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White House, Cheney's Office Subpoenaed


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White House, Cheney's Office Subpoenaed

AP - Wed, 27 Jun 2007 18:36:04 -0400 (EDT)

By LAURIE KELLMAN

 

The Senate subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's office Wednesday, demanding documents and elevating the confrontation with President Bush over the administration's warrant-free eavesdropping on Americans.

 

Separately, the Senate Judiciary Committee also is summoning Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to discuss the program and an array of other matters that have cost a half-dozen top Justice Department officials their jobs, committee chairman Patrick Leahy announced.

 

Leahy, D-Vt., raised questions about previous testimony by one of Bush's appeals court nominees and said he wouldn't let such matters pass.

 

"If there have been lies told to

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us, we'll refer it to the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorney for whatever legal action they think is appropriate," Leahy told reporters. He did just that Wednesday, referring questions about testimony by former White House aide Brett Kavanaugh, who now sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

 

The escalation is part of the Democrats' effort to hold the administration to account for the way it has conducted the war on terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The subpoenas extend the probe into the private sector, demanding among other things documents on any agreements that telecommunications companies made to cooperate with the surveillance program.

 

The White House contends that its search for would-be terrorists is legal, necessary and effective -- pointing out frequently that there have been no further attacks on American soil. Administration officials say they have given classified information -- such as details about the eavesdropping program, which is now under court supervision -- to the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress.

 

Echoing its response to previous congressional subpoenas to former administration officials Harriet Miers and Sara Taylor, the White House gave no indication that it would comply with the new ones.

 

"We're aware of the committee's action and will respond appropriately," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. "It's unfortunate that congressional Democrats continue to choose the route of confrontation."

 

In fact, the Judiciary Committee's three most senior Republicans -- Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, former chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah and Chuck Grassley of Iowa -- sided with Democrats on the 13-3 vote last week to give Leahy the power to issue the subpoenas.

 

The showdown between the White House and Congress could land in federal court.

 

Also named in subpoenas signed by Leahy were the Justice Department and the National Security Council. The four parties -- the White House, Cheney's office, the Justice Department and the National Security Council -- have until July 18 to comply, Leahy said. He added that, like House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., he would consider pursuing contempt citations against those who refuse.

 

Gonzales, in Spokane, Wash., on Wednesday to discuss gang issues with local officials, said he had not seen the subpoena documents and could not comment on them directly.

 

"There are competing institutional interests," Gonzales said.

 

The Judiciary committees have

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issued the subpoenas as part of a look at how much influence the White House exerts over the Justice Department and its chief, Gonzales.

 

The probe, in its sixth month, began with an investigation into whether administration officials ordered the firings of eight federal prosecutors for political reasons. The Judiciary committees subpoenaed Miers, one-time White House legal counsel, and Taylor, a former political director, though they have yet to testify.

 

Now, with senators of both parties concerned about the constitutionality of the administration's efforts to root out terrorism suspects in the United States, the committee has shifted to the broader question of Gonzales' stewardship of Justice.

 

The issue concerning Kavanaugh, a former White House staff secretary, is whether he misled the Senate panel during his confirmation hearing last year about how much he was involved in crafting the administration's policy on enemy combatants.

 

The Bush administration secretly launched the eavesdropping program, run by the National Security Agency, in 2001 to monitor international phone calls and e-mails to or from the United States involving people the government suspected of having terrorist links. The program, which the administration said did not require investigators to seek warrants before conducting surveillance, was revealed in December 2005.

 

After the program was challenged in court, Bush put it under the supervision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, established in 1978. The president still claims the power to order warrantless spying.

 

The subpoenas seek a wide array of documents from the Sept. 11 attacks to the present. Among them are any that include analysis or opinions from Justice, NSA, the Defense Department, the White House, or "any entity within the executive branch" on the legality of the electronic surveillance program.

 

Debate continues over whether the program violates people's civil liberties. The administration has gone to great lengths to keep it running.

 

Interest was raised by vivid testimony last month by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey about the extent of the White House's effort to override the Justice Department's objections to the program in 2004.

 

Comey told the Judiciary Committee that Gonzales, then-White House counsel, tried to persuade Attorney General John Ashcroft to reverse course and recertify the program. At the time, Ashcroft lay in intensive care, recovering form gall bladder surgery.

 

Ashcroft refused, as did Comey, who temporarily held the power

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of the attorney general's office during his boss' illness.

 

The White House recertified the program unilaterally. Ashcroft, Comey, FBI Director Robert Mueller and their staffs prepared to resign. Bush ultimately relented and made changes the Justice officials had demanded, and the agency eventually recertified it.

 

Fratto defended the surveillance program as "lawful" and "limited."

 

"It's specifically designed to be effective without infringing Americans' civil liberties," Fratto said. "The program is classified for a reason -- its purpose is to track down and stop terrorist planning. We remain steadfast in our commitment to keeping Americans safe from an enemy determined to use any means possible -- including the latest in technology -- to attack us."

 

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Associated Press Writer Nicholas K. Geranios in Spokane, Wash., contributed to this report.

 

http://www.mail.com/newsarticle.aspx?catId...ticleId=1118034

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Guest Night Phantom

I saw a great breaking news bulletin today:

 

"BREAKING NEWS - Vice President acknowledges he is part of the Executive Branch."

 

I laffed.

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Guest Night Phantom

As lame as this would seem to be, it's actually a pretty good constitutional question: is the Vice President in the Executive Branch?

 

Common logic would point to yes, but he gets his check from the Senate and doesn't officially have any executive powers. On the other hand, he does get included when talked about in the Cabinet.

 

This could potentially be fun.

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As lame as this would seem to be, it's actually a pretty good constitutional question: is the Vice President in the Executive Branch?

 

Common logic would point to yes, but he gets his check from the Senate and doesn't officially have any executive powers. On the other hand, he does get included when talked about in the Cabinet.

 

This could potentially be fun.

 

Interesting question. Nothing says the executive power is vested in a vice president, but nothing says that cabinet members are executive either, right? The fact that his election and removal is in article 2 makes it pretty clear that he is.

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I saw a great breaking news bulletin today:

 

"BREAKING NEWS - Vice President acknowledges he is part of the Executive Branch."

 

I laffed.

Didn't he say he say his office is not part of the executive branch?

 

The VP has gotten increasingly more political and powerful recently then ceremonial and ticket boosting as it was in the past for sure.

 

I'd say that Cheney has had more pull then any other Vice President in the history of the US with Mondale behind him.

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Guest Night Phantom

I'd like to preface this (before we continue) that I'm not going to comment on the allegations, because it'll be the same rhetoric from both sides. But the constitutional angle is awesome and we don't get questions like this often since it's such a well written document.

As lame as this would seem to be, it's actually a pretty good constitutional question: is the Vice President in the Executive Branch?

 

Common logic would point to yes, but he gets his check from the Senate and doesn't officially have any executive powers. On the other hand, he does get included when talked about in the Cabinet.

 

This could potentially be fun.

Interesting question. Nothing says the executive power is vested in a vice president, but nothing says that cabinet members are executive either, right? The fact that his election and removal is in article 2 makes it pretty clear that he is.There's a very strong argument to say he's a member of the Executive Branch because he's in Article II. But I think there's an equally strong argument to say he's part of the Legislative Branch, since he has a vote in Congress (granted, in cases of a tie) and only legislators have that power. In fact, that are legislators that even don't have that power (Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands, DC).

 

I saw a great breaking news bulletin today:

 

"BREAKING NEWS - Vice President acknowledges he is part of the Executive Branch."

 

I laffed.

Didn't he say he say his office is not part of the executive branch?The breaking news that I saw said he had. Right or wrong, I still thought it was funny.

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Well, I can say that Cheney needs to make up his mind regardless. He has been using 'Executive Priviledge' lots of times in the past to dodge Congressional oversight, but now he's saying that he's not in the Executive Branch. You can't be in BOTH, buddy...

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the presidency has been too powerful since the 60's if you ask me

Yes, but Nixon has nothing on our current president, sadly.

 

Read up on Nixon's proposed reformaiton of the Executive Branch that he was going to institute, but could not b/c of the impeachment. Makes Bush look like Rutherford Hayes.

 

I do agree with Jimmy, and correct me if I'm wrong Jimmy, but I dont believe you were referring to Nixon, who won the election in 1970. Rather, the reference was to LBJ, who increased the bureaucracy and federal executive power tenfold. LBJ set the precedent for allowing someone like Bush to step in and do things like warrantless wiretaps.

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Well, I can say that Cheney needs to make up his mind regardless. He has been using 'Executive Priviledge' lots of times in the past to dodge Congressional oversight, but now he's saying that he's not in the Executive Branch. You can't be in BOTH, buddy...

 

 

Constitutional questions surrounding the VP or surrounding cabinet members are very seperate. The VP has the hybridization of powers that the cabinet members do not. So it isn not contradictory for a VP to 'use' Executive Privilege if his work is related to one of the Fed Agencies as opposed to another project that he himself is more involved in in his VPresidential cpaacity.

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