Thursday, July 12, 2007

Anybody see a conundrum?

I do, and I think Bush’s Cheney’s lawyers do, too.

Why else would the president’s office forbid former counsel Harriet Miers from even appearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, just hours after former White House political director Sara Taylor was “allowed” to testify (if you can call it that) in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee?

Maybe it had something to do with the way Taylor exercised her executive privilege:

Ms. Taylor said she “did not attend any meetings with the president where the matter was discussed” and could not recall seeing any presidential directives about the firings. Asked whether Mr. Bush was involved in the firings, she replied, “I do not have any knowledge that he was.”

OK, so here’s the thing: If the matter of the attorney firings was not discussed—at least not in Taylor’s presence—and Ms. Taylor has no knowledge of Bush’s involvement in the firings, and the firings are all these hearings are investigating, then what exactly is privileged here?

Granted, even with the protection dubious claim of executive privilege, and her lawyer by her side, Sara Taylor still uttered more than her share of I-don’t-recalls and I-can’t-remembers, but if the chief executive was not involved with the matter at hand, then that executive’s claim to privilege doesn’t seem to be applicable.

Conversely, however, if the witness and the White House persist in arguing that conversations between Taylor and the president (or vice president?) are not to be discussed in the context of this hearing, then those conversations must have at least touched on the attorney firings.

By both saying that her conversations were devoid of this specific content, and still asserting Bush’s claim to privilege, Taylor has either committed perjury or abrogated the basis of the presidential order.

Which one is it, Ms. Taylor?

Now, if I can ask this question, you would think some Senator might be able to, as well. To their credit, Feinstein and Leahy came close, but they didn’t quite get there. Maybe I’m not the only guy who sees this coming; maybe somebody in close proximity to Harriet Miers thought that even if Senators didn’t quite make it, Representatives on the House Judiciary Committee would.

Given the shaky legal ground on which they already stand, maybe that’s a chance Miers’ patrons didn’t want to take. Or, to put it the way Senator Arlen Specter did when he addressed Sara Taylor (about her claim to executive privilege) at Wednesday’s hearings, “You might have been on safer legal ground if you'd said absolutely nothing.”

Update: A commenter at TPM believes that by ordering Miers not to appear before the House Committee—by ordering her to defy a subpoena rather than having her appear and assert executive privilege—President Bush has committed a felony.

(h/t DanK)

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

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