WASHINGTON — Does House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi know some dark secrets about GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich?
Twice, she offered tantalizing hints that she does. And then said she doesn't.
Gingrich said Wednesday that the House Democratic leader should come out with it or shut up.
The latest back-and-forth in the contest of two former House speakers came in a CNN interview Tuesday night, when host John King suggested to Pelosi that she "could come back here next January or next February with a President Gingrich?"
"Let me just say this. That will never happen," Pelosi said.
When King asked, "Why are you so sure?" Pelosi responded: "There's something I know. The Republicans, if they choose to nominate him, that's their prerogative. I don't even think that's going to happen."
On Wednesday, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said: "The 'something' leader Pelosi knows is that Newt Gingrich will not be president of the United States. She made that clear last night."
Hammill's statement, however, acknowledged that this wasn't the first time that Pelosi hinted that she knows something about Gingrich that she hasn't revealed.
In December, Pelosi reminded an interviewer that she served on the ethics panel that investigated Gingrich's use of tax-exempt organizations. That case ended with a reprimand by the House and a $300,000 penalty against the then-speaker for misleading the committee and prolonging its investigation.
Pelosi said last month: "One of these days we'll have a conversation about Newt Gingrich. I know a lot about him. I served on the investigative committee that investigated him, four of us locked in a room in an undisclosed location for a year. A thousand pages of his stuff."
Hammill repeated the explanation provided after those comments.
"Leader Pelosi previously made a reference to the extensive amount of information that is in the public record, including the comprehensive committee report with which the public may not be fully aware," the spokesman said.
Gingrich said Wednesday that Pelosi should come out with her information or stop talking.
"Look, I think if she knows something she ought to say it. If she doesn't know something she ought to quit saying it. But this is baloney. I don't think any Republican is going to be threatened by Nancy Pelosi. Frankly, I'd rather have her threaten me than endorse me. So I feel pretty good about it. If she has something, bring it out," he said.
Mitt Romney, Gingrich's chief rival for the GOP presidential nomination, has asked that all records from Gingrich's ethics investigation be released. In January 1997, when the case ended, the committee did make public its final report as well as exhibits — which amounted to a comprehensive account of the committee's findings.
The chairman of the ethics committee during the Gingrich investigation, former Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson, said the committee traditionally does not publicly release investigative documents.