Bipartisan report slams Bush's 'inappropriate' use of executive power
Lawmakers from both parties have concluded that President Bush engaged in a "legally unprecedented and inappropriate" use of his executive power authority when he intervened to scuttle a congressional inquiry into the White House's role in outing former CIA agent Valerie Plame.
At issue is an interview of Vice President Dick Cheney conducted by the FBI during its investigation into the Plame leak. The House Oversight Committee last year requested a copy of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's report on that interview, and Bush has invoked executive privilege to justify his refusal to comply.
In a 10-page draft report released Tuesday, Oversight Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and ranking member Tom Davis (R-VA) say the president's claim was unjustified.
Courts have held that presidents can use executive power arguments to protect their ability to receive confidential advice from advisers, but the release of information about FBI interviews would not touch on such advice, the committee report says. Furthermore, neither Bush nor Cheney had any expectation that the interviews would remain confidential.
The report's release comes amid a longstanding showdown between the president and Congress over the extent of executive power that has already led to contempt citations against several current or former administration figures. Waxman and Davis's report notes the bizarre lengths Cheney has gone to avoid congressional scrutiny and the contradiction presented by the administration's latest argument.
"The Administrationís refusal to produce the Vice Presidentís interview report is particularly puzzling in light of the position taken by the Office of the Vice President that the Vice President is not an 'entity within the executive branch,'" the report says. "The logical extension of the Vice Presidentís position is that executive branch confidentiality interests would not be relevant to his communications."
The committee is so interested in Cheney's conversations with the FBI because his former top aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was the only official to be convicted in relation to the Plame probe. A grand jury concluded Libby had lied to investigators and obstructed justice, but he was spared jail time when Bush commuted his sentence.
The full committee will consider the the report next week.
"This invocation of executive privilege was legally unprecedented and an inappropriate use of executive privilege," the report says. "It prevented the Committee from learning the extent of the Vice Presidentís role in the disclosure of Ms. Wilsonís identity."