How does the Bush Assministration defend citing Executive Privilege in response to legitmate congressional subpoenas?
No Precedent For Applying Executive Privilege To Testimony
Q I take it the President’s assertion of executive privilege does not cover Miers and Taylor testifying? Or is he saying that it does — since they’ve left the executive branch?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify that. The position stated in this letter and in this exercise of executive privilege is only with regard and in regard to documents; that’s the only thing at instant issue.
However, the President has advised that he would exercise executive privilege in regard to the testimony of both of those individuals if it gets to that point and the subpoenas are not withdrawn and they’re still (inaudible) at the time they’re due. The fact that they are no longer present employees has nothing to do with the principle of executive privilege and the information protection that that affords.
Q Can you give us some background on precedent on that? Have there been other examples where people who have left government have complied with a presidential order not to testify because of executive privilege?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’m sure we could provide that for you. I’m searching right now, I’m looking across the table. Does anybody have one — yes.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In, I believe, the early 1950s, material was sought from the Eisenhower administration pertaining to conduct at State in the Truman administration. And former — then former President Truman, himself, wrote a letter objecting to the attempt to obtain such material, and it was resolved, I believe, without turning anything over.
Q That’s documents, not people, right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Don’t know the answer to that, I think that’s right.
Denies Chimpy’s Involvement
Q For any of you, I have a question about — as a non-legal scholar. My understanding is the evolution of the law, the executive privilege, that there are basically two forms of privilege that a president can claim. And I wanted to clarify: Is the President saying, by doing this, that he himself personally was in receipt of advice about the U.S. Attorney firings, and that’s why he’s invoking the privilege? The documents went to him; that his staff provided him with advice, and that’s what he’s protecting.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh no, no, that would be a misconstruction of the breadth of the executive privilege. What is related — deliberations, formulation of advice, performance of executive branch duties consistent with the President’s constitutional obligations.
Q So he is still maintaining that he had nothing to do with the actual discussions between White House staff, meaning Ms. Miers and Sara Taylor and the Justice Department related to the Attorney firings; that he had no direct involvement.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, there’s no change in our prior position at all.
Q But that is — the way I’ve stated it is correct?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, state it again. I’m going to make sure — I don’t have a transcript.
Q Maybe you should get one. That would help. No — in this case, the President is saying that he had nothing to do, directly himself, with receiving advice about the firing of the U.S. Attorneys and approving the list or adjusting the list. Just because Ms. Miers or Ms. Taylor or Scott Jennings appeared in emails with DOJ discussing that, he is asserting that there is no involvement; his personal involvement did not engage in those discussions.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He has no personal involvement. Our position has never been any different than that.