Thursday, July 12, 2007

House Panel Clears Way for Contempt Proceedings Against Miers

Truthout: By Matt Apuzzo (AP)

A House panel cleared the way Thursday for contempt proceedings against former White House counsel Harriet Miers after she obeyed President Bush and skipped a hearing on the firings of federal prosecutors.

Addressing the empty chair where Miers had been subpoenaed to testify, Rep. Linda Sanchez ruled out of order Bush's executive privilege claim that his former advisers are immune from being summoned before Congress.

The House Judiciary subcommittee that Sanchez chairs voted 7-5 to sustain her ruling. If an agreement with the White House is not reached, the full Judiciary Committee could convene hearings and vote on whether to hold Miers, Bush's longtime friend and former Supreme Court nominee, in contempt. Ultimately, the full House would have to vote on any contempt citation. ...

Saying nothing is the strategy that Miers, on Bush's orders, adopted Thursday. ... Miers participated in the process of deciding which prosecutors to fire, according to e-mails released by the Justice Department. At one point, the documents showed, Miers proposed firing all 93 U.S. attorneys, but Attorney General Alberto Gonzales rejected that suggestion. ...

Democrats were furious, declaring the White House had reached "novel legal conclusions" to justify withholding a former aide's testimony, based only on legal opinions regarding currently serving White House officials and no court rulings.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said the committee must take action on Miers' noncompliance to preserve the panel's authority.

"Are congressional subpoenas to be honored or are they optional?" Conyers asked rhetorically. ...

"It's time for the majority to stop swaggering its power in this Congress," [Utah Rep. Chris] Cannon said.
[n.b.: an exceptionally amusing observation from a member of the former majority Republican leadership!]...

An argument that Miers has to testify "is certainly as tenable as that she doesn't," University of Texas law professor Sanford Levinson says.

"If I were advising the congressional committees, what I would want to argue is that they have evidence that she was involved in what might have been criminal acts; that is, subordination of civil service hiring to unlawful considerations," Levinson said.

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said the White House "could not have picked worse ground" on which to fight executive privilege. No president has gone as far as mounting a court fight to keep his aides from testifying on Capitol Hill.

Not to speak of his former aides!

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