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Four Color Politics

Mainly the Quotes of the Morning, with occasional Other Crap.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Quotes of the Morning: Executive Privilege

“Bush’s use of executive privilege is a difficult topic to handle. Let’s hear what one reporter has to say about it.”

“Earlier in this administration, then-White House legal counsel Lloyd Cutler decreed that the White House never would assert privilege in the face of a criminal investigation. He merely was reiterating long-standing executive-branch policy along those lines. President Ronald Reagan didn't invoke privilege in Iran-contra, and neither did President George Bush.
But precedent is gone, and Mr. Clinton wants to protect conversations about a chubby intern from Hollywood. In so doing, he becomes the first president since Richard Nixon to use executive privilege in a criminal inquiry.
Evidently, Mr. Clinton wants to shield virtually any communications that take place within the White House compound on the theory that all such talk contributes in some way, shape or form to the continuing success and harmony of an administration. Taken to its logical extreme, that position would make it impossible for citizens to hold a chief executive accountable for anything. He would have a constitutional right to cover up.”
-Tony Snow, March 29, 1998

“Oops.. My mistake. That wasn’t an article about Bush’s use about executive privilege. That was an article by our current White House spokesman Tony Snow about when Clinton wanted to use it. As you might imagine, past statements like this can come back to haunt a spokesman..”

“Q So, Tony, back when President Clinton was citing executive privilege to keep internal deliberations in that White House from being talked about in Congress, you wrote -- now famously --
MR. SNOW: I didn't say it was famous, Ed. I didn't get that kind of coverage at the time. (Laughter.)
Q Well, it's become more famous.
MR. SNOW: Is it making its way through the left-wing blogs?
Q It is. (Laughter.)
Q No, no. But you wrote quite eloquently about this. You said, "Taken to its logical extreme, that position would make it impossible for citizens to hold the chief executive accountable. We would have a constitutional right to a coverup."
MR. SNOW: Right. Now let me --
Q So why were you wrong then and right now?
MR. SNOW: Because this is a not entirely analogous situation. I've just told you what we have, in fact, offered to make available to members of Congress. And what we are doing is we are holding apart confidential communications between advisors and the President. And that is pretty standard practice in White Houses. But, again --
Q It's exactly what the Clinton administration talked about.
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not so sure. And I'll let others do the legal arguing on that. But the important point here is we're maintaining the presidential prerogatives and, at the same time, we're making available exhaustive -- we're offering basically to give them, exhaustively, communications that bear on this issue and also make the key players -- at least at the Justice Department and the people they said they wanted to hear from at the White House -- they're all going to be available. That's not a coverup. That is, in fact, a very open offer to get all the facts into the hands of the people who, presumably, want to figure out what the facts are.
-Press Gaggle with White House Spokesman Tony Snow, March 21, 2007

“See? Using executive privilege to cover up having extra-marital sex is much, much worse than using it to cover up politically motivated firings that may have been, in part, about stopping investigations into corruption in politics..”

“Fired San Diego U.S. attorney Carol Lam notified the Justice Department that she intended to execute search warrants on a high-ranking CIA official as part of a corruption probe the day before a Justice Department official sent an e-mail that said Lam needed to be fired, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Sunday.
Lam oversaw the investigation that led to the corruption conviction of then-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., who pleaded guilty in late 2005 to accepting $2.4 million in bribes. He was sentenced in March 2006 to eight years and four months in prison.
On the same day last year as the Sampson e-mail, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Cunningham probe was being expanded to look at the actions of another California Republican, then-House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis.
Feinstein did not say how she learned that Lam had notified the Justice Department about her plans to serve search warrants on Foggo, who on May 8 had resigned as the executive director of the CIA. FBI agents seized records from Foggo's CIA offices and his suburban Vienna, Va., home on May 12.
Who Lam notified about her plans was unknown. Ordinarily, information about search warrants in high-profile cases would be passed to the U.S. attorney executive office in Washington. At the time, that office was headed by Michael Battle. Battle, who notified the dismissed U.S. attorneys they were being replaced in December, resigned March 5.”
-McClatchy Newspapers, March 18, 2007

“MZM Inc. was incorporated in 1993 but had not posted any revenue as late as 2001. Still, the company began paying for Cunningham's expenses, according to court documents. In November 2001, a company check for $12,000 paid for three nightstands, a leaded-glass cabinet, an antique washstand and four armoires.
Although MZM had no experience with government contracts, the General Services Administration in May 2002 placed the company on a list of approved information technology service providers, a key step for the company to get business from federal agencies.

The first contract, worth $140,000, came from the White House — to provide office furniture and computers for Vice President Dick Cheney.
Two weeks later, on Aug. 30, 2002, Wade purchased a yacht, later christened ‘Duke-Stir,’ for $140,000, according to court documents. Cunningham used the yacht, docked at the Capital Yacht Club, as his home in Washington — and the scene of parties for lobbyists and others.
The money and gifts MZM gave Cunningham were a small price to pay for the ultimate prize. In September 2002, the General Services Administration signed a so-called blanket purchase agreement with MZM totaling $250 million over five years.
Under the agreement, specific computer services for the Pentagon would be contracted to MZM without competition.”
-LA Times, December 5, 2005

“Hey, Carol Lam’s firing was just a coincidence. It had nothing to do with her investigating a corruption case that may have been tying things back to the office of the Vice President. Just a coincidence. Nothing to see here. There is no political influence in the Department of Justice.”

“The leader of the Justice Department team that prosecuted a landmark lawsuit against tobacco companies said yesterday that Bush administration political appointees repeatedly ordered her to take steps that weakened the government's racketeering case.
Sharon Y. Eubanks said Bush loyalists in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's office began micromanaging the team's strategy in the final weeks of the 2005 trial, to the detriment of the government's claim that the industry had conspired to lie to U.S. smokers.
She said a supervisor demanded that she and her trial team drop recommendations that tobacco executives be removed from their corporate positions as a possible penalty. He and two others instructed her to tell key witnesses to change their testimony. And they ordered Eubanks to read verbatim a closing argument they had rewritten for her, she said.
News reports on the strategy changes at the time caused an uproar in Congress and sparked an inquiry by the Justice Department. Government witnesses said they had been asked to change testimony, and one expert withdrew from the case. Government lawyers also announced that they were scaling back a proposed penalty against the industry from $130 billion to $10 billion.
Eubanks said Congress should not limit its investigation to the dismissal of the U.S. attorneys.
‘Political interference is happening at Justice across the department,’ she said. ‘When decisions are made now in the Bush attorney general's office, politics is the primary consideration. . . . The rule of law goes out the window.’
The most stressful moment, Eubanks said, came when the three appointees ordered her to read word for word a closing argument they had rewritten. The statement explained the validity of seeking a $10 billion penalty.
‘I couldn't even look at the judge,’ she said.”
-Washington Post, March 22, 2007

“Oh come on.. One little incident. Nothing to worry about. Our justice system is fair and impartial. There were no politics involved with the firings!”

“Q There was no politics involved? Are you still saying that?
MR. SNOW: It depends on how you define politics. But the fact -- these are people who are political appointees; they serve at the pleasure of the President, and the President has the authority and the ability to remove those who serve at his pleasure. “
-Press Gaggle with White House Spokesman Tony Snow, March 20, 2007


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