Sara Taylor, Part IV
Jane and Marcy will continue the liveblogging from the House Judiciary Committee. This is the last installment of the Sara Taylor transcript from her hearing. It has concluded in the Senate Judiciary Committee for today.
SEN. LEAHY QUESTIONS, SECOND ROUND: You said, “I took an oath to the President, and I take that oath very seriously.” Did you perhaps mean that you took an oath to uphold the Constitution? Taylor says yes, she misspoke, and she took an oath to the Constitution, and that she takes her oath to uphold the President seriously. Leahy says, no, that her paramount duty is to uphold the Constitution and the laws of this nation, not the President alone, just like Leahy’s oath is to do the same and not just uphold the Congress. (CHS notes: Taylor sitting through this discussion with a sullen look on her face.) Taylor says that she did not attend any meetings in which USAtty replacements were discussed, and is not aware of any Presidential documents with regard to the USAtty firings.
When did you first become aware of Griffen’s involvement in the Bush/Cheney scheme on vote caging in Florida? After the election in 2004, Griffen visited with her to talk about how upset he was that someone would make such an egregious claim about him. Taylor says that she was not aware of such a campaign and doesn’t believe that it occurred. Doesn’t believe that Griffen was involved in such a scheme – she’s aware of nothing, and isn’t aware of anyone involved in a senior capacity on the President’s staff being involved in something like that.
Doc. # OAG1622. Taylor says she’s seen this before – 2/28/07 e-mail from Scott Jennings to KR@GWBush.com, WH counsel Fred Fielding, Kevin Sullivan, Dana Perino, Kyle Sampson, and copied to you, with the subject line “NM USAtty Urgent Issue.” The e-mail addy of KR@GWBush.com is an RNC e-mail, according to Taylor. Leahy asks if Taylor was aware of NMGOP questions about Mr. Iglesias? Taylor dodges around — says she believes that she knew people were upset with him, but she doesn’t recall any particular person’s complaints. Do you know why Iglesias was asked to resign? Nope. How did you learn about his resignation? Says she’d have to get into a WH deliberation process to answer that, and so no answer. When and how did you first learn of a packet of information that Rove sent to Sampson about voter fraud issues in Wisconsin prior to the 2006 elections? Taylor says that she doesn’t recall that he did that — was that in the press?
SEN. SPECTER QUESTIONS, ROUND TWO: Specter asks about whether Rove was involved in the replacement of Griffen replacing Cummins. Taylor says that she can’t talk about Rove and internal deliberations, but Tim worked with these people directly, so it’s fair to assume that these people had opinions of him because they knew him. Taylor says that she doesn’t believe that Griffen would have done anything political – and gosh he’s swell. You’ve been asked about Iglesias in NM – are you in a position to shed any light on whether he was replaced because of his alleged failure to prosecute vote fraud cases. Taylor says that she doesn’t believe that was the case – says that much of her knowledge is based on what she has read in the press, and that he should have brought more indictments where he didn’t do so. What about the replacement on McKay in WA? Taylor hedges, and then goes back to the deliberation and Fielding shield letter.
Specter asks her to submit in writing whether she has any knowledge of Charlton (AZ), Bogden (NV), Ryan (CA), Chiara (MI) or Graves (MO), aside from her knowledge through press. Taylor says she will provide the information she can while respecting the Fielding gag letter. Specter thanks her for her personal knowledge of Griffen – and then says that this type of hearing is supremely helpful to getting at least some information from the WH because, golly, they sure are swell. (CHS notes: I’m paraphrasing here, but Specter is kissing some serious Fielding behind.)
SEN. SCHUMER QUESTIONS, SECOND ROUND: Schumer says that this hearing has been helpful in showing how the WH assertion of privilege is overblown. Want to follow-up on where you said you could answer questions about outside executive branch communications. Did you ever hear any complaints from outside the executive branch about: David Iglesias? Taylor says she can’t answer. Consults with counsel. And now says she doesn’t recall any specific complaints, but does recall that there were many people who didn’t think highly of him – but can’t remember if it was internal discussions or people from outside the WH who called or what. Talking about Scott Jennings arranging a DOJ officials meeting with GOP lawyers active in NM politics – Barnett and Rogers. Told DOJ officials that Iglesias wasn’t pursuing a voter fraud case as quickly as they wanted against Democrats. Taylor says she had read accounts that it occurred, but she doesn’t have personal knowledge outside what was raised in the press. Taylor says she didn’t facilitate the meeting or participate in such meetings, to her knowledge. Wheh – another GOP official in NM – spoke with Rove or other political deputy – Taylor says she’s not aware of any calls that he made. Did you know Mickey Barnett, Pat Rogers or Alan Wheh at all? Says she met Barnett and also has met Wheh on a couple of occasions – he was the chairman of the NM GOP, and saw him at RNC meetings.
Ryan Doesn’t recall. McKay? Nope. Charlton? No. Lam? Nope. Bogden? Doesn’t recall. Chiara? Nope. Graves? Nope. Cummins? Taylor pauses. Doesn’t recall complaints about him, but she does recall unfortunate comments.
SEN. WHITEHOUSE QUESTIONS, SECOND ROUND: Your “more artfully” comment in other administrations – you have no information that this was a customary practice of any former president? No, I was just pulling that one out of the air. (CHS notes: my paraphrase.) Whitehouse going through an e-mail regarding Griffen – “you forced him to do what he did.” Taylor says she was saying that when Pryor was informed that the WH would not be going forward with Griffen, then Tim was made aware of that and then rightly concluded that he unfortunately had to announce that he would not seek the nomination or read about it in the paper the next day. Goes through a colloquy on Griffen’s fabu military service, “in Mosul of all places,” and how the AG owed him better than what they gave him. And Griffen then had to announce that he wouldn’t seek the nomination. Whitehouse then moves on to a subsequent sentence “we make the determination.” Taylor says that “we” is a collective Bush Administration “we.” Taylor then backtracks, again, on her “lazy” comment about Cummins – Whitehouse says he’s trying to figure out where the thread is to determine where the “lazy” comment came from and how that fit into the “getting rid of Cummins.” Taylor says that would clearly be internal WH deliberations and she can’t answer that, even though as Whitehouse says, they have an e-mail in front of them that says this and that the ludicrous assertion of executive privilege from the WH prevents her from talking about her non-privileged own words in the communication in front of all of them.
Whitehouse then asks whether the President was involved in any way in the decision to remove the USAttys. Taylor says that she is not aware of his involvement at all.
LEAHY QUESTIONS, THIRD ROUND: When did you first learn that Graves (MO) was being asked to resign? Taylor says that her first knowledge was when she saw it in the paper – didn’t recall knowing it beforehand. When did you recall hearing that Schlotzman was being considered to replace him? Taylor says she doesn’t recall. Were you aware that he was being considered to be put into his position without Senate confirmation? I don’t recall being aware of that.
Let me give you a copy of Doc. #OAG45. This is a copy of a 12/4/06 e-mail exchange between Sampson and Dep. WH Counsel Kelly and copied to Harriet Miers. Kelly says that “we are a go for the USAtty plan.” Getting into the Sampson testimony that Taylor was the head of the WH political office and that she signed off on the end-run of the Senate installation of USAttys plan. Taylor asking about that characterization and says she doesn’t recall Sampson saying that. Did you sign off on the plan? Taylor hedges. Leahy says did Sampson lie to the committee when he said you signed off on the plan? Taylor says that she can’t discuss this per Fielding’s letter. Leahy says that she is hiding behind the broad claim of executive privilege. Leahy says that he thinks she is doing the best she can not to answer legitimate questions and the letter gives her cover to do just that.
How was the plan for the dismissal of multiple USAttys given to you for your sign-off? Taylor consults with her counsel again. (CHS notes: cue the photographers.) Taylor now says that she cannot answer that question. Did you have discussions with folks at the DOJ? Taylor says that her letter says internal and external and she can’t talk about that. Did you raise any objections about any of the USAttys on the list? Taylor says that she doesn’t recall objecting to any names. Taylor also says that she doesn’t recall objecting to any part of the plan. Did you talk with Rove about any part of the plan? Taylor says that she can’t talk about any discussions with Rove. Did you talk with any reporters about this? Fielding’s letter expressly says reporters, so can’t say. Leahy says, so if you spoke to a reporter to give the WH spin on things, you say you can’t talk about it even though they are outside the WH. Isn’t this just like Mr. Cheney marking Top Secret his talking points for his staff to give to reporters to spin them? (CHS: Ooooh, good one.)
As political director, you’d want to spin things in the light most favorable to the WH, a statement to the press which is something done publicly, but when you are asked about this anywhere else, you are asserting a very broad definition of executive privilege. Again, talking to her attorney. Taylor says she’ll answer – doesn’t recall having conversations with reporters about this. (CHS notes: Taylor looks exhausted at this point.)
SEN. SPECTER QUESTIONS, ROUND THREE: Says he is concerned that there may be an effort to pursue a contempt citation based on what you have testified to here today. Specter says she sure is acting properly. Taylor gives him a smart-assy sounding “Ummm hmmm.”, in response. Specter asks if a court orders you to answer questions, that the privilege is crap, would you answer questions? Taylor says absolutely. Specter says what if we compromise and the President withdraws his claim? Taylor says yes. (CHS notes: Specter asks, “what if we cave and give the President everything he wants to make this all go away.” Hello, Lord North.) Now we have a joking bit back and forth between Leahy and Specter – Leahy notes that Specter is “leading the witness.” Specter now going on and on about how mean it would be to hold her in contempt.
SEN. LEAHY QUESTIONS: A decision on whether or not a contempt citation will be issued has not yet been decided. You are going to be sent written questions and a copy of your transcript. You’ll be given time to correct your testimony, a limited time, but I suggest that you avail yourself of that time. Your statement that you don’t know of the President being involved in this process seriously undercuts the question of executive privilege – and supports the President’s own public statements that he didn’t make some of these decisions. This looks increasingly like a cover-up. Who made these decisions? What are they trying to hide? Was this an attempt to corrupt law enforcement? If so, that would upset me even more than attempts to politicize this process.
Thanks the witness. Stand in recess.
Taylor and Specter now having a cozy conversation away from the microphones after her testimony has concluded. She finishes by patting him on the arm as he smiles.