No Comment — March 11, 2008, 8:43 am

Executive Privilege on the Firing Line

Former White House counsel Harriet Miers and chief of staff Joshua Bolten have been sued by the House of Representatives, which now seeks to enforce its subpoenas through a special legal action in the federal district court in Washington. The New York Times’s Neil Lewis describes the suit in these terms:

The confrontation between the White House and Congressional Democrats escalated on Monday as the House Judiciary Committee asked a federal judge to force Harriet E. Miers, former White House counsel, and Joshua B. Bolten, White House chief of staff, to provide information about the dismissals of federal prosecutors in 2007.

Citing legal guidance from the White House, Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten have refused to comply with Congressional subpoenas seeking information and documents involving the firings. The suit before Judge John D. Bates of Federal District Court in Washington says neither Ms. Miers nor Mr. Bolten may avoid the subpoenas by citing executive privilege, the doctrine that allows advisers’ advice to the president to remain confidential.

The entire affair surrounding Miers and Bolten goes to the U.S. attorneys scandal, and to the White House’s refusal to cooperate with any Congressional oversight or investigation into the affair. Miers, who now practices with a Dallas law firm, was “instructed” (in the words of Attorney General Mukasey’s letter to Congress) not to comply with the Congressional subpoena. Bolten was subpoenaed as the White House chief of staff and thus as custodian of its records; he was asked to produce internal communications, including emails, that relate to the firing decision. Although only a handful of emails were produced, a number of them put President Bush’s then-senior political advisor, Karl Rove, smack in the middle of the decisions to fire the U.S. attorneys, and put partisan political issues at the top of his agenda. In one extremely revealing notation, Rove marks a memo for a discussion with Miers about Milwaukee U.S. attorney Steven Biskupic. (Go to page 30 of the linked House Report.) The memo complains that Biskupic was “not doing enough” to prosecute “voter fraud” cases in support of a G.O.P. election plan. In fact Biskupic’s name appeared on a list of U.S. attorneys to be fired, and subsequently disappeared after he brought a politically-motivated prosecution tailored to run parallel to an election contest.

A number of other matters raise even more interest. Topping the list right now is the dismissal of U.S. attorney David Iglesias in Albuquerque after he declined requests from two members of New Mexico’s Congressional delegation that he indict a Democratic elected official in the weeks just before the 2006 midterm election. The Iglesias matter also involves interventions and dealings by Rove and President Bush himself.

In its complaint, the House of Representatives states that Executive Privilege cannot be invoked to preclude Miers’s appearance altogether, but only with respect to specific questions which implicate Executive Privilege issues. A copy of the complaint is attached here. It asks the Court to rule on contests over the privilege. The Administration’s use of Executive Privilege is unprecedented and not based on any prior authority. Historically, privilege issues have been resolved on a question-by-question basis. The tactical use of Executive Privilege in this case is clearly designed to obstruct Congress’s inquiry into the U.S. attorney’s matter altogether.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

No Comment March 28, 2014, 12:32 pm

Scott Horton Debates John Rizzo on Democracy Now!

On CIA secrecy, torture, and war-making powers

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

October 2014

Cassandra Among the
Creeps

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

PBS Self-Destructs

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Monkey Did It

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
 
Rebecca Solnit on silencing women, a Marine commander returns to Iraq, the decline of PBS, and more
Article
Cassandra Among the Creeps·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On silencing women
“The old framework of feminine mendacity and murky-mindedness is still routinely trotted out, and we should learn to recognize it for what it is.”
Photograph © Sallie Dean Shatz
Post
Ending College Sexual Assault·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“This is not a fable about a young woman whose dreams were dashed by a sexual predator. Maya’s narrative is one of institutional failure at a school desperately trying to adapt.”
Photograph © AP/Josh Reynolds
Post
 
"Clothes are a bit like eating: you have to dress yourself. You have to eat, and even if you eat pizza all day long, that’s still a choice."
Photograph © G Powell
Article
“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Iraq has every disease there is; its mind is deranged with too many voices, its organs corrupted, its limbs only long enough to tear at its own body.”
Photograph by Benjamin Busch

Abortions per 1,000 live births in New York City:

852

Researchers discovered an “Obama effect”: African Americans’ performance on a verbal test improved, to equal that of white Americans, immediately after Obama’s nomination and his election.

“All I saw,” said a 12-year-old neighbor of visits to the man’s house, “was just cats in little diapers.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today