The Nation

Cheney's Actions Put Impeachment on the Table

Four more members of the U.S. House signed on this week as cosponsors of H. Res. 333, the measure that outlines articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney for actively and systematically seeking to deceive citizens and Congress about an alleged threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and an alleged relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda and for openly threatening aggression against Iran.

Congressman Bob Filner, the chair of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, added his name, along with another veteran Democratic representative from California, Sam Farr.

The additional cosponsorships from Washington Democrat Jim McDermott, a Vietnam-era veteran who has been one of the House's sharpest critics of the war in Iraq, and Virginia Democrat James Moran bring the number of supporters for the articles to 14, including sponsor Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.

House Members are backing impeachment for a number of reasons, including anger with Cheney's involvement with manipulations of intelligence regarding Iraq, illegal spying on Americans and the promotion of torture, as well his recent attempt to avoid scrutiny by claiming that the Office of the Vice President was not part of the executive branch. And then there was President Bush's decision to commute the 30-month prison sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff and co-conspirator in moves to punish former Ambassador Joe Wilson for exposing the deceptions that led to war.

The founders were very clear about the fact that abuses of the presidential authority to pardon or otherwise lift the burden of the law from subordinates was an impeachable offense. And a number of House members who take constitutional matters seriously have spoken up for impeachment since the commutation of Libby's sentence.

As Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. said after Bush commuted the sentence of a former aide who could connect the dots outlining presidential and vice presidential wrongdoing, "In her first weeks as leader of the Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi withdrew the notion of impeachment proceedings against either President Bush or Vice President Cheney. With the president's decision to once again subvert the legal process and the will of the American people by commuting the sentence of convicted felon Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, I call on House Democrats to reconsider impeachment proceedings."

That's an increasingly popular sentiment among Congressional Democrats, who are breaking with Pelosi to speak the "i" word.

It is an even more popular sentiment among the American people.

According to recent polling by the American Research Group, 54 percent of Americans want Cheney impeached. Among Democrats, that number rises to 76 percent. A majority of self-described independents back action to hold the vice president to account, as do a striking 17 percent of Republicans. With conservatives such as former Reagan administration lawyer Bruce Fein coming out strongly for Cheney's impeachment, the numbers of Republicans who are pulling for accountability is likely to grow.

Local pro-impeachment initiatives around the country -- coordinated at the national level by the brilliant www.afterdowningstreet.org website and its driving force, activist David Swanson -- have kept the pressure on House members to sign on to Kucinich's resolution.

California's Farr, for instance, felt the heat from constituents in the Santa Cruz area. Last year, at the behest of the local Coalition for Impeachment Now (COIN) group, the Santa Cruz City Council voted unanimously to endorse impeachment -- as have close to 80 cities and towns nationwide.

In Congress, impeachment of Cheney is now formally supported by the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, California Democrats Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee, as well as the founder of the Out of Iraq Caucus, California Democrat Maxine Waters.

Also on board are three members of the House Judiciary Committee, California's Waters, Georgia's Hank Johnson and Minnesota's Keith Ellison. It is the Judiciary Committee that would take up the issue of impeachment, under the chairmanship of Michigan Democrat John Conyers.

Conyers, who has made little secret of his belief that the president and vice president have taken actions that are in conflict with the Constitution, has yet to endorse H. Res. 333. But he is feeling pressure to do so. In May, the Detroit City Council voted to support impeachment of Bush and Cheney for misleading Congress and the public regarding the threat from Iraq, approving spying on the American people, conspiring to encourage the use of torture and acting to strip American citizens of their constitutional rights by ordering indefinite detention without access to legal counsel.

The arguments for impeachment are varied, to be sure.

But at the heart of the growing enthusiasm for putting the process in motion is a sense that Congress can no longer neglect abuses of power by a lawless executive branch.

"The Founders intended impeachment to be used when those running the government forgot that they worked for the people, and the Founders intended impeachment to be used when those running the government acted as though they were above the law," explains Congressman McDermott, who argues that, "The vice president holds himself above the law, and it is time for the Congress to enforce the law."


John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

Sectarian Extremists Versus Jefferson

Sectarian extremists invaded the U.S. Senate chamber Thursday, chanting "There's only one true God" and denouncing religious pluralism as an "abomination."

The noisy assault on American values and traditions unfolded as the Senate was opening with its daily prayer.

Rajan Zed, the director of interfaith relations at a Hindu temple in Nevada, began his brief invocation with the words, "We meditate on the transcendental glory of the deity supreme, who is inside the heart of the Earth, inside the life of the sky and inside the soul of the heaven. May He stimulate and illuminate our minds."

As he spoke two women and a man in the Senate gallery attempted to shout him down.

Even as Capitol police removed the trio from the gallery, they continued to taunt the first Hindu cleric to open a session of the Senate. One of the zealots shouted "we are Christians and patriots."

Some leading conservative religious figures hailed the interruption, including Pastor Wiley Drake, a former 2nd Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention, who said, "When not one of the 100 members of the U.S. Senate would object on the record, and in proper order, the opening of the U.S. Senate July 12, 2007, Christian observers had no choice but to speak from the gallery of the Senate. Had I been present I too would have stood and objected since none of the Senators would."

The three individuals who did object udentified themselves as members of Operation Save America/Operation Rescue, a militant anti-abortion rights group, which issued a statement denouncing the Senate's show of respect for religious diverity.

"The Senate was opened with a Hindu prayer placing the false god of Hinduism on a level playing field with the one true god, Jesus Christ," it declared. "This would never have been allowed by our Founding Fathers."

On this point, the protesters are wrong.

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the concept that the United States should maintain a "wall of separation" in order to avoid the development of a state religion of the sort that had existed in the monarchies of Europe, was a student Hinduism. His library included Hindu texts, and when he wrote the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom, which laid the groundwork for the Constitution protection of religious practice and pluralism, he specifically avoided making reference to the Christian faith -- though its adherents dominated the public life of Virginia and other colonies -- because he wanted it to be known that all religions, including Hinduism, were respected and welcomed in the United States.

In his notes on the Virginia statute, Jefferson specifically argued that Hinduism and other faiths would be afforded the full protection and privileges of the act.

Noting the overwhelming rejection by Virginia legislators of an amendment to his statute that proposed to insert a reference to Jesus Christ, Jefferson found "proof that they (the legislators who enacted the measure) meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammedan, the Hindoo and the (non-practicing and disbelieving) infidel of every denomination."

Jefferson's respect for religious pluralism in general, and Hinduism in particular, led him to compare notes with other founders of the American experiment. The third president and his predecessor, John Adams corresponded at some length about their respect for the teachings of the Hindu religion.

It was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who invited Rajan Zed do the chamber Thursday. But he did so in the name of Jefferson, Adams and the other founders who believed that America should make no religion supreme but rather should recognize and respect many faiths -- including Hinduism.


John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

A Small Measure of Sanity (Continued)

As Walter Pincus reported in the Washington Post last week, Senate Democrats plan to follow the House lead in "reducing funds" for the insidious Bush plan for a European-based missile defense system when the Senate takes up the 2008 Defense Authorization Bill this month. The Bush plan – which senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Joseph Cirincione calls "rushing to deploy a technology that does not work against a threat that does not exist" – would place 10 interceptor missile sites in Poland and the system's radar in the Czech Republic.

The House has already passed its version of the bill which slashed $160 million from the Bush Administration's $310 million request in FY2008 and denied funding for construction of the European sites. It would also require the Bush administration to report by January on how it will "bring NATO on board." The Senate Armed Services Committee has recommended $85 million in cuts and "firm agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic before funds are released." According to Pincus, the Committee pointed to the unreliability of the weapons system and a desire for completed talks between Russia and the US (as well as NATO) prior to any funding.

In addition to Congressional opposition in the US, the Czech and Polish people are about as thrilled with the Bush Push as the American people are with his Surge. I initially wrote about opposition in the host countries here and here, and that opposition has only grown. According to the Los Angeles Times, more than 25 Czech villages and towns have voted against the plan in referendums. McClatchy Newspapers reported on these recent referendums: in the town of Vesin, west of Prague, 98 percent of the people voted against the plan; in Sedlec, 96.5 percent; Vranovice, 96 percent; and in Rozmital, 94.5 percent. Perhaps Lenka Jelinkova, 24, of Rozmital, put it best: "From the perspectives of safety, ecology and quality of living, all it promises is destruction." Despite the overwhelming Czech opposition "… most people believe the government has made up it's mind, and it will be built here" (An all too familiar feeling these days for too many people in too many democracies – including our own.)

But the LA Times artricle noted that legislative support in Prague and Warsaw "is thin and fading… the most heated debate has come in Poland, where many believe Warsaw has done a series of favors for the US, including sending troops to Iraq, without reciprocation." And Victoria Samson, Research Analyst at the Center for Defense Information, told me, "There are NGOs gearing up in Czech to increase awareness about the potential impacts of the bases on local people's lives. Congress is right to be concerned about funding projects that may not receive approval from the host country parliaments."

It's good to see signs of life and opposition to the Bush missile defense folly in the US--and in the very countries we claim to be protecting with this so-called shield.

Congress Moves Toward Contempt Citation

"Are congressional subpoenas to be honored or are they optional?" House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers asked Thursday.

It was a rhetorical question.

Conyers, who has served on the Judiciary Committee long enough to remember the Watergate-era clashes between the executive and legislative branches that were supposed to have resolved that issue, knows that congressional subpoenas are backed up by the full power of the U.S. Constitution.

Unfortunately, President Bush is not so familiar with the dictates of the Constitution and the rule of law it outlines.

So, says Conyers, "Apparently we have to run this out."

"This" is the process by which former White House counsel Harriet Miers could be held in Contempt of Congress for failing to appear before a Judiciary Committee hearing to which she had been summoned to testify about the role she and other key figures in the administration played in efforts to politicize federal investigations and prosecutions.

Miers was to have testified Thursday. But she failed to appear after the president ordered his former aide to defy the committee.

Bush asserts that he has the authority -- via a dramatically inflated interpretation of his executive privilege -- to declare that his former counsel is not bound by the rules that require individuals who are subpoenaed by Congress to cooperate.

The president appears to believe that he has the authority to obstruct an investigation that could eventually come to focus on his action.

The chairwoman of the subcommittee, California Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, disagrees.

In what was the most dramatic moment yet in the clash between the Congress and the Bush White House, the Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on administrative law was gaveled into session Thursday by Sanchez.

Across from the committee members was an empty chair at the table from which Miers was to have testified.

Sanchez ruled Bush's assertion of executive privilege out of order, declaring, "Those claims are not legally valid. Ms. Miers is required pursuant to the subpoena to be here now."

The subcommittee then voted 7-5 to sustain Sanchez's ruling. Said Congressman Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee, "What we've got here is an empty chair. I mean, that is as contemptuous as anybody can be of the government."

Such contempt can have consequences.

Unless the president backs down, the full Judiciary Committee is expected to vote to hold Miers -- a longtime friend and legal adviser to Bush who the president nominated for the Supreme Court -- in contempt.

After that, the full House can vote to approve a Contempt of Congress citation. If a majority of House members favor issuing the citation, it becomes the responsibility of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a federal grand jury for action to compel Miers to testify.

The issuance of a Contempt of Congress citation, which could come before the August recess, would set up a legal battle between the Congress and the White House more serious than any since the struggles that played out in 1973 and 1974 between Congress and former President Richard Nixon.

In that dispute, the courts ruled repeatedly and decisively in favor of the Congress.

Ultimately, the House Judiciary Committee would endorse an article of impeachment charging Nixon with failing to cooperate with Congress. Shortly afterward, Nixon resigned in disgrace.

As in the Watergare fight, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee tried Thursday to suggest that the rule of law did not apply a Republican president and his aides. "It's time for the majority to stop swaggering its power in this Congress," grumbled Utah Congressman Chris Cannon, the senior Republican on the subcommittee.

Cannon, who has never been accused of being a Constitutional scholar, claimed the courts would uphold the president's assertion of executive privilege.

In fact, White House lawyers have based Bush's unprecedented claim of an authority to declare his aides and appointees immune from congressional scrutiny not on precedents found in court rulings but on opinions outlined by administration lawyers. Jonathan Turley, the noted Constitutional scholar who teaches law at George Washington University, told the Associated Press that Bush is going significantly further than past presidents in refusing to cooperate with Congress. As such, he suggests, the administration "could not have picked worse ground" from which to try and defend a claim of executive privilege.

The fight is now about more than getting to the bottom of the of the U.S. Attorneys case, and the role of Miers and Bush in that scandal.

"If we do not enforce this subpoena," says Conyers, "no one will ever have to come before the Judiciary Committee again."

And the Constitutionally-defined system of checks and balances, which has served the Republic for the better part of 220 years, will become a relic of history.


John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

FEMA: Still F’d Up

Written and Reported by Matthew Blake

Gulf Coast residents who've witnessed the incompetence of FEMA might find dark humor in the federal agency's unifying effect. Democratic and Republican Senators, Louisiana and New Orleans government leaders, and even former FEMA officials say the agency remains a major obstacle to Hurricane Katrina disaster recovery.

Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska upped the ante at a Senate Homeland Security subcommittee hearing Tuesday, decrying FEMA as fundamentally incapable of correctly spending and allocating the $110 billion dollars it was given by Congress to assist the Gulf. (In reality, only $26 billion was appropriated to rebuild Louisiana.) The Republican Senator compared the damage from Katrina to France and Germany after World War Two concluding, "You need a new Marshall Plan for this area, not just FEMA."

That comparison struck a chord with Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, who convened the hearing. "You really hit the nail on the head comparing it to parts of Europe after World War Two," she said. The city's population is 60 percent of what it was before Katrina, murder rates have climbed to the deadliest in America and areas like the Lower Ninth Ward remain blighted and barren.

Stevens, one of the oldest and most conservative members of the Senate, would seem an unlikely champion of aggrieved New Orleans citizens. But he effectively conveyed both the magnitude of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita's devastation and the structural problems FEMA has encountered under the Bush Administration and the four year-old Department of Homeland Security.

Additional voices in the anti-FEMA chorus Tuesday included Mark Merritt, an assistant director at FEMA under Bill Clinton; Jeff Smith, the Louisiana governor's office executive director for homeland security and emergency preparedness, and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Nagin told the committee that, "There needs to be some consistency. Every two months we deal with a different FEMA representative. It's like we're always starting from scratch."

Example after example was given to illustrate how FEMA has not delivered promised funds. Witnesses were sharply critical of the agency's "project worksheets," the excessively bureaucratic and inefficient reimbursement program through which federal Katrina recovery money is rewarded to state and local government--and often delayed, if it arrives at all. "If we used project worksheets after World War Two, we'd still be rebuilding Germany today," Landrieu remarked.

For example, Kevin Davis, President of St. Tammany Parish in New Orleans, said one FEMA official gave the green light to a plan to clean up his devastated neighborhood, but then a new official was reassigned to the area and concluded that the worksheet's wording disqualified his Parish for funding.

"FEMA officials arbitrarily decided what they could and could not get done," he said. St. Tammany Parish is now suing the agency in federal court.

Such criticisms come a day after a House Homeland Security Committee report noting that about one-third of all top-level FEMA positions are currently unfilled. Landrieu conceded that ultimately "it's the private sector that will rebuild New Orleans." Yet "without basic government infrastructure" she said, the city will remain in rubble.

Which Side Are You On?

In the last few weeks, the obscenely wealthy titans of private equity and hedge funds have assembled a huge lobbying machine to work the hallways of Congress and lobby its key committees. The reason: to subvert the common good and abort a fair tax increase on their partnerships and compensation fees.

The proposed increase--from the capital gains tax rate of 15 percent to the ordinary income rate of as much as 35 percent--would provide desperately needed new sources of revenue to pay for programs in education, healthcare and infrastructure. As Damon Silvers, associate counsel at the AFL-CIO put it, "The tax subsidy to the wealthiest Americans created by these lower rates on equity funds is a significant drain on the ability to do important things for the good of the country."

What's not unexpected is Bush Administration and GOP opposition--with dire warnings of how any tax increase would harm the economy and stifle risk-taking. One Republican lobbyist even had the audacity to object to "ending the beneficial tax treatment of risk versus the treatment of wages from work." But it's the lukewarm response to these measures by powerful Democrats like Senator Chuck Schumer and Christopher Dodd and Representative Rahm Emanuel-- who all happen to rely on Wall Street as a major source of political contributions--that's disturbing. As they deliberate about the future of tax justice in America, these three (and other fence-straddling Democratic lawmakers) may want to think hard about what the AFL's Silvers' pointed out in a recent New York Times article: "The top 25 individuals in the industry [private equity funds] got paid over $10 billion, taxed at a rate of 15 percent. Those 25 people got paid three times the amount that was paid to all 80,000 people who teach in the New York City schools, and they paid roughly one-half to one-third of taxes on a percentage basis."

At a moment when hedge funds have emerged as among the largest contributors to Democratic campaigns, let's hold Presidential candidates accountable for their stance on this tax-equity issue. Presidential candidate John Edwards, a former adviser to Fortress investment Group, a New York -based hedge fund that recently went public, has already taken a good step in denouncing "a tax code that lets hedge fund and private equity managers making hundreds of millions a year pay taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries is wrong."

Bush's Royal Edict: Don't Cooperate With Congress

President Bush has treated Congress with contempt for more than six years.

But the most regal executive to reign over the United States since King George III was deposed has never displayed that contempt so aggressively as he did Wednesday.

On the eve of former White House counsel Harriet Miers' scheduled testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, she was ordered by the president to defy the subpoena she had been issued by the committee.

The president's lawyers claimed that Miers has "absolute immunity from compelled congressional testimony" in regard to the investigation of the administration's politicization of federal investigations and prosecutions.

According to current White House counsel Fred Fielding, Miers does not need to cooperate with congressional inquiries into "matters occurring while she was a senior adviser to the president."

That was enough for the former counsel's lawyer, George T. Manning, to notify Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers, D-Mich., that Miers would refuse to appear at Thursday's session to answer questions about the role played by the White House in forcing the firings of eight U.S. Attorneys.

Unlike former White House political director Sara Taylor, who answered a subpoena to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday but refused to answer most questions, Miers will not offer even a bare minimum of respect for the system of checks and balances that gives Congress the authority to investigate wrongdoing in the White House.

"As a former public official and officer of the court, Ms. Miers should be especially aware of the need to respect legal process," complained Conyers.

The committee chair said he was, "extremely disappointed in the White House's direction to Ms. Miers that she not even show up to assert the privilege before the committee."

That disappointment is understandable.

But disappointment is not enough.

The administration's casual disregard for subpoenas issued by Congress demands a response.

Conyers has spoken of seeking Contempt of Congress citations against current and former administration aides who refuse cooperate with his committee.

It's time, not merely to defend the authority of the Congress but to reassert respect for the role of the Constitution in defining proper relations between the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.


John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

Justice for Troy Davis-UPDATED

UPDATE: The state parole board Monday temporarily halted the execution of Troy Anthony Davis less than 24 hours before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection. The board issued a 90-day stay of execution after a nine-hour closed-door clemency hearing in which last-minute questions of his innocence were raised. The board did not release its vote.

Thanks to all of you who answered my appeal and contacted the board on Davis' behalf.

An order issued by the board granting the stay said "those representing Troy Anthony Davis have asserted that they can and will present live witnesses and other evidence to the members of the board to support their contention that there remains some doubt as to his guilt."

It also states that the board "will not allow an execution to proceed in this state unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused."

Davis' lawyers were elated that they will now have more time to make a case for his innocence.

"Of course we're disappointed that it wasn't full clemency, but I think the reaction of the board shows that there was, in fact, some doubt," said Danielle Garten, one of Davis' lawyers. "We're glad we were able to show that and to be the messengers of what Troy's story really is."

Stay tuned.

Troy Anthony Davis is currently scheduled to die by lethal injection on July 17. Davis has been on death row in Georgia for more than 15 years for the murder of Police Officer Mark Allen McPhail at a Burger King in Savannah; a murder he maintains he did not commit. The record of his case offers much credence for his contention.

As a comprehensive recent report by Amnesty International shows, no physical evidence against Davis was ever found and the weapon used in the crime was never located. The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained numerous inconsistencies even at the time of the trial. Since then, all but two of the state's non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony. Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Davis. One of the two witnesses who has not recanted his testimony is Sylvester "Red" Coles – the principle alternative suspect, according to the defense, against whom there is new evidence implicating him as the gunman. Nine individuals have signed affidavits implicating Sylvester Coles.

Moreover, as the Atlanta Constitution-Journal reported this week, "it appears that the quality of legal representation Davis received during his trial was, by his own lawyer's account, seriously deficient. While Davis' case proceeded through the courts, the budget of the Georgia Resource Center, which represented him, was dramatically cut. A lawyer from the Resource Center stated in an affidavit that 'We were simply trying to avert total disaster rather than provide any kind of active or effective representation.'"

If executed, Davis will join 40 other men who have been executed in Georgia since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1973. Given significant uncertainty about some of the forty's guilt, experts from Georgia's legal community recently produced a report, sponsored by the American Bar Association, recommending that Georgia impose a moratorium on executions because the state could not ensure fairness and accuracy in every capital case. Among other things, it cited racial disparity in capital sentencing, with those convicted of killing whites 4.5 times more likely to be sentenced to death as those convicted of killing blacks. In this case, the officer killed was white; Davis is black.

Last Monday, lawyers for Davis went before the US Supreme Court in a last-ditch effort to convene a retrial, but the Roberts court denied their plea and upheld Davis' sentence, ending a 12-year attempt to appeal the case and setting the final execution process in motion.

Read more about this travesty of justice, click here to send an urgent message to the Georgia State Board of Pardons & Paroles urging a stay of Davis's execution and and write your local newspaper asking them to report on this case.

Taylor Testifies—Sort Of

The news was that there was no news.

She showed up and testified--but in the end former White House political director Sara Taylor didn't--or couldn't--say much.

Again and again at a hearing of the Senator Judiciary Committee, the underling of Karl Rove invoked the order of executive privilege President Bush mandated on Monday to prevent his aides from testifying about the dismissal of nine US Attorneys. But in between her frequent bouts of non-answer, Taylor did manage to include a plug for her boss.

Taylor told Chairman Patrick Leahy that she never discussed firing the attorneys with the President. "I don't believe the White House did anything wrong," she stated.

If there was no foul play, Senators wondered, then why couldn't she discuss what went on at her old employ?

Leahy blasted the President's executive privilege intervention as "an unprecedented blanket assertion" and kept asking "What is it that the White House is trying to hide?"

President Bush announced this afternoon that Harriet Miers will not testify on Thursday before Congress as scheduled. Senator Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Committee and the only GOP Senator to originally show up, even suggested that Taylor and Miers could face criminal contempt charges for following Bush's order "not to testify concerning White House communications whether internal or external."

The 32-year-old Taylor, who worked with Rove on a daily basis for four years, did an expert job of cherrypicking. She spent three hours of testimony answering almost any question that did not implicate the White House in "Attorneygate" and invoked executive privilege when Senators pressed for specifics about the hiring and firing of federal prosecutors. She admitted toward the end of her hearing that while she tried to be consistent in honoring the President's executive privilege, "perhaps I have not done a great job."

In fairness, Taylor was placed in an untenable spot by the President. Answer questions and violate a however misguided presidential order. Or refuse to talk and anger Senators hungry to get to the bottom of this convoluted story. Senators understood that she was yet another pawn in the Bush Administration's resistance to Congressional inquiry. "The White House has put you in a position of being a tight-rope walker," said New York Democrat Chuck Schumer. Illinois's Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, added, "Karl Rove should be sitting at that table, not you."

Reporting by Matthew Blake