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Looking Backward

As I noted yesterday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. has issued a new subpoena to former Bush White House aide Karl Rove. Rove deflected an earlier effort to compel his testimony about the politicization of the Justice Department.

Zachary Roth writes for TPM Muckraker: "On the question of whether we’ll get to the bottom of the Bush White House’s role in the US Attorney firings, it’s starting to look more and more like the ball is squarely in President Obama’s court….

"[J]ust now, Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, told TPMmuckraker that he had already forwarded Conyers’ subpoena to the Obama White House, asking them to give an opinion as to whether President Bush retains his ability to assert executive privilege."

Gail Russell Chaddock writes in the Christian Science Monitor: "So far, the Obama administration has not commented on how it will interpret issues of executive privilege affecting the previous administration.

"'Certainly the rule of law is something that’s very important to this president, as is the pursuit of justice of those who have been wronged. But with a huge crisis and two wars, it’s not a top priority of his to start out by looking over what happened in the last administration,' says an administration official not authorized to speak for attribution.

"Obama’s early decisions on the exercise of executive power will be among the closest watched of his presidency.

"'This case exemplifies the tension he now faces. The day after huge layoffs by most of the major businesses in the country, he’s meeting with Republicans trying to win their support for an economic stimulus bill, while across the aisle, Democrats in Congress have just subpoenaed one of the major figures of the Bush administration for what could be a serious investigation,' says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University. 'The clash between dealing with anger of the past and the need to focus on the future is now front and center in the early part of his presidency.'"

Law blogger Jack Balkin writes that whatever Obama decides, "Rove will still go to court to defend the privilege, whether Obama supports it or not. As a result, we can expect that Rove will not have to testify for some time, perhaps not for years."

Meanwhile, Marisa Taylor writes for McClatchy Newspaper: "The American Civil Liberties Union asked the Obama administration on Wednesday to release Justice Department memos that provided the legal underpinning for harsh interrogations, eavesdropping and secret prisons.

"For years, the Bush administration refused to release them, citing national security, attorney-client privilege and the need to protect the government’s deliberative process.

"The ACLU’s request, however, comes after President Barack Obama last week rescinded a 2001 Justice Department memo that gave agencies broad legal cover to reject public disclosure requests. Obama also urged agencies to be more transparent when deciding what documents to release under the Freedom of Information Act."

Dan Nguyen and Christopher Weaver yesterday launched a Web feature on ProPublica that lists and describes the OLC memos that are still secret. ProPublica's Chisun Lee explains: "These memos laid the legal foundation to many of Bush’s most criticized counterterrorism efforts — the claims of unilateral executive authority to surveil, detain, and try terrorism suspects, unfettered by Congress or international law. Their disclosure could reveal what move was considered when, why and at whose behest."

The New York Times editorial board marvels at former attorney general Alberto Gonzales’s "bizarre" comeback attempt, in which he is "painting himself as an upstanding man victimized by a ‘mean-spirited town.'" (See this post for background.)

The Times writes: "Mr. Gonzales said he was not worried about being prosecuted for his actions because he was “acting in good faith” and — yes — following orders.

"That smug self-assurance should be another powerful reminder to the White House of the need for an unsparing review of all of Mr. Bush’s policies on torture, wiretapping and executive power. Only by learning the details of those disastrous decisions can the nation hope to undo the damage and make sure these mistakes are not repeated."

And in a few more looks back, Juliet Eilperin writes in The Washington Post: "Interior Department officials ignored key scientific findings when they limited water flows in the Grand Canyon to optimize generation of electric power there, risking damage to the ecology of the spectacular national landmark, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post."

Carrie Johnson writes in The Washington Post: "In his last days in office, President George W. Bush formally rejected clemency requests from a host of prominent business and political figures, including junk bond king Michael Milken and former California lawmaker Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham, according to newly released Justice Department records.

"Bush’s decision frustrated several well-heeled felons and the expensive Washington lawyers they hired to make their case. Over the past several months, lawyers with GOP ties and veterans of the White House counsel’s office signed on to advocate for convicts at sums that at times exceeded $500,000, according to lawyers who received solicitations."

By Dan Froomkin  |  January 28, 2009; 12:35 PM ET
Categories:  Looking Backward  
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Comments

Wow, that's quite the rundown. Glad to see the new format isn't sacrificing on depth.

Didn't the President sign an order last week stating that only the current POTUS can assert executive privilege -- and specifically prohibiting former presidents from doing so? Since Rove never worked for Obama, wouldn't an assertion of executive privilege violate this new order?

Also, if you're REALLY serious about making the change from columnist to blogger, we're gonna have to see more photos of kittens.

Posted by: KristolGale | January 28, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

new format looks good.
any way to continue having an "easy to print" feature?

Posted by: jwpbg | January 28, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Dan,
Love the new format! Hope it's all been positive on your end. Keep up the great work!
DB

Posted by: drewbitt | January 28, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

It would be refreshing if John Conyers paid a little attention to his own house for once, seeing how his wife is about to be indicted for accepting bribes for her public office votes. No turning back on that John.

Posted by: accentmark | January 28, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Call me crazy, but I don't see it as looking backwards...

I see it as first understanding what happened before so we can decide whether it was OK and if not, prevent it from happening again...

We were 'played' by the Bush administration and if we don't understand how they did it and why they did it and attempt to prevent it from happening again, it will ABSOLUTELY happen again....

Posted by: RichRable | January 28, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I agree with RichRable. This issue is as much about looking forward as it is about looking backward.

We saw criminal behavior without punishment in the Nixon administration (Watergate), the Reagan administration (Iran-Contra), and the Bush II administration (lying to Congress, subverting the Constitution, defying the Geneva conventions, requiring a political test for hiring public servants, etc.). These kinds of crimes will just keep happening unless the sleazebags begin to understand that they are not immune to retribution.

On top of that, there's this thing called justice, and according to this other thing called the Pledge of Allegiance, we're supposed to have plenty of that stuff for everybody in this country. To see Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld avoid prosecution for their crimes is to see justice denied. And that's un-American, or so I was brought up to believe.

Posted by: SeattleVoter | January 28, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

The new format might make it possible to be more insistent on post being baiscally germane, in which case it will be a significant improvement.

Barack can deal with the Conyers subpoenas by saying that Congress' power to subpoena Bush administration officials is between Congress and the courts. He can also point out that he bears no absolute obligation to back Bush staffers, and will not under any circumstances help obstruct legitimate investigations into allegations of illegal activities by the Bush White house. The Rove et al are on their own.

As long as Barack just stands aside, we will get a full accounting from the Bush administration. That is regardless of whether they like have to account for their criminal behavior or not.

Posted by: ceflynline | January 28, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Ok, I'm really tired of hearing about looking forward instand of backward. Every crime that's ever been prosecuted is a crime that HAPPENED IN THE PAST. What a bizarre excuse to not investigate crimes.

Posted by: 4afreepress | January 28, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

It would be nice to think that the rule of law doesn't require the President's agreement to proceed, just not his active opposition.

Posted by: jpk1 | January 28, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Dan, I like to old format better. I could print off you post to read it. Reading a hard copy is easier on the eyes than reading off a screen.

Posted by: Nashville10 | January 28, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

4afreepress: +1

Posted by: toweringqs | January 29, 2009 9:49 PM | Report abuse

What is ex President George Walker Bush trying to hide from having Karl Rove appearing before the House Judiciary Committee. I think Karl Rove better realize he no longer has immunity and he better realize this.

If he doesn't want to cooperate then they need to get a warrant for his arrest and haul him back to Washington in leg irons and handcuffs and lock him in jail until he goes before the House Judiciary Committee. It would be justice for Karl Rove to go to prison for twenty to thirty years and make him realize that he is not above the law.

As well it would be interesting to see how well liked Karl Rove would be in prison as I think that the inmates would treat him the way he deserves to be and that is to beat him up physically on a daily basis. Karl Rove needs to learn by hard time and that means prison.

Posted by: barrymorriso | January 31, 2009 8:10 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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