Preparing For A Court Challenge
Well, at least Pat Leahy and John Conyers aren’t sitting around. Today, they fired off a letter to Fred Fielding asking that the White House tell Congress within ten days how an executive privilege defense is justified in blowing off the federal prosecutor subpoenas, and to confirm to Congress that Bush personally approved this defense.
They also made it clear that they are prepared to enforce the subpoenas “by the full force of law.”
Once the White House blew off the subpoenas, the next step for Leahy and Conyers was to require the White House to explain its rationale for the defense, as explained in today’s Post:
In the Senate, leadership aides said the Judiciary Committee is trying to determine whether the administration, through its letters from Fielding and Clement, had fulfilled the first step necessary for Congress to enforce a subpoena, by providing a detailed explanation of which documents it was withholding and the legal basis for doing so.
Once that step is taken, a congressional committee chairman can rule on the validity of the privilege claims. If they are ruled invalid, the committee can repeat the directive to comply. If a president continues to balk, the committee can find the president in criminal contempt, and the issue would then be voted on by the full House or Senate. If a criminal citation is approved by either house, the matter is referred to a U.S. attorney with a recommendation to issue an indictment.
To do that however, Congress needs to demonstrate a compelling need for the documents and on-the-record interviews that the White House refuses to provide, which is why Conyers and Leahy took the next step today. Finally, we are headed for a court challenge.
Bush is a lame duck with nothing left to show for his second term except DOA and way-too-late efforts on energy, health, and education. Let him and his puppetmaster spend the remainder of their term backed up against a wall playing defense with vetos and court appearances explaining why they are hiding something. And while they are pinned there, Democrats can continue the investigations and build a record of GOP obstructionism on the agenda they were elected on in 2006.