Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sara Taylor and Harriet Miers are committing federal crimes - this is not a close legal question

Sara Taylor and Harriet Miers are committing federal crimes by not responding fully to Congress's subpoenas. There is no close legal question about this.

For a nice look at the law, see Professor Lederman.

As Mark Kleiman worries, Sara Taylor is sort of a sympathetic witness to use for vindicating Congress's authority. He suggests Libby instead. Excellent idea.

An even more excellent idea at the moment would be Alberto Gonzales. Who could hold less sympathy at this point from the American public, or even Congressional Republicans, than Gonzales? Now that we have a fresh, obvious, unavoidable new example of his testimony before Congress constituting perjury and obstruction, Congress should immediately subpoena him, and then if he pulls another Terri Schiavo impersonation on the stand, have the Sargeant-at-Arms toss him in Congress's own slammer in the basement of the Capitol Building. Better yet, get Gonzales and Libby in there at the same time, and tell them they can come out when they feel like refreshing their memory. No pardon or commutation is going to help them there.

Then send out a fresh round of subpeonas to Miers and Taylor. Their minds should be suitably concentrated at that point.

The only real option though should be whom to start with in making an example, not whether they should throw anyone in jail to enforce a subpoena. Taylor and Miers's denial of the subpoenas, backed up by their lawyers' and Fred Fielding's letters, constitutes a big slap across Congress's face. They have a Constitutional duty at this point to respond to that slap with a much bigger slap back. Otherwise, if they back down, they establish a new precedent of Congress's subpoenas being a joke, and validating Fielding's strange theory that outrageously unfounded all-pervasive claims of executive privilege can be reasonably weighed against, and even outweigh, a subpoena from Congress.

The wonderful Dahlia Lithwick is among those making the point that Gonzales is actually providing exactly what Bush wants, as an Attorney General whose main job is to obstruct inquiry of any kind into the executive branch and to turn the Department of Justice into an arm of Karl Rove's political reward and punishment machine, while competence is optional and commitment to justice is definitely not wanted.

No wonder Bush actually, shockingly, interrupted a vacation to fly back to Washington to try to keep Terri Schiavo hooked up to the plug. She was probably his first pick for Attorney General.

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