Bush and Cheney Claim Executive Privilege when Subpoened

July 16, 2008

President Bush has asserted executive privilege to prevent Attorney General Michael Mukasey from having to comply with a House panel subpoena for material on the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity.

A House committee chairman, meanwhile, held off on a contempt citation of Mukasey – who had requested the privilege claim – but only as a courtesy to lawmakers not present.

Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, rejected Mukasey’s suggestion that Vice President Dick Cheney’s FBI interview on the CIA leak should be protected by the privilege claim – and therefore not turned over to the panel.

“We’ll act in the reasonable and appropriate period of time,” Waxman, D-Calif., said. But he made clear that he thinks Mukasey has earned a contempt citation and that he’d schedule a vote on the matter soon.

“This unfounded assertion of executive privilege does not protect a principle; it protects a person,” Waxman said. “If the vice president did nothing wrong, what is there to hide?”

The assertion of the privilege is not about hiding anything but rather protecting the separation of powers as well as the integrity of future Justice Department investigations of the White House, Mukasey wrote to Bush in a letter dated Tuesday. Several of the subpoenaed reports, he wrote, summarize conversations between Bush and advisers – are direct presidential communications protected by the privilege.

“I am greatly concerned about the chilling effect that compliance with the committee’s subpoena would have on future White House deliberations and White House cooperation with future Justice Department investigations,” Mukasey wrote to Bush. “I believe it is legally permissible for you to assert executive privilege with respect to the subpoenaed documents, and I respectfully request that you do so.”

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Bush invoked the privilege on Tuesday.

Waxman said he would wait to hold a vote on Mukasey’s contempt citation until all members of the panel had a chance to read up on the matter.

The Bush administration had plenty of warning. Waxman warned last week that he would cite Mukasey with contempt unless the attorney general complied with the subpoena. The House Judiciary Committee also has subpoenaed some of the same documents from Mukasey, as well as information on the leak from other current and former administration officials.

Congressional Democrats want to shed light on the precise roles, if any, that Bush, Cheney and their aides may have played in the leak.

State Department official Richard Armitage first revealed Plame’s identity as a CIA operative to columnist Robert Novak, who used former presidential counselor Karl Rove as a confirming source for a 2003 article. Around that time Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was criticizing Bush’s march to war in Iraq.

Cheney’s then-chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, also was involved in the leak and was convicted of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI. Last July, Bush commuted Libby’s 2 1/2-year sentence, sparing him from serving any prison time.

Libby told the FBI in 2003 that it was possible that Cheney ordered him to reveal Plame’s identity to reporters.

Article by Laurie Kellman
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Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Former Bush Spokesman Says President Used Propaganda

May 28, 2008

The spokesman who defended President Bush’s policies through Hurricane Katrina and the early years of the Iraq war is now blasting his former employers, saying the Bush administration became mired in propaganda and political spin and at times played loose with the truth.

In excerpts from a 341-page book to be released Monday, Scott McClellan writes on Iraq that Bush “and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war.”

“[I]n this regard, he was terribly ill-served by his top advisers, especially those involved directly in national security,” McClellan wrote.

McClellan also sharply criticizes the administration on its handling of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

“One of the worst disasters in our nation’s history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush‘s presidency,” he wrote. “Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush’s second term.”

Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino said the White House would not comment Tuesday because they haven’t seen the book.

Frances Townsend, former Homeland Security adviser to Bush, said advisers to the president should speak up when they have policy concerns.

“Scott never did that on any of these issues as best I can remember or as best as I know from any of my White House colleagues,” said Townsend, now a CNN contributor. “For him to do this now strikes me as self-serving, disingenuous and unprofessional.”

Fox News contributor and former White House adviser Karl Rove said on that network Tuesday that the excerpts from the book he’s read sound more like they were written by a “left-wing blogger” than his former colleague.

In a brief phone conversation with CNN Tuesday evening, McClellan made clear that he stands behind the accuracy of his book. McClellan said he cannot give on-the-record quotes yet because of an agreement with his publisher.

Early in the book, which CNN obtained late Tuesday, McClellan wrote that he believes he told untruths on Bush’s behalf in the case of CIA agent Valerie Plame, whose identity was leaked to the media.

Rove and fellow White House advisers Elliot Abrams and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby were accused of leaking the name of Plame — whose husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, had gone public with charges the Bush administration had “twisted” facts to justify the war in Iraq.

Libby was convicted last year of lying to a grand jury and federal agents investigating the leak. Bush commuted his 30-month prison term, calling it excessive. At the time, McClellan called the three “good individuals” and said he spoke to them before telling reporters they were not involved.

“I had allowed myself to be deceived into unknowingly passing along a falsehood,” he wrote. “It would ultimately prove fatal to my ability to serve the president effectively.”

McClellan wrote he didn’t realize what he said was untrue until reporters began digging up details of the case almost two years later.

A former spokesman for Bush when he was governor of Texas, McClellan was named White House press secretary in 2003, replacing Ari Fleischer. McClellan had previously been a deputy press secretary and was the traveling spokesman for the Bush campaign during the 2000 election.

He announced he was resigning in April 2006 at a news conference with Bush.

“One of these days, he and I are going to be rocking in chairs in Texas talking about the good old days of his time as the press secretary,” Bush said at that conference. “And I can assure you, I will feel the same way then that I feel now, that I can say to Scott, job well done.”

This story was found @ CNN.com

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