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Legal expert: White House stonewalling may force Congress to charge president with criminal offenses
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Wednesday June 27, 2007
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Keith Olbermann announced on Wednesday's Countdown that the White House is refusing on grounds of executive privilege to honor Senate subpoenas and release documents relating to its warrantless wiretapping. In addition, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, David Addington, has sent a letter to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) saying Cheney's office will not comply with oversight by the National Archives because it is not "an agency."

Olbermann then turned to law professor Joanathan Turley, who agreed tentatively that the administration might move slowly enough to "run out the clock" on its time in office. "But there is one thing that might concern them about the court," Turley said, "and that is, you know, for many years, since we first found out about this program, some of us have said that this was a clearly criminal act that the president called for. ... If we're right, not only did he order that crime, but it would be, in fact, an impeachable offense."

"Both sides, both Democrats and Republicans, have avoided this sort of pig in the parlor," Turley continued. "They don't want to recognize that this president may have ordered criminal offenses. But they may now be on the road to do that, because the way Congress can get around the executive privilege in court is to say, we're investigating a potential crime."

Olbermann went on to joke that the attempt to pin down Cheney's real nature is starting to sound like a game of 20 Questions. Turley laughed and said, "The position adopted by Mr. Addington and Mr. Cheney, to put it bluntly, was absurd. ... In past administrations, if someone like Mr. Addington made such a moronic argument as this one, they would be out of a job the next week. ... I think that what it really shows is the lack of sort of adult supervision within the administration."

Olbermann probed further into why Cheney has given up claiming he is not part of the executive branch but is still not complying with the order. "Is this an attempt to stop what Congressman Emanuel talked about yesterday, cutting off the funding? Is it just more smokescreen?"

"This administration, I have to say, has a certain contempt for the law," said Turley. "They treat it like some of my criminal defendents used to treat it. ... They come up with any argument that might work. ... It's a sort of shocking development. ... But at the end of the day, they will lose, and they're making the situation worse."

The following video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast on June 27.