Is Brownie still doing a "heck of a job"?

The former FEMA director says he'll tell all unless the president tells him not to -- and pays for the attorney he'll need to defend himself.

Published February 9, 2006 5:12PM (EST)

It's not blackmail, exactly, but former FEMA Director Michael Brown sure seems to be putting the screws to the White House that praised him, then dumped him, for his role in the Hurricane Katrina fiasco.

As Congress complains about White House stonewalling on Katrina, Brown's lawyer has written a letter to White House counsel Harriet Miers in which he says this his client is prepared to go public with "all facts" about the federal government's response to the hurricane unless he receives "specific direction otherwise from the president, including an assurance the president will provide a legal defense to Mr. Brown if he refuses to testify as to these matters."

Brown is set to testify before the Senate Friday, and his lawyer tells the Associated Press that he's stuck "between a rock and a hard place" -- the rock being the administration's desire to keep Katrina matters secret, the hard place being Congress' authority to conduct oversight and learn the truth.

"Mr. Brown is going to testify before Congress," says attorney Andrew Lester. "If he receives no guidance to the contrary, we'll do as any citizen should do -- and that is to answer all questions fully, completely and accurately."

Lester's letter asked the White House for a response by Wednesday afternoon. So far, he says, he hasn't gotten one.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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