President-elect Barack Obama’s historical whistle stop tour to Washington has gotten under way after an enthusiastic send-off from Philadelphia, the cradle of American democracy.
A Senate chairman said Thursday that President Bush was not involved in the firings of U.S. attorneys last winter, and he therefore ruled illegal the president’s executive privilege claims protecting his chief of staff, Josh Bolten, and former adviser Karl Rove.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy directed Bolten, Rove, former White House political director Sara Taylor and her deputy, J. Scott Jennings, to comply “immediately” with their subpoenas for documents and information about the White House’s role in the firings of U.S. attorneys.
The ruling is a formality that clears the way for Leahy’s panel to vote on whether to advance contempt citations against the four to the full Senate.
The executive privilege claim “is surprising in light of the significant and uncontroverted evidence that the president had no involvement in these firings,” Leahy wrote in his ruling. “The president’s lack of involvement in these firings — by his own account and that of many others — calls into question any claim of executive privilege.”
What happens now is not clear. Leahy did not set a deadline for the subjects of the subpoenas to comply. He could bring the contempt citations before the committee, but there were no plans to do that, according to officials close to the panel.
The ruling was the latest salvo in a nearly yearlong controversy spawned by the firings of at least nine U.S. attorneys that ultimately cost former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales his job.
[Attorney General Michael] Mukasey did not rule out allowing a federal prosecutor to take the case of any contempt citations passed by Congress. House leaders also have filed a contempt citation in their chamber against Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, but no floor vote has been scheduled.
Leahy held off on his ruling while the committee moved Mukasey’s nomination, in part because committee officials felt there seemed little point in pursuing citations the White House seemed certain to block.
But Mukasey’s testimony and his promise to quit if Bush ignored his legal advice gives any citation — even the threat of one — more weight.
With Monica Goodling flapping her lips all over Capitol Hill, and Sara Taylor not zipping up her piehole in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee (despite a magical letter from White House counsel Fred Fielding that
excused her from gym for the rest of the school year asserted executive privilege), it isn’t surprising that Chimpy has said, “The hell with Laura and Barney, from now on, Harriet Miers is……..”
Original DVD cover.
It took just nine minutes into the question-and-answer session this morning for Sara M. Taylor to make her first “very-clear-letter” reference. The former White House political director, appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee about its ongoing investigation into the firings last year of U.S. attorneys, was asked whether she had ever spoken directly to President Bush about the dismissals.
“I have a very clear letter from Mr. Fielding,” Taylor began at 10:40 a.m., pointing to the letter from White House Counsel Fred Fielding that has “directed” Taylor not to testify about internal deliberations and external communications while she worked in the West Wing.
From the Baltimore Sun:
WASHINGTON // The White House told congressional leaders yesterday that President Bush was asserting executive privilege in response to the request for access to senior officials and documents about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year. The sweeping declaration said that turning over such evidence would harm the president’s ability to obtain candid advice from aides.
July 9 (Bloomberg) — President George W. Bush ordered two former aides not to answer questions from Congress about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.
The White House conveyed the directive in letters to lawyers for former Counsel Harriet Miers and Sara Taylor, the ex-White House political director. Taylor is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in two days. White House Counsel Fred Fielding, Miers’s successor, also wrote to House and Senate lawmakers leading the congressional inquiry.
“The president feels compelled to assert executive privilege with respect to the testimony sought,” said Fielding’s letter to the lawmakers. He said he was informing attorneys for the two former aides “of his direction to Ms. Taylor and Mrs. Miers not to provide this testimony.”