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Leahy: Cheney Told GOP-Led Congress It Was ‘Not Allowed To Issue Subpoenas'

Think Progress | August 21, 2007

Today in a press briefing, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) revealed that the White House had missed its 2:30 PM deadline to turn over documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding legal justifications for the National Security Agency's eavesdropping program. The Committee had already pushed back the original July 18 deadline twice after the White House requested more time.

Leahy said that the administration's stonewalling amounted to “contempt of the valid order of the Congress,” and pointed out that these subpoenas were passed by broad bipartisan votes. In fact, the Senate Judiciary Committee in the conservative-led 109th Congress, chaired by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) also attempted to ask questions about the program's legal justifications. But Vice President Cheney personally barred him from issuing subpoenas:

In fact, we were about to issue subpoenas then and one of the senators came to our meeting and said that the vice president had met with the Republican senators and told them they were not allowed to issue subpoenas.

Not quite sure that's my understanding of the separation of powers, but it seemed to work at that time.

Watch it:

 

Leahy also said that while he didn't receive the requested documents, he did receive “a letter this morning from the Office of the Vice President identifying some documents that would be responsive to the committee's subpoena.” In the letter, the administration claims the Office of the Vice President is not part of the Executive Office of the President.

Leahy responds, “Well, that's wrong. … [O]h, incidentally, at least this morning, as I left Vermont, I checked the White House Web site . And even their own Web site, this morning, at least, says that the Executive Office — that the vice president is part of the Executive Office of the President.”

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Transcript:

LEAHY: The administration's failure to comply with the Judiciary Committee's subpoena for its legal analysis gives me as chairman very, very little comfort.

I received a letter this morning from the Office of the Vice President identifying some documents that would be responsive to the committee's subpoena.

Now, the acknowledgement of these documents is a good first step. I don't know why it's taken so long, but it's a good first step. And it should be followed by the administration turning them over which, of course, is what we requested in the subpoena.

I've worked in good faith with this administration. I first sought this information voluntarily. I accommodated a request for time.

But when the request for more time was simply followed by delay upon delay, we issued subpoenas in a bipartisan vote. And even then, when the subpoenas weren't followed through, we gave them more time.

The time is up. The time is up. We've waited long enough.

Incidentally, in the administration's response today, they claimed the Office of the Vice President is not part of the Executive Office of the President. So it's some kind of fourth branch of government.

Well, that's wrong. Both the United States Code says it is part of the president — oh, incidentally, at least this morning, as I left Vermont, I checked the White House Web site. And even their own Web site, this morning, at least, says that the Executive Office — that the vice president is part of the Executive Office of the President.

+++++

QUESTION: What is your next step to ensure this? What's your next step?

LEAHY: Well, I had hoped that by now they would have answered. They haven't. When the Senate comes back in the session, I'll bring it up before the committee. I prefer cooperation to contempt. Right now, there's no question that they are in contempt of the valid order of the Congress.

QUESTION: Is your impression they're dragging their feet?

LEAHY: Well, you know, a lot of these questions were asked by the former chairman a couple years ago, and we haven't gotten an answer.

In fact, we were about to issue subpoenas then and one of the senators came to our meeting and said that the vice president had met with the Republican senators and told them they were not allowed to issue subpoenas.

Not quite sure that's my understanding of the separation of powers, but it seemed to work at that time. Now have an issue. And interestingly enough, I pointed out that every single one of these subpoenas, they have been issued by a bipartisan vote. There have been no close votes on them.

So I would hope they'd do it. And, if not, the full Judiciary Committee will have to sit down and determine whether to seek contempt from the full Senate.

 

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