ThinkFast: July 20, 2007


Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday, claiming that the Justice Department “will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.” Mark Rozell, an expert on executive privilege said, “What this statement is saying is the president’s claim of executive privilege trumps all.”

A House Judiciary subcommittee rejected Bush’s contention that “his claim of executive privilege shields the top aide, Joshua Bolten, from having to turn over subpoenaed documents.” The vote subjected Bolten to possible contempt charges.

“The top commanders in Iraq and the American ambassador to Baghdad appealed for more time beyond their mid-September assessment…but their appeals, in three videoconferences on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon, were met by stern rebukes from lawmakers of both parties.”

70: Number of House members who wrote a letter to Bush stating that they “will only support appropriating additional funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq during Fiscal Year 2008 and beyond for the protection and safe redeployment of all our troops out of Iraq before you leave office.”

Congressional watchdog groups argued that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) broke the ethics rules when she bought property from a friend and political supporter. Ken Boehm, who heads the National Legal and Policy Center, said, “You have two grown-ups who know what this piece of property is worth, and they picked a sales price that’s not what it’s worth.”

“An appeals court chastised the Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday and ordered the agency to pay retroactive benefits to Vietnam War veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and contracted a form of leukemia.”

In a 78-18 vote, the Senate voted to “cut federal subsidies to college student loan firms, such as Sallie Mae, by $18.3 billion, redirect savings to student grants and ease some student loan repayment terms.” The annual maximum level for Pell grants would go up from $4,310 to more than $5,000.

“U.S. troops in Iraq should receive 2,500 to 3,000 special armored vehicles by year’s end if Congress approves $1.2 billion in 2007 defense spending, a top Pentagon official said on Thursday, down from 3,400 vehicles announced just a day earlier.”

And finally: Yesterday, in a “rare public appearance,” U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald “submitted himself to questions as a guest on Chicago Public Radio’s comedic quiz show, ‘Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me.'” Although “Fitzgerald flunked the quiz, a (scripted) appeal overturned the answer of the final question, commuting it to a win. When asked by host Peter Sagal why such a tight-lipped public official would come on the show, Fitzgerald said, “Literally, I was trying to get tickets to the show.”

What did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.