(JTA) — Congressional Democrats defended their meetings with Richard Goldstone and denied any J Street role in arranging the sit-downs with the author of a controversial report on the 2009 Gaza War.
Goldstone and two senior aides to top Democrats who had knowledge of the meetings denied J Street's involvement. The denials followed a Washington Times report last week asserting that J Street facilitated the meetings.
An aide to Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, told JTA that Mort Halperin -- the director of the Open Society Institute who is also listed as one of five J Street directors on its tax returns -- directly appealed to Berman as a friend and not representing any group.
"Mort called Howard as a friend of 35 years asking him to take a meeting," said the Berman aide, speaking on background. "It wasn't set up through J Street. Mr. Berman was happy to do it."
Goldstone had 10 or 12 meetings on Capitol Hill. The meeting with Berman took place two weeks after he helped secure passage of a congressional resolution condemning Goldstone's report.
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