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Executive Privilege Trumps All: The White House

Steve Benen writes about the latest White House' broadside', in its most recent and boldest assertion yet, of executive privilege, in defiance of any possible future 'contempt of Congress' charges, to be brought against former Administration officials such as Miers....Benen:

When Congress subpoenas someone, they have to show up. If they work for the president, they can claim executive privilege or cite the 5th Amendment, but they can't blow off a subpoena. If someone does, it's within Congress' power to hold that person in contempt and refer the matter to the Justice Department to uphold the law.

Given the recent conflict, the White House has come up with a "creative" approach to the justice system.

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege....

Let's cut to the chase: the president and his team are arguing that once the White House claims executive privilege, there is no recourse. The president is accountable to literally no one -- not the Congress, whose subpoenas can be ignored, or the federal judiciary, which can't hear a case that cannot be filed.

We're talking about what is, in effect, a rogue presidency.

Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who has written a book on executive-privilege issues, called the administration's stance "astonishing" and "breathtaking," adding, "What this statement is saying is the president's claim of executive privilege trumps all."

Marty Ledermen has some of the alternatives left to Congress.

And the ultimate sanction, aside from impreachment proceedings, Congress has another route to enforce its will, an inherent power of contempt.. "But that has not been used since early in the 20th century. It has long been deemed unwieldy in the modern era as it entails Congress stopping all work to hold its own trial and imprisoning any offenders in the basement of the Capitol."

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Comments (4)


What a can of worms that has been opened, and if this is not resolved before a new president is elected, look out for more presidents doing a bigger power grab.

The puggies will sure scream when a demo president does it, but as they all (20 some %) believe in Bush, listen to them scream and yell when a demo does the same.

Yes, congress can do other things to enforce the subpoena power they have, such as cut off all funding for the White House until the White House complies with requests for documents, people showing up to testify, etc.

But does Congress have the fortitude to do so? That is the question.


Ex parte Grossman. Hello Roberts. Say hey to F.


Or Eggen and Goldstein in the 7/21 WaPo.

For you with short or convenient memories.


Or John Yoo in today's Opinion Journal.


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