Harriet Miers has refused to comply with a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee in connection with the investigation of the firings of U.S. Attorneys (and, more broadly, of the Administration’s apparent plot to draft the Justice Department into its service as a partisan-political instrument to influence the outcome of elections by suppressing Dem voters and selectively prosecuting Dem officials).
Miers’ refusal would appear to be an act of contempt of Congress, but the Administration is claiming Miers need not testify because the committee is seeking discovery of matters covered by executive privilege. While there is case law holding EP exists, its boundaries have never been precisely dilineated. Obviously, this is a question for the courts.
Only, the Adminstration won’t let it get to the courts. This week, an Admin insider stated the WH will never allow the DoJ to bring a contempt-of-Congress prosecution against any WH official or former official who refuses to testify.
More on that “case that was never resolved by the courts” – from DailyKos:
Well. Oh, my. Oh, dear. Heiligefliegenderkinderscheisse. :eek:
What options does that leave Congress?
- The House can bypass the DoJ by invoking its “inherent contempt” power, have the House Sergeant-at-Arms arrest and jail Miers, and try her on the House floor. However, this power has not been used since 1934:
Furthmore, because this procedure does not involve the courts, it could not produce a binding, definitive ruling on the applicability of executive privilege in this investigation.
- Congress can revive the U.S. Office of the Independent Counsel. That institution was created in 1978, in the aftermath of Nixon’s abuses of executive power, and expired in 1999, after Kenneth Starr did things with it that left a bad taste in a lot of Americans’ mouths. Still, it was a good idea to have such a thing: An office with investigative and prosecutorial power, politically independent of the Administration, and therefore having the freedom to investigate/prosecute anybody up to and including the president himself. After the authorizing legislation expired, the OIC’s functions passed to the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Special Counsel. It was through the latter that Pat Fitzgerald was appointed to investigate the Plame Affair – and I’m sure the WH now regrets its decision to allow that; and it is the WH’s decision to make, ultimately, because the OSC is part of the DoJ, therefore under the AG who is under the president. But if Congress were to revive the OIC, or create something equivalent, that agency could cite Harriet Miers for contempt of Congress, whether Bush says yea or nay, and take the matter into court. Where it might ultimately be decided by John Roberts. Well. Oh, my. Oh, dear . . .
- Congress can flail about and sputter impotently and make speeches that will make no practical difference to anything until November 2008, when elections might or might not be run fairly, depending on how successful the whole Admin vote-suppression-via-DoJ scheme turns out to be. (At least it didn’t prevent the Dems from winning back Congress in 2006.)
- Congress can blow it all off and get drunk.
What do you think Congress should do?