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In Advance Of Sara Taylor and the HJC…

alberto-cspan.jpgJeralyn has great witness list analysis for the House Judiciary Committee hearing today on the Libby commutation and Presidential pardon power that is well worth a read. Neil Lewis reports that Libby will, indeed, be seeing supervised release because his lawyers chose the save face for George Bush route and didn’t argue against it. From the NYTimes:

But in filings to the court, both sides said that the president’s constitutional power to grant clemency trumped any details in a statute and that the condition of two years of supervised release could be enforced.

Mr. Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, will thus have to abide by several conditions over the next two years, including those of obtaining a job and providing a written report to the probation office every month about his activities. He was convicted in March of lying to a grand jury and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in an investigation of the leak of the identity of a C.I.A. operative, Valerie Wilson.

Mr. Libby paid $250,400 in fines and penalties and will have to do 400 hours of community service.

Whew, feel the punishment.

Sara Taylor will be testifying this morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and reports are that she will be answering questions. That could get awfully intersting, give the fantastic and impassioned speech that Sen. Leahy gave yesterday on the floor of the Senate about the need to restore habeas.

Finally, the NYTimes has a great editorial this morning about the disrespect for the law in the Bush Administration:

Congress and the American public need to know all that has gone on at the Justice Department. But instead of aiding that search for the truth, President Bush is blocking it, invoking executive privilege this week to prevent Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, and Sara Taylor, a former top aide to Karl Rove, from telling Congress what they know about the purge of federal prosecutors.

Mr. Bush’s claim is baseless. Executive privilege, which is not mentioned in the Constitution, is a judge-made right of limited scope, intended to create a sphere of privacy around the president so that he can have honest discussions with his advisers. The White House has insisted throughout the scandal that Mr. Bush — and even Mr. Gonzales — was not in the loop about the firings. If that is the case, the privilege should not apply.

Even if Mr. Bush was directly involved, Ms. Miers and Ms. Taylor would have no right to withhold their testimony. The Supreme Court made clear in the Watergate tapes case, its major pronouncement on the subject, that the privilege does not apply if a president’s privacy interests are outweighed by the need to investigate possible criminal activity. Congress has already identified many acts relating to the scandal that may have been illegal, including possible obstruction of justice and lying to Congress.

The White House argues that its insistence on the privilege is larger than this one case, that it is protecting the presidency from inappropriate demands from Congress. But the reverse is true. This White House has repeatedly made clear that it does not respect Congress’s constitutional role. If Congress backs down, it would not only be compromising an important investigation of Justice Department malfeasance. It would be doing serious damage to the balance of powers.

Could get interesting…

10:06 am ET

Sen. Leahy opening the hearing.  Detailing the conversations had with Taylor and her attorney.  Leahy says there is clear evidence that Karl Rove was involved inteh USAtty firings.  Says that Taylor informed the committee that she wants to cooperate with the SJC — President’s blanket assertion of executive privilege is unprecedented.

Leahy says under oath, the bottom line of the AG, the DAG, the AG’s former CoS, the WH liaison was that none of them were responsible for the USAtty firings.  Gets into the WH political office role in trying to use USAtty offices and prosecutions to potentially impact elections.

What is it that the WH is so intent on hiding?  They cannot even give us information on the firings and other basic information.  Ms. Taylor’s honest testimony could answer these questions.  The WH is contemptuous of Congress and the American public’s right to know what is being done.  This is serious — about improper political manipulation of the justice system, about USAttys being encouraged to bring cases against political enemies, it is about high ranking officials maniuplating justice.  This has included lying, misleading and stonewalling the Congress — “this Administration has instituted an abusive policy of secrecy, aimed at protecting themselves from embarassment and accountability.”  In America, no one is above the law.

I hope Ms. Taylor chooses to reject the WH insistance on secrecy, and cooperates with this committee.

SEN. SPECTER OPENING: Specter says the SJC should cave to the WH demands, do without the oath, he could live with a closed session, etc.   (CHS notes:  I see that Lord Noth has shown up just in time this morning with his subservient act.  Right on cue…again.)  I believe that the continuation of AG Gonzales as the attorney general — as I’ve said both privately and publicly — is nto in the best interests of the United States.  But, I won’t presume to tell the President that he ought to fire him.

Specter talking now about Gonzales’ lying to Congress re: the FBI infringement reports.   Now arguing against holding Sara Taylor in contempt if she improperly asserts privilege.  Specter says that there are 6 Democrats at the hearing today, and that he could use more Republicans who might actually like to do their jobs.

SEN. SCHUMER OPENING:  I know that you want to cooperate and to talk with the Committee.  The WH has issued a gag order, plain and simple.  The President can dress it up all he wants, but it is ill-considered and unpersuasive and overbroad.  Our faith in this Administration is misplaced — there is an effort, it seems at all costs, at avoiding telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. 

Believe that the privilege claim that the President has asserted is weak — because we are asking about a discrete series of events, because some of the documents have already been issued by the DOJ to the SJC, and for a number of other reasons.

SEN. GRASSLEY OPENING:  Thanks Taylor for appearing.  Taylor is from Iowa, Grassley’s home state, and is giving some background on her now.  Says she is in the unenviable position of being sandwiched between the clashing interests of two branches of government.  Grassley says that testifying is the right course of action, and he thanks her for being here.

Taylor now being sworn in to testify.

Am going to start a new thread…

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com