This Wednesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers will hold a hearing on the use and misuse of presidential clemency power, looking specifically at whether President Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence was an abuse of power.
Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Conyers said there exists a “suspicion that if Mr. Libby went to prison, he might further implicate other people in the White House.” Conyers noted “there was some kind of relationship here that does not exist in any of President Clinton’s pardons… [and] it’s never existed before.”
Conyers said he is requesting Bush waive executive privilege and “do what President Clinton did — namely to bring forward any of his pardon lawyers or anyone that can put a clear light on this and put this kind of feeling that is fairly general to rest.” Watch it:
Conyers was also asked about subpoenas that he has issued to the White House for information relating to the U.S. Attorney’s purge. The Washington Post reports this morning, “The White House has decided to defy Congress’s latest demand for information regarding the dismissal of nine U.S. attorneys, sources familiar with the decision said yesterday.”
Conyers said the White House had failed to communicate with him about its intent to defy Congress. “Well, I’m glad The Post finds out about what the president plans to do before anybody just gives us a call. We’re going to pursue our legal remedies to press forward with the subpoenas.”
Asked by host George Stephanopoulos if “that means holding the White House in contempt of Congress?” “Well, yes,” Conyers responded. “It means moving forward in the process that would require him to comply with the subpoenas like most other people.”
CONYERS: But what we have here — and I think we should put it on the table right at the beginning — is that the suspicion was that if Mr. Libby went to prison, he might further implicate other people in the White House, and that there was some kind of relationship here that does not exist in any of President Clinton’s pardons, nor, according to those that we’ve talked to — and this is why we’re doing the hearings — is that it’s never existed before, ever.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So it’s really…
CONYERS: We’ve never had…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me stop you there, because you seem to be suggesting that President Bush commuted Mr. Libby’s sentence in order to keep him quiet.
CONYERS: Well, that’s — I said that’s what the general impression is. And what we’re trying to do — and this is why we’ve written the president, inviting him to do what President Clinton did, and namely to bring forward any of his pardon lawyers or anyone that can put a clear light on this and put this kind of feeling that is fairly general to rest. That’s the whole purpose.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re asking him to waive executive privilege.
CONYERS: Yes. And that’s what Clinton did. Yes, we’re asking him to waive executive privilege and allow his pardon lawyers or other experts, who it appears that he did not consult, explain this in a little more detail.
So, what we’re saying, Mr. Stephanopoulos, is that there wasn’t any pardons that have involved a person who was a former chief of staff to the vice president of the United States that got a commutation. Commutations usually follow after a person has served some period of time. And of course, this isn’t the case here.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve asked the president — you’re asking the president to waive executive privilege in this case on the pardons. You’ve also asked him to waive executive privilege as you investigate the firing of those U.S. attorneys. And you’ve given the president a 10 a.m. deadline tomorrow to come forward with those documents.
But The Washington Post reports this morning that the White House is going to deny that request. They say that they’re not going to turn over the documents you’ve requested or the detailed justification for the executive privilege claims. So what’s your response going to be?
CONYERS: Well, I’m glad The Post finds out about what the president plans to do before anybody just gives us a call. We’re going to pursue our legal remedies to press forward with the subpoenas. I don’t think, if this is correct, we don’t have any other choice.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So that means holding the White House in contempt of Congress?
CONYERS: Well, yes. It means moving forward in the process that would require him to comply with the subpoenas like most other people.