Friday, February 15, 2008

Contempt citations issued for Bush aides

Well, it finally happened: the House of Representatives voted yesterday to hold former White House legal counsel, Harriet Miers, and White House Chief of Staff, Josh Bolten, in contempt of congress for their refusal to answer subpoenas. The subpoenas were originally issued in an attempt to get to the bottom of the firings in 2006-2007 of US attorneys. Both Miers and Bolton cited executive privilege in declining the summons.

The vote in the House yesterday was 223 in favor and 32 against. Most of the Republicans, knowing they could not win the vote, stormed out in protest, following their leader, well-known inebriate, John Boehner (Ohio).

This is the first time in 25 years that Congress has voted on a contempt citation. Contempt of Congress is a felony. In short, this is a Big DealTM.

The White House reaction was typically smarmy and pompous. Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, said: "This action is unprecedented, and it is outrageous. It is astonishing and deeply troubling that after months of delay on passing a bill that will help our intelligence professionals monitor foreign terrorists who want to kill Americans, the House has instead turned its attention to the silly, pointless, and unjust act of approving these contempt resolutions."

Well, sorry, Dana. But you see, a subpoena is a subpoena. I grant that I am not an objective observer, but doesn't it make sense that Congress enforce its subpoenas? Would Congress not be setting a dangerous and destabilizing precedent if it did not pursue this citation? (Besides, outrage from a person with Dana Perino' a bit much. She once admitted on NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" show that she didn't know about the Cuban Missile Crisis. "It has to do with Cuba and missiles, I'm pretty sure," she said.)

"It has to do with Cuba and missiles, I'm pretty sure."
But, of course, White House outrage is hollow. The administration knows that they have no legal or ethical ground to stand on here. It's just for show, like the chest-thumping of a demented primate. The game now is to stall and run out the clock.

Normally, when a contempt citation is issued, the Justice Department appoints a US attorney to pursue the matter. But Attorney General Mukasey has already indicated that he will not do so. The House of Representatives will respond with a legal demand, put forth by the House General Counsel. In short, we're going to court.

Not gonna do it. Sue me!
The process will be long and drawn out and may end up before the Supreme Court. But, of course, progress may be so slow that the Bush junta's term may expire before anything is decided. That's what they're counting on.

If the case does reach the Supreme Court, precedent weighs heavily against the administration. In the 1974 case, US vs. Nixon, the Court ruled 9-0 that executive privilege is not absolute and cannot be used to cover up potential wrong-doing. (This was the famous battle for the Watergate tapes.)

But the administration's firewall, if everything else goes wrong, is the configuration of today's Supreme Court, with its Samuel Alito/Clarence Thomas/Antonin Scalia/John Roberts bloc of "unitary executive" advocates.

The fix is in.
This on-going constitutional crisis is inexorably creeping toward its conclusion. But the administration has anticipated this day and has built up a series of legal and procedural defenses. It is sadly ironic that the one area in which Cheney and the powers-behind-the-throne have shown competence (since we all know Junior doesn't have the cognitive capacity to come up with this stuff himself) is their ability to use bureaucracy and byzantine procedure to protect their pathetic asses.

They have shown contempt not only of congress, but of the United States citizenry in general, and most especially the rubes that were fool enough to believe in them.

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