The Next Chapter in a Scandal

Cooperation from the White House could go a long way in allowing Congress to get the American people a straight and honest story.

The Senate Judiciary Committee and House Judiciary Committee announced today that they will be issuing subpoenas for testimony from former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor.

These subpoenas are the next chapter in the ongoing U.S. attorney scandal, which has highlighted what Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta described to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law earlier this year as “the larger campaign that has occupied the Bush administration from the moment the president took office: to increase the power of the executive at the expense of the other branches of government.”

“The irony,” he told subcommittee members, “is that the greater the power that the White House accumulates, the greater is the need for congressional access to White House documents and personnel.”

Yet as the attorney scandal has unraveled, the opposite has been the case—the Bush administration has tried to invoke executive privilege to keep key documents hidden and prevent presidential advisors from testifying. The White House’s failure to give Congress and the American people a straight and complete answer means that we do not know exactly why these U.S. attorneys were fired. Hopefully testimony from Miers and Taylor—two key figures in the controversy—will bring us two steps closer to the truth.

What is true, as Podesta has iterated on several occasions, is that although “U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president… the fact that the president has the power to remove these attorneys does not make it proper for him to do so.”

Without complete information from the White House, including testimony from administration officials, Congress can not determine why the attorneys were fired and do their job, which is to provide oversight to the executive branch.

Cooperation and honesty by White House and Justice Department officials involved in these firings could allay many doubts and help restore credibility to the executive branch. Hopefully this time around administration officials will comply with Congress’s requests.

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