Two interesting pieces of news regarding the Valerie Plame CIA leak case–that being that case that lead to Scooter Libby’s conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice, a conviction that President Bush commuted because, frankly, he was probably concerned that Scooter would flip on Cheney or Rove–emerged yesterday.
First, the civil lawsuit filed by Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, against Vice President Cheney, Scooter Libby, and others in the Bush
crime family Administration was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. “[i]Judge John D.] Bates sided with administration officials who said they were acting within their job duties. Plame had argued that what they did was illegal and outside the scope of their government jobs.”
Second, a film about the Plame scandal is in development. But rather than look at the destruction of Plame’s covert operation to stop the proliferation of nuclear materials, the film is going to look at a different character in the saga, New York Times writer Judith Miller. “According to Variety sources, the lead is a Washington reporter who outs a CIA agent, then is jailed for refusing to reveal her source. Shooting may begin in October.” Judith Miller? WTF? Don’t get me wrong–I like Kate Beckinsale (the reported casting for the film), but Miller was hardly a hero in this affair. Actually, I thought she was more than a little shallow.
So, what can we take away from this? I’d say that evil triumphed yesterday. And that’s damned depressing.
What’s more depressing? The President has declared himself King. And he’s declared his lackeys to be above the law:
Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying 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.
The position presents serious legal and political obstacles for congressional Democrats, who have begun laying the groundwork for contempt proceedings against current and former White House officials in order to pry loose information about the dismissals.
Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, “whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action.”
But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege.
Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who has written a book on executive-privilege issues, called the administration’s stance “astonishing.”
“That’s a breathtakingly broad view of the president’s role in this system of separation of powers,” Rozell said. “What this statement is saying is the president’s claim of executive privilege trumps all.”
The administration’s statement is a dramatic attempt to seize the upper hand in an escalating constitutional battle with Congress, which has been trying for months, without success, to compel White House officials to testify and to turn over documents about their roles in the prosecutor firings last year. The Justice Department and White House in recent weeks have been discussing when and how to disclose the stance, and the official said he decided yesterday that it was time to highlight it.
Yesterday, a House Judiciary subcommittee voted to lay the groundwork for contempt proceedings against White House chief of staff Joshua B. Bolten, following a similar decision last week against former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers.
The lesson here, kids? If the President tells you to do it, then by definition it must be legal, even if it breaks laws. And when you’re called on it, the President gives you a get-out-of-jail-free card. It worked for Scooter Libby. It’s working for Harriet Miers (whom I am more convinced than ever was nominated to the Supreme Court to put her someplace where she couldn’t be compelled to talk). It’s working for Alberto Gonzales.
Historians fifty years from now are going to look back on these times and wonder what the fuck Americans were thinking in 2000 and 2004. “The warning signs were there. Why didn’t you look at this? It was right there!” God, that’s depressing.
We’ve got ourselves a king. :/