EXCLUSIVE: Then-Governor Jeanne Shaheen Was ‘AWOL’ On 9/11

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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Democratic New Hampshire senator and then-governor Jeanne Shaheen did not tell her Republican second-in-command in advance that she was out of state on 9/11, creating a situation where the lawmaker charged with fulfilling her duties in a crisis did not know who was in control of the East Coast state for hours, The Daily Caller has exclusively learned.

Shaheen as governor did not notify the Republican president of the Senate, who was next in line to run the state if the governor was absent, that she had left to go to a political event in Washington, D.C. Shaheen’s absence, cell phone troubles, and a legal challenge to her authority by the head of the state’s National Guard created “chaos” at the State House in Concord.

Shaheen said in a 2011 speech that she was in D.C. for a National Governors Association education meeting on September 11 and saw smoke at the Pentagon from her hotel window. National Governors Association records do not show any Winter or Summer meetings for governors scheduled in Sept. 2001, and records of the education event were not found as of press time. Shaheen announced her exploratory committee for a 2002 Senate run on Aug. 23, 2001, less than three weeks before 9/11.

A retrospective New Hampshire National Guard statement said that National Guard Adjutant General Major Gen. John Blair was on a conference call with Shaheen on the morning of Sept. 11, and that the state’s transportation commissioner Carol Murray notified Shaheen that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

But the conference call, which included then-Senate President Arthur Klemm and the state’s attorney general, was actually held after the attack because “we were looking for her [Shaheen],” a senior State House staffer at the time told TheDC. The conference call only created confusion.

“Shaheen as commander in chief of the National Guard made an order. The adjutant general questioned whether she had the authority” because she was out of the state, the senior staffer said. “The attorney general told the adjutant general that she did.”

The staffer said that it was understood that “Arthur [Klemm] was unaware that [Shaheen] was out of the state” on the morning of the attack and that there were “questions raised” as to why she was out of the state, on official business or for fundraising.

“The conference call left it unclear who was in control. It was unclear who was responsible to act as governor,” the staffer said. “The state house legislative staff was unaware that she was in Washington. There was a period of time where the cell phone service was up and down. It wasn’t clear that Senator Shaheen was in authority to make orders or sufficiently able to maintain control of the state when she was down there.”

“It was very difficult for staff to feel that we could advise [Klemm] because we didn’t know all of the facts or what the governor’s intentions were. I didn’t feel that it had been resolved until a phone call [later in the day] saying that the governor was back in the state,” the staffer said.

Top state lawmakers remembered a constitutional crisis that day at the New Hampshire State House in Concord.

“In the event of the death, resignation, removal from office, failure to qualify, physical or mental incapacity, absence from the state, or other incapacity of the governor, the president of the senate, for the time being, shall act as governor until the vacancy is filled or the incapacity is removed,” according to the New Hampshire Constitution.

“Arthur Klemm was president of the Senate. I was in my third year in the Senate and I was deputy majority leader,” former state senator and Klemm’s successor as President of the Senate Tom Eaton told TheDC. “I would find out quite often that [Shaheen] was out of the state and never told Klemm. She just did not want him to know. She didn’t want anybody to know she was gone fundraising or things like that.”

“I was on my way to Concord when I heard about the planes crashing,” Eaton continued. “I got to the State House. There was lots of commotion, people not knowing what was going on. I remember Arthur wanting to know where the governor was to find out what we were doing, and he was getting stonewalled by her staff. There was a lot of stonewalling.”

“I remember Arthur being frustrated that he couldn’t get to talk to her and him not knowing where she was, sitting around watching the replays,” Eaton said. “Judy Reardon was her chief of staff, and she was just putting them off basically. Arthur did not know that she was gone…It was chaos basically.”

“I remember talking to the Senate president,” former State Senate Majority Leader Gary Francouer told TheDC. “There were problems. The Senate president told me at the time that they couldn’t get a hold of her. Others hadn’t heard from her. It was a few hours before she surfaced with even a call in.”

“When governors leave the state they always notify the senate president,” Francouer said. “[The Shaheen administration’s] remark around that time was we’ve got cell phones so we don’t need to do that anymore. As the Boston bombings showed, the cell phone service gets shut down in crisis situations. Cell phones become useless, especially back then.”

“It was clear to everyone that she was planning to run for U.S. Senate in another 14 months and no doubt was already busy raising funds around the country,” former New Hampshire U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey told TheDC.

“If in fact the governor was out of state and had not properly notified the state senate president, she is guilty in a dereliction of duty in that she broke the chain of command,” Humphrey said. “These are very serious matters and they had very serious consequences in that by all accounts senior state officials were thrown into a state of confusion. The chain of command had a gap in those critical moments. I would call it a case of AWOL.”

Shaheen’s 2014 U.S. Senate re-election campaign and Shaheen’s senior counsel Judy Reardon did not return requests for comment.

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