With the commission evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, Lehman's position makes it all but certain that a majority will support a request to interview Bush and Clinton. "I don't think any commission should ever formally call a President to testify," Lehman said, "but I think it is very much in the country's interestand in both President Clinton's and President Bush's interestto meet directly with the commissioners." Responded White House press secretary Ari Fleischer: "The White House has been and will continue to cooperate with the commission and its work is important. I'm not going to speculate about an event that has not even taken place."
Investigation fever is building on Capitol Hill. Richard Shelby, former top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, who complained that federal agencies like the cia and countries like Saudi Arabia hampered the congressional probe into the Sept. 11 attacks, has a new angle. Term limits forced the Alabama Republican off the intelligence panel this year, but as new chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, he is setting up hearings aimed at terrorist funding. A Shelby aide says the hearings will have "the Executive Branch telling the committee what they've done with the Patriot Act," the post-9/11 law that expanded the government's antiterror capabilities. The aide says the hearings' focus will include the CIA and the governments of Saudi Arabia and Yemenand what they're doing to stanch the flow of terrorists' funds.