Condi Rice is currently in Europe to talk to NATO leaders. While there, she was asked about the congressional subpoena requiring her to testify about the claim that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium from Niger - a claim now known to be false.
Rice declined to respond when asked if she would absolutely refuse to testify under subpoena. However, she did claim that executive privilege covered her actions as National Security Advisor and that therefore she had no legal requirement to asnswer to the subpoena, maintaining instead that any responses she made to Congress on her time as NSA were purely out of respect rather than legal compulsion.
``I am more than happy to answer them again in a letter,'' she told reporters in Oslo, where she is attending a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.I'm not anything like an expert on the US constitution, but this simply seems like a legal overstretch to me. If someone appointed by the president without congressional confirmation is immune from Congressional oversight, as an extension of executive privelige, then such persons effectively become a Royal Court. Never elected by popular vote, immune to congressional oversight. I have difficulty believing the founders of the US would have been comfortable with that notion.
The comments were her first reaction to a subpoena issued on Wednesday by the committee chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
Rice said she respected the oversight function of the legislative branch, but maintained she had already testified in person and under oath about claims that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa during her confirmation hearing for the job of secretary of state.
``I addressed these questions, almost the same questions, during my confirmation hearing,'' she said. ``This is an issue that has been answered and answered and answered.''
Rice noted that she had been serving as President Bush's national security adviser during the period covered by the panel's questions and stressed the administration's position that presidential aides not confirmed by the Senate cannot be forced to testify before Congress under the doctrine of executive privilege.
``This all took place in my role as national security adviser,'' she said. ``There is a constitutional principle. There is a separation of powers and advisers to the president under that constitutional principle are not generally required to go and testify in Congress.
``So, I think we have to observe and uphold the constitutional principle, but I also observe and uphold the obligation of Congress to conduct its oversight role, I respect that. But I think I have more than answered these questions, and answered them directly to Congressman Waxman.''