Davis, Waxman Agree: President Abused Powers
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a bipartisan report today that concluded George W. Bush abused his claim of executive privilege when he withheld from the committee Vice President Dick Cheney’s FBI interview concerning the leak of Valerie Plame’s identity.
Committee chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) had previously considered holding Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey in contempt of Congress for not turning over Cheney’s interview with special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.
The retiring Tom Davis, (R-Va.), the top Republican on the committee and who has a track record of skepticism toward the Plame leak probe, signed this statement:
The central document in this dispute is the report of the FBI interview with the vice president. Both the chairman and the ranking Member are in agreement that the president’s assertion of executive privilege over this document was legally unprecedented and an inappropriate use of executive privilege.
The attorney general argues that the committee should not have access to the report of the interview because of the sensitive nature of the matters discussed. In this case, however, the committee is not seeking to examine sensitive questions of foreign policy or national security. Rather, the committee is seeking information on the role, if any, played by the vice president and others in the White House in the leak of the identity of a covert CIA officer and what steps, if any, the vice president and others took to investigate and respond to the leak after it occurred. There is no reason to believe that the special counsel’s interview with the vice president went beyond these questions and into areas relating to presidential decision-making about foreign policy or national security.
Davis, however, has not signed onto a document that said the president abused his claim of executive privilege in getting Stephen Johnson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, to produce documents related to greenhouse gas regulations and ozone standards.
The committee will meet next week to vote on the report released today. What effect it will have this late in the Bush administration is not clear.
What is interesting, though, is that Davis, at the end of his congressional career, is expressing disdain for an administration he has largely defended.
He was also critical of the president in a recent New York Times magazine profile.
Such criticisms were largely absent during the bulk of Davis’s time chairing the oversight committee and also as its ranking member.