Politics

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Evan Vucci/AP

Bush Exercising Executive Privilege in Valerie Plame Case

July 17, 2008 04:16 PM
by Anne Szustek
The President is using executive privilege to keep secret an FBI report on Dick Cheney’s possible involvement in unveiling Plame as a CIA operative.

30-Second Summary

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The House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., issued a subpoena to U.S. Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey to turn over an FBI “302” report detailing the vice president’s interviews on possible knowledge of the uncovering of Valerie Plame as a spy.

Bush invoked executive privilege to keep Cheney from testifying, a decision supported by Mukasey. In a letter to the president, Mukasey wrote, “I am greatly concerned about the chilling effect that compliance with the committee’s subpoena would have on future White House deliberations.”

Executive privilege is used by presidents to prevent witnesses from testifying or to withhold documents from other government branches or private parties. The tool has been in use since George Washington’s administration.

Legal experts quoted in Newsweek saw this as an unprecedented White House power play to protect the administration’s highest-ups. “This is really an argument to protect the White House’s own political interests and save it from embarrassment,” George Mason University’s Mark Rozell said.

But Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, cited a 1986 case in which the Reagan administration used similar reasoning to withhold files from independent counsel. The Supreme Court ruled on the scope of executive privilege during the Nixon administration.

In 2003, Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, disputed reports that Iraq was attempting to source “yellowcake” uranium from Niger. Plame’s identity was revealed to journalists soon after. Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was found guilty of obstructing the independent investigation into the leak but was pardoned by President Bush.

Headline Link: ‘Bush Claims Executive Privilege to Keep CIA Leak Records from Congress’

Background: Executive privilege; Valerie Plame

What is executive privilege?
The outing of Valerie Plame

Opinion & Analysis: Extent of executive privilege seems unprecedented

Reference: FindingDulcinea’s Web Guide to U.S. Government

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