HJC Contempt Hearing, Part II
(Photo by Paul Morse on the Miers’ nomination to the Supreme Court announcement day. Seems like eons ago, doesn’t it?)
I’ll try and liveblog the HJC Contempt proceedings as best I can this morning. Please, I beg you, keep comments to a minimum so we don’t have to start new threads so frequently. It makes it really tough to liveblog if I’m constantly having to start a new thread. Thanks!
REP. CONYERS: We will think very carefully about his suggestion about moving more swiftly if we have to move into court. The thing we have to keep in mind is that this is an unnecessary provocation that was not brought on by us.
REP. SCHIFF: It would be one thing for a witness to come in and say with a particular line of questioning that they cannot answer individual questions on the basis of privilege. But the audacity of an Administration official or former one to just blow off a subpoena altogether — to simply not show up — is unprecedented. This is like a witness refusing to show up for any courtroom in America and saying, “I’m just not coming.” I say if we do not challenge this, it will most definitely affect our ability to get information in the future — this undermines our institution. This is a direct result of our continual rolling over for every Executive demand for the last few years, and this must stop. Do not allow the WH to be so contemptuous of this institution that it will not provide a former official to even come to this body and state the basis of the privilege she would claim. We cannot allow that, whatever our political affiliation. Maybe you feel that you don’t want to take issue because the current president is not in your party — will you take the same position with a president in a year and a half if they are of the opposite party? I guarantee that you will rue the day if we do not enforce these subpoenas.
REP. KELLER: Nuh uh. [CHS notes: Sure, I’m paraphrasing here. But that’s the gist.] Oh, and Clinton did it. blah blah blah
REP. CONYERS: The chair’s patience is drawing to a close. Delahunt and then Lungren, and then any other statements respectfully shall be inserted into the record.
REP. DELAHUNT: I would echo your comments regarding Mr. Sensenbrenner’s comments. The argument we are hearing in terms of this institution is the possibility of a potential to establish a bad precedent in terms of the relationship fo Congress to the Executive branch. As if we ought to be afraid of losing. The reality is that during the course of this Administration, we have abdicated many of our prerogatives to the executive branch. We have an administration that has developed stonewalling into a fine art. One only need talk to Mr. Sensenbrenner his difficulty in obtaining any information from the DOJ — it was incredibly difficult for him when he controlled the committee. Goes into the FBI office in Boston misconduct — threatened contempt of WH counsel and the AG to get the documents, and done by GOP-controlled committee. This is not new. It is time that Congress assert itself.
Are their further options for discussion or opportunities? Of course, there will be continuing options and opportunities that we are willing to pursue — but not to proceed on this today would be improper.
REP. CONYERS: Yield to Lungren, on the condition that he doesn’t refer to his career as AG in CA.
REP. LUNGREN: Talking about some portrait on the wall that got bumped into today and how it shows that Dems. are eager for these proceedings. [CHS says: I’ve heard a lot of rhetorical reaches in my day, but that one was really pathetic as an opener.] Executive privilege did not start with this president — or Clinton — it started with Washington. We know that presidents have always asserted some form of executive privilege. As far as I can tell, we have not forced this issue to the courts in recent memory because it is a grey area where executive privilege ends and where it would bump up against the prerogatives of the Congress. Why reject out of hand Fielding’s offer of absolutely nothing. [CHS notes: Sure, that’s a paraphrase, but really, Fielding is offering nothing of value in terms of investigative need. And lordy, Lungren likes to hear himself speak.] blah blah blah If we lose our argument, we will be diminished in Congress.
Question on the Amendment: Yays and Nays.
Yays — 14
Nays — 23
REP. FORBES: Also has an amendment. Clerk will read it.
Would amend report at page 8 to reflect all of the legislative jurisdiction on all of the responsibility rather than reflect only the narrow information on this jurisdiction. BLah blah blah Looking at wrongdoing by the WH isn’t as important as waterways legal jurisdiction issues blah blah blah
REP. SCOTT: Actually, we’re doing lots of work, as you well know. Talking about all of the work done by subcommittee. [CHS notes: Can we not rise to the shiny object bait each and every time, please?]
REP. SHERMAN: President should negotiate in good faith — not offer something insubstantial and then tell us we have no right to enforce a subpoena because the President controls the prosecutor.
REP. SCHIFF: Back to why ignoring subpoenas is bad precedent and we can’t let that stand.
REP. SMITH: Strongly support the Forbes amendment because it’s politically useful for us as an argument. [CHS notes: that’s the gist, anyway.]
REP. CANNON: Haven’t heard opposition to the amendment, but have heard opposition to the WH. Gosh, we should accept this amendment.
REP. GOHMERT: Wow, you guys are shocking because you didn’t want Cannon’s amendment. [CHS notes: Did he listen to anything Conyers said about the parliamentary precedents on this in terms of report requirements? Um…no. And what is it with the matching red polka dot ties on the GOP side today? Was there a solidarity tie memo or something?]
REP. WATERS: Gentleman from VA is trying to have us believe what we are doing is not important. This is not so. We certainly do have a responsibility for oversight and investigation. This Administration misleads, they stonewall…I could go on and on how they have disrespected the rule of law and the Constitution. The President should be an example of how to rule and comply with the law. Because they have not, it is important that we provide oversight of what has been done.
REP. NADLER: It is important for this committee to protect liberty. They have subverted the independence of prosecutors — they have now asserted the right for the USAttys not to enforce contempt citations, which is contrary to legal precedents.
REP. JACKSON LEE: Waco hearings, Clinton impeachment — all done in this room. Need to look at the Nixon precedent on executive privilege where potential criminal wrongdoing may have occurred. The rights of the American public are superior to the need for a President to protect his Administration from investigation of wrongdoing. We are asserting the rights of this committee and Congress to exercise their Constitutional responsibilities of oversight. Brings up the fact that Clinton waived executive privilege on the Rich pardon issue, and this President should do the same.
REP. WATT: Merits of this amendment — while it is an accurate statement of the committee’s jurisdiction, it is irrelevent for the purpose of the committee’s hearing today. And thus I do not think it should be in the resolution because it is simply not germaine. It is a diversion from what we are here for today.
AYES and NAYS
AYES and NAYS
AYES — 16
NAYS — 22
Quorum being present — question now on the contempt resolution:
Roll call vote:
AYES — 22
NAYS — 17
Report is agreed to. Without objections, the staff has two days to make technical amendments.
On to other business now…