unwilling to testify under oath.
“Nothing would be better, from my point of view, than to be able to testify. I would really like to do that. But there’s an important principle involved here,” Rice told CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday night.
As a way to try to limit the political damage, the Bush administration is working with the commission in search of a compromise, officials said.
Rice has asked to appear before the commission privately to give her response to some of the charges leveled by Clarke, who has been the subject of a fierce White House attempt to discredit him and his book, “Against All Enemies.”
One option under consideration is to have Rice’s private testimony quickly be made public, officials said. The commission is to meet on Tuesday in what will be its first collective opportunity to discuss Rice’s request for another private session. Rice testified for about four hours Feb. 7 and she did not do it under oath, officials said.
The commission’s Republican chairman, former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, said on Sunday his panel would continue to press for Rice to appear publicly and would ask to place her under oath.