By Dan Froomkin
10:15 AM ET, 05/21/2009
Kate Phillips writes for the New York Times: "President Obama on Wednesday signed legislation aimed at curbing financial fraud in the mortgage and other industries, including a provision that created an independent panel to investigate the root causes of the nation’s economic downturn....
"But after signing the bill, the White House issued what is called a signing statement by Mr. Obama, which includes this advisory to agencies about the financial panel’s potential reach: 'Section 5(d) of the Act requires every department, agency, bureau, board, commission, office, independent establishment, or instrumentality of the United States to furnish to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a legislative entity, any information related to any Commission inquiry. As my administration communicated to the Congress during the legislative process, the executive branch will construe this subsection of the bill not to abrogate any constitutional privilege.'
"In other words, the president is reserving the right to claim executive privilege if the commission seeks information or documents that the White House considers to be beyond the bounds of public information and/or privileged communications and negotiations within the executive branch."
Silla Brush writes in The Hill: "The Bush White House was criticized heavily for issuing more signing statements than all previous presidents combined and for using the tool as a practice to alter the intent of congressional legislation. Some estimates put the number of statements in the thousands during Bush's eight years in office.
"Obama's statement on Wednesday is one of a handful during his roughly four months in office. The president has said his administration would rarely issue statements, but defended the practice as a constitutional right."