Leahy: Bush aides can’t claim executive privilege

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy wants to hear from current and former members of the Bush administration about their involvement in the firings of 8 US Attorneys last winter. And Leahy says they can’t hide behind executive privilege anymore.

VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb reports:

(Wertlieb) Yesterday Leahy announced the exoneration of President Bush from any involvement in the controversial firings that ultimately led to the resignation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. But Leahy says that’s not all good news for the White House:

(Leahy) "The bad news for them is, it’s very clear that a number of people in the White House were involved in improper firing and improper manipulation of law enforcement. And they don’t really have executive privilege. They weren’t involved with the president. He wasn’t involved in what they were doing… There’s no way of claiming executive privilege. If they were acting as a rogue operation or acting in a way where they’re just breaking the law on their own, they’re going to have to answer to it."

(Wertlieb) Leahy says there are a number of Bush administration officials-some still at the White House, and others who have left–who need to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee he chairs:

(Leahy) Well Karl Rove obviously knows everything that happened in the political manipulation and both the House and the Senate want him to respond-but under oath. Josh Bolton, who’s the president’s chief of staff, and others are aware of what happened.

(Wertlieb) Leahy says there could be ramifications if the officials he subpoenas still refuse to testify:

(Leahy) If the Senate were to uphold the contempt vote-and of course the Republicans could filibuster but assume they did not-then the matter goes to the U.S. Attorney and potentially a grand jury to find out.

(Wertlieb) The firings of the 8 US attorneys approved by then-Attorney General Gonzales sparked controversy because it’s suspected they were based on political payback rather than the attorneys’ job performances. Leahy says he issued the original subpoenas after the White House rejected efforts to provide the materials needed for a Committee investigation.

Leahy says he expects to find out by the end of the year whether the new round of subpoenas will bear testimony this time around.

For VPR News, I’m Mitch Wertlieb.


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