Friday, July 20, 2007

Inherent Contempt

And no I am not describing my opinions on the Bush presidency or the Nixonian regard for the seperation of powers espoused by Dick Cheney. Instead, I believe the seldom used inherent contempt power of Congress will be about the only means that the House will be able to get documents and testimony from the White House.

The Washington Post is reporting that the White House is making the claim that they have no responsiblity to allow Justice Department prosecutors to follow up on criminal contempt referrals from Congress.

"A U.S. attorney would not be permitted to bring contempt charges or convene a grand jury in an executive privilege case," said a senior official, who said his remarks reflect a consensus within the administration. "And a U.S. attorney wouldn't be permitted to argue against the reasoned legal opinion that the Justice Department provided. No one should expect that to happen." ....

Stanley Brand, who was the Democratic House counsel during the Burford case, said the administration's legal view "turns the constitutional enforcement process on its head. They are saying they will always place a claim of presidential privilege without any judicial determination above a congressional demand for evidence -- without any basis in law." Brand said the position is essentially telling Congress: "Because we control the enforcement process, we are going to thumb our nose at you."

Time to start brushing up obscure 19th century legal theory and procedures as President Bush is holding the Constitutional norms and implicit agreements hostage to his own desire of concentrated and unaccountable executive power.

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