Monday, March 10, 2008

Conyers goes to court

The battle for accountability and congressional oversight continues. From today's Los Angeles Times:
House File Contempt Lawsuit
By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer
7:14 AM PDT, March 10, 2008
WASHINGTON -- The House Judiciary Committee has filed suit to force former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten to provide information about the firing of U.S. attorneys.

The lawsuit filed in federal court Monday says Miers is not immune from the obligation to testify and both she and Bolten must identify all documents that are being withheld from Congress.

In a statement announcing the lawsuit, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers said, "We will not allow the administration to steamroll Congress."

Conyers says he is confident the federal courts will agree that the Bush administration's claims to be immune from congressional oversight are at odds with constitutional principles.
The lawsuit has become necessary because Attorney General (and torture apologist) Michael Mukasey has refused to call a Grand Jury to enforce the congressional subpoenas served on Miers and Bolten.

Don't go soft on us, John.
All I can say is that it is high time Chairman Conyers got things rolling. He was one of the toughest talkers in the lead up to the 2006 mid-term elections, but has since toed the line put forth by craven Nancy Pelosi, avoiding direct confrontation with the Bush administration.

As the lawyers take us into the weeds with legal argument and procedure, it is important to remember what it is that the administration is trying to conceal. Miers and Bolten are summoned before congress to provide information regarding the firing of US attorneys by the Bush administration back in the days of Alberto Gonzales.

If congress could ever pry open the door on this scandal, it could lead to a flood of revelation regarding other, related, scandals: the imprisonment of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman, the discussions and decisions involved in instigating the illegal wire-tapping programs that the Bush administration has been using in defiance of constitutional law, the truth of the Downing Street memo that imply that the Bush administration manufactured evidence in order to sell the Iraq war, and much more.

In short, if Miers and Bolten are ever put before congress and forced to testify under oath, the whole Bush house of cards could collapse. And here's the kicker, according to Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution:

The President . . . shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment
Catch that last bit? The ol' Scooter Libby gambit won't work for Junior this time. As long, that is, as Congress can make a case for impeachment based on the testimony that Miers and Bolten provide. So now it falls to the courts to determine if Bush's argument (that Miers and Bolten are exempted from testimony by virtue of executive privilege) has any merit. That is, as Cheney argued when he fought to keep the names of his energy policy task force secret, in order for the President to receive "unvarnished" advice, his aides must be assured that they will not be forced to testify under oath about that advice.

Well, legal precedent heavily favors the congress. As I pointed out before, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously, in 1974, that executive privilege is not absolute and cannot be used to cover up potential wrong-doing.

Of course, the make up and attitude of the John Robert's Supreme Court is vastly different than that of Chief Justice Warren Burger. And Nino Scalia is an old hunting buddy of Dick Cheney. But it is hard to imagine that the court could countenance a complete overturn of the previous decision.

Who knows what we'll find if Miers and Bolten ever have to sing?
Look for all manner of obscure technicalities to be thrown up by the White House legal team in order to delay and forestall. It is unclear how this will all play out, and I can't say I'm optimistic given the cowardice displayed heretofore by Congress. Nonetheless, things are moving forward.

Karmic justice, of course, is infallible. Neither Bush, nor Cheney, nor any other of the myriad of criminals in that administration will know another day of peace in their respective lives. But it would be extremely heartening to me (and I imagine to many others) to discover that our petty human justice system is capable of functioning at least somewhat. Especially when the affronts committed by this administration are so damn obvious!

1 comment:

Ridwan said...

I hope Conyers is successful. I have respect for him.

I mean the man needs a medal for tabling a bill to study slavery over and over again.

Great post Dade!