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.
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's...er...gravitas...is 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.)
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.
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.
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.