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The Presidency vs The Congress
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The Presidency vs The Congress - July 12, 2007, 03:14 PM

WARNING: Don't turn my thread into some Republican vs Democrat Bull !! This is an issue that concerns the nature of Democracy itself - not a partisan attack.

There is a potential the President Bush could be found in contempt of congress - a serious event in American history. This isn't exactly imminent, since the wheels of government turn about as fast as pluto orbits the sun, but its not outside the realm of possibility as I see it.

Before I discuss details - let me say it is a principle of democracy that government be transparent - that is, the people should know what their government is doing behind closed doors. There are limitations of course, such as issues of national security where the immediate risk of releasing information outweighs the strength of the principle - but even that is relatively short lived. Regardless the actual workings of those who govern, if not the actual secure facts, ought to be visible to the public. The reason for this is a secret government, is a government that is not truly accountable to the people - because the people do not know what their government is truly up to.

Background -

President Bush has methodically sought, as indicated by his actions, to reduce the transparency of the Executive Branch. He has done this through historically more strict control of information (trace) to prevent leaks, restrictive media access (cherry picking outlets and limited release of info), and widespread claims of executive privelege. It's this last one that is most distressing.

For those that don't know, in short executive privelege is a constitutional claim based on separation of powers that ensures that the executive branch is not subject to the whims of the legistlative branch of government, congress. When used properly, it is an important part of keeping the Executive Branch the equal of the Legistlative branch - and keeping communication within the executive branch candid. Thus, advisors don't hold back options/opinions based on the perceived ramifications of that information reaching congress or the media. Interestingly enough, executive privelege is not explicitly granted by the constitution - it is simply something Presidents have argued for under the claim that in order to exercise their constitutional authority, they need to be able to keep internal communications confidential so advisors may freely offer candid opinions. In effect, it is the power of secrecy, in violation of that principle I just talked about.

The Supreme Court has ruled on the claim of executive privilege and determined that the constitution does grant the president a privilege against mandatory disclosure of information, but only when he is speaking with his closest advisors. Further, the court ruled that the power is not absolute - it can be overcome by "weighty and legitimate competing interests".

The conflict -

There are actually several executive privelege battles involving congressional requests for documents that have gone on under this administration - but the latest involves a congressional request for documents and testimony of white house staffers involved in the decision to fire a number of federal prosecutors - for which there is evidence that the cause of dismissal was for improper political reasons as part of a broad move to politicize federal investigations and prosecutions. Congress has issued subpeonas for documents and a number of staffers to testify before congress. Bush on the other hand has ordered these staffers not to testify, and refuses to release documents - claiming executive privilege.

The latest case is that of White House counsel Harriet Miers, who would have advised on the decision to dismiss prosecutors, and who obeyed President Bush and skipped out on a congressional hearing. Bush's executive privilege claim was ruled out of order, and the House Judiciary Committee voted to sustain the ruling. If the White House does not back down, which it has indicated it will not, the full Judiciary Committee can be expected to hold hearings and vote on whether to hold Miers, Bush's former Supreme Court nominee in contempt of congress - which would then go to a vote before the full House. Naturally, the White House is intent on keeping its secrets and the claimed "free flow of advice" to the president, while the Congressional view is that they have evidence that Miers was involved in what might have been criminal acts; the subordination of civil service hiring to unlawful considerations". Say, being fired for disagreeing with Bush or other political considerations (say, to control prosecutions based on political considerations). For reference, no President in history has gone so far as a court battle to keep his aids from testifying before Congress. Generally, a compromise is reached, but that seems unlikely given the White House's stance.

The fight is being compared to the fight to release documents pertaining to Nixon's watergate - which reached all the way to the Supreme Court: "The President's response to our subpoena shows an appalling disregard for the right of the people to know what is going on in their government," explained Conyers, a Michigan Democrat who is the only Judiciary Committee member to have participated in the fight between Congress and the Nixon White House for Watergate-related documents.

Meanwhile White House counsel Fred Fielding's replied the "fear of being commanded to Capitol Hill to testify or having their documents produced to Congress" would prevent presidential advisers from communicating "openly and honestly" with the president".

The issuance of a contempt of congress citation almost certainly means the Supreme Court will be required to determine which interest is most compelling - the principles of transparent government, and the need to balance Executive power through Congressional investigation into official misconduct, versus the the assertion of executive privilege to maintain free, open and honest advice to the President.

So, if you're interested enough to read all that... on which side do you stand?


"No race has ever been won in the first corner, but plenty have been lost there."

Last edited by DvlsAdvc8; July 12, 2007 at 03:20 PM..
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July 12, 2007, 03:21 PM

The President, Cheney, and many in the administration HAVE been in direct contempt of the powers the Congress holds over them to maintain checks and balances. Now that his administration is going out, and they have no horse in the race for 08 from either the democratic OR republican side you're going to see some interesting "no holds barred" action.


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July 12, 2007, 03:32 PM

I think we should be able to see what is going on. Especially your example of the prosecutors. That doesnt really involve National Security. Why hide why you chose to fire someone? He's guilty and trying to cover it up.
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July 12, 2007, 03:52 PM

The executive branch is progressively going to hell in a hand basket, Bush ( IMO ) has done whatever it takes to get HIS way overlooking the good of the country and the role in which the presidency is all about - Leading a country based on THE PEOPLE not the GOVERNMENT.

Burn 'em all I say, it wouldn't suprise me Bush is using illegal methods to get his own way or to benefit himself and his political posse.


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July 12, 2007, 03:54 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DvlsAdvc8
the decision to fire a number of federal prosecutors -


Say, being fired for disagreeing with Bush or other political considerations (say, to control prosecutions based on political considerations).


So, if you're interested enough to read all that... on which side do you stand?
Unless Im confused, are not these Federal Prosecutors Political Apponitees?

As a political appointee one can be fired by the Prez for any reason, at any time, in fact disagreeing with the Prez would be a prime example of what not to do as a PA.

As far as I see where the Fak up occurred when the Prez didnít take responsibility for firing the prosecutors.


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July 12, 2007, 03:56 PM

The issue was more that Gonzolez lied about the firings.

The move was underhanded but not unheard of, similar action was taken by Clinton (not that he's a shining example of political uprightness). The problem is the LIES that accompany the underhanded or even illegal actions of this administration, and the refusal to submit to enquiry.


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July 12, 2007, 03:59 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by gixrben
The issue was more that Gonzolez lied about the firings.

The move was underhanded but not unheard of, similar action was taken by Clinton (not that he's a shining example of political uprightness). The problem is the LIES that accompany the underhanded or even illegal actions of this administration, and the refusal to submit to enquiry.
+1

and it all started from day one nearly eight years ago...


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July 12, 2007, 04:00 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by gixrben
The issue was more that Gonzolez lied about the firings.

The move was underhanded but not unheard of, similar action was taken by Clinton (not that he's a shining example of political uprightness). The problem is the LIES that accompany the underhanded or even illegal actions of this administration, and the refusal to submit to enquiry.
Agreed. 100%

For those who do not know if Bush had steped up and just said "I told Gonzolez to fire them" this would all be a non issue.

Interesting write up I had not seen about the gray area of Prosecutors and Politics: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/18/we...133d11&ei=5070


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July 12, 2007, 04:05 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by zx6rfool
Agreed. 100%

For those who do not know if Bush had steped up and just said "I told Gonzolez to fire them" this would all be a non issue.

Interesting write up I had not seen about the gray area of Prosecutors and Politics: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/18/we...133d11&ei=5070
Great read fool!!!


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July 12, 2007, 04:32 PM

hey guys,

how feasable and realistic is the process of impeachment of either the prez or the vice prez at this point, and would it have any viable consequences? I mean, wouldn't it take just as long to prosecute them as there is time left in their term? Would it set the record for the future of "to come" presidencies and what kind of "real" punishment could Bush face?

Dvl you and Ben seem to be pretty well informed with this situation, so I'd be curious to see what you guys think.

I'm gonna keep my mouth shut concerning the prez and his campaign, if you don't have anything nice to say..............


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July 12, 2007, 09:52 PM

The difference between what Bush has done, and what other Presidents have done, is that other Presidents make their dismissals upon entering into office - it is wholesale, across the board cleaning. Bush's dismissals each came individually upon conflict of ideology as time progressed - apparently, several of the dismissed prosecutors claim to have been threatened by Bush Administration officials about keeping silent as to the reasons for their dismissal. They claim they were dismissed for refusing to follow partisan political directives.

The majority of these prosecutors have made claims of intimidation, or improper conduct against the justice department. At first, one is inclined to believe it could be a 'payback' for being fired, but these are some very well respected people - most of whom have many other more lucrative career options, some even being involved in private practices. One fired prosecutor claims that he was pressured by high ranking officials in the justice department to pursue the death penalty in several cases where he was intimately familiar with the details and didn't feel it was necessary... and the administration was particularly aggressive in its intention to seek the death penalty to the point of being overzealous... particularly in states where the death penalty is less favored. He characterized it as "bloodlust".

Another suspicious activity is the claim of a dismissed prosecutor, Todd Graves (Republican - former MO state treasurer candidate), that he believes his dismissal from was directly related to his refusal to sign off on a voter roll prior to the 2004 election after receiving heavy pressure from administration allies to do so. A Washington justice department official signed off on the voter roll in his place. That official, Bradley Schlozman, was appointed to succeed Graves but after drawing fire only served as an interim. Schlozman, based on my readings, sounds like a total administration lackey - a "do what it takes" guy. Now working in Kansas City, he drew attacks from Democrats for pushing forward with an indictment of voter-registration activists in Missouri just weeks before last November's elections. Are we seeing a trend?

The justice department itself appears to be in turmoil set against itself - in may officials announced that a former Gonzales aid is facing an internal investigation into whether she violated federal law in considering political affiliation in reviewing the hiring of career prosecutors.

5 high ranking justice departmen officials have resigned, either in protest of administration activities, as was the case for the former 2nd in charge of the justice department (James Comey), or for others - to throw water on the fire (ie sacrificial lambs at the behest of the administration).

The prosecutors dismissed have been characterized by the Justice dept as weak and/or ineffectual. James Comey has become an outspoken critic - defending the prosecutors records saying to a House panel in May "the eight U.S. attorneys fired last year were, in his opinion, some of the best prosecutors in the country." Comey also testified to Congress that prosecutors were evaluated according to their "loyalty" to the administration and was asked what "loyalty" meant in this context - to which he replied he didn't know.

While US prosecutors are in fact political appointees, the law ought not be applied in a partisan manner and prosecutors ought not be instructed to engage in politically motivated, and in some cases dubious activities. Further, it is outright illegal to consider political affiliation in many of these Justice Department hirings or use the Justice Department to intimidate or attack political opposition.

Also note that the assertion of executive privilege to the congressional subpoenas for material related to the probe on the firings of the prosecutors comes one day after the Judicial committee subpoenaed the White House for documents related to the administration's warrantless domestic spying program.

There is some gestapo shit going on in this administration if this is all true, and I think we're only seeing the very tip - I think a firestorm is looming if/when the administration is forced to release documents and these staffers are compelled to testify.

I mean, it recently came to light that Chenney authored and submitted an executive order to the President for his signature - without any consultations of the rest of the cabinet - Rice/Powell etc; witenesses are on record reporting that Rice/Powell were both irrate. Secrecy and back door orders - even from Cabinet members???

Unfortunately, we won't hear the final details on all of this until after Bush is out of office - but a pattern of secrecy, strong arm tactics, and political coercion to improperly influence prosecutions and voter rolls is stacking up. These aren't bitter Democrat wackos complaining about being fired - these are almost entirely Republicans who refused to be yes men. The kind of people I think we all agree, SHOULD be in those positions.


"No race has ever been won in the first corner, but plenty have been lost there."

Last edited by DvlsAdvc8; July 13, 2007 at 07:57 AM..
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July 12, 2007, 09:58 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by zx6rfool
Unless Im confused, are not these Federal Prosecutors Political Apponitees?

As a political appointee one can be fired by the Prez for any reason, at any time, in fact disagreeing with the Prez would be a prime example of what not to do as a PA.

As far as I see where the Fak up occurred when the Prez didnít take responsibility for firing the prosecutors.
The impropriety is in that these prosecutors are claiming that their directives were politically motivated - and improper - such as approving a voter roll one finds suspect, or aggressively pursuing Democrat voter-registration groups on dubious charges. When these prosecutors refused to be unethical political lackeys, they were removed. This is in fact illegal.

Gonzalez then claimed the dismissals were performance based - which has shown to be utter bull. These people had fine records, some exemplary. This is the cover up of the illegal activity, if you buy the accusations.

If one is inclined to believe the accusations - then the Administration sought to use the Justice Department as a weapon against its political opponents and those who wouldn't play along were canned.


"No race has ever been won in the first corner, but plenty have been lost there."

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July 12, 2007, 10:02 PM

Just a reminder - lets not make this a Republican/Democrat thing... at this point, I know nearly as many Republicans who are disillusioned with this administration as I do Democrats. You are welcome to criticize this President, or the actions of this Congress in respect to the investigation - but please don't expand this into a Republican vs Democrat thing, because that is not my intent.

My intent is to point out the seemingly shady things that many have testified to, the cover up, and the constitutional questions concerned oversight of the executive.


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July 12, 2007, 10:12 PM

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