From CNN: A powerhouse Republican lobbying firm with close ties to the White House has begun a public campaign to undermine the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, CNN has confirmed.
A report by the U.S. intelligence community questions Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's ability to govern.
This comes as President Bush is publicly taking great pains to reiterate his support for the embattled Iraqi leader.
Al-Maliki's government has come under sharp criticism and scrutiny from Washington lawmakers and officials, as reflected in Thursday's National Intelligence Estimate.
A senior Bush administration official told CNN the White House is aware of the lobbying campaign by Barbour Griffith & Rogers because the firm is "blasting e-mails all over town" criticizing al-Maliki and promoting the firm's client, former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, as an alternative to al-Maliki.
Asked why allies of the president would take a position that might embarrass the administration, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Friday "far be it from me to judge why people sign contracts for whatever reason. I'm sure they have a desire to help out their client."
"But they're former administration officials," Johndroe said. "Administration policy remains unchanged. There is a sovereign, elected government with Prime Minister Maliki and the Presidency Council."
Asked earlier why Republican lobbyists would want to undercut the administration's public statements, Johndroe said, "Maybe it's a really good contract."