Leahy: Taylor’s Testimony ‘Undercuts’ White House Claims To Executive Privilege

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"Leahy: Taylor’s Testimony ‘Undercuts’ White House Claims To Executive Privilege"

During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the U.S. attorney scandal today, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chairman of the committee, asked former White House political director Sara Taylor, “did you speak with President Bush about replacing U.S. attorneys?” “I did not speak to the president about removing U.S. attorneys,” Taylor responded.

Taylor also acknowledged that she “did not attend any meetings with the “President where that matter was discussed” and that she was “not aware of a presidential decision document” in which the president decided to proceed with the firing plan.

In his closing comments, Leahy noted Taylor’s admission that she did not discuss the U.S. attorney firing plan with the President, saying it “seriously undercuts his claim of executive privilege if he was not involved.” “And that really shows, again, that the White House counsel’s broad instruction is not only unprecedented, but it’s unsound,” added Leahy. Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/LeahyUndercuts.320.240.flv]

Leahy then mused on the White House’s possible motivations for asserting such a broad interpretation of executive privilege:

So I ask again, what is the White House so intent on hiding? If the president didn’t make these decisions, well then who did and why did they? Was it Mr. Rove or was it, as some of us feel, to corrupt law enforcement for partisan advantage, which would bother me far more than political machinations if it’s corrupting law enforcement?

So we’ll continue our efforts. We’ll keep trying.

(HT: TP commenter Marcus Aurelius)

Digg It!

Transcript:

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT):Now, since the 2004 election, did you speak with President Bush about replacing U.S. attorneys?

TAYLOR: I’m trying — again, I’m trying to…

LEAHY: I know what you’re trying to do, but you…

TAYLOR: Well, no, and I appreciate your patience, but I’m trying to make a determination on deliberations versus what is a fact-based question.

And so, I guess you asked me a fact-based question. I did not speak to the president about removing U.S. attorneys.

LEAHY: Did you attend any meeting with the president since the 2004 election in which the removal and replacement of U.S. attorneys was discussed?

TAYLOR: I did not attend any meetings with the president where that matter was discussed.

LEAHY: Are you aware of any presidential decision document since the 2004 election in which President Bush decided to proceed with a replacement plan for U.S. attorneys?

TAYLOR: I am not aware of a presidential decision document.

[…]

LEAHY (D-VT): I do note your answer that you did not discuss these matters with the president and to the best of your knowledge he was not involved is going to make some nervous at the White House because it seriously undercuts his claim of executive privilege if he was not involved.

And, of course, the president has made those statements publicly. He said that these were decisions he did not make. Actually other senior officials at the Justice Department said that under oath. Your testimony today under oath bolsters that impression. And that really shows, again, that the White House counsel’s broad instruction is not only unprecedented, but it’s unsound.

I say that because if it is unsound, if it is unprecedented, as I’ve said, it does not protect you from a contempt citation. This broad invocation of the notion of executive privilege to obstruct Congress from learning the truth leads one to believe it’s part of a cover-up.

So I ask again, what is the White House so intent on hiding? If the president didn’t make these decisions, well then who did and why did they? Was it Mr. Rove or was it, as some of us feel, to corrupt law enforcement for partisan advantage, which would bother me far more than political machinations if it’s corrupting law enforcement?

So we’ll continue our efforts. We’ll keep trying.

Thank you, Mr. Eggleston, for being here. And I guess other attorneys from your office are here, Mr. Eggleston. Am I correct?

EGGLESTON: Yes, sir.

LEAHY: And we stand in recess.

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