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No Privilege for This Executive

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Legislative oversight can be such a nuisance. Or so the Bush administration thinks.

In his press conference on Tuesday, President Bush tried to defend the meager offer extended by Fred Fielding to have Karl Rove and Harriet Miers appear before the Senate behind closed doors and unfettered by the nuisance of being under oath.

Then he claimed there's a lot of "politics" involved in this issue of his advisors testifying before Congress.

That was surprising - not that there's politics but that he'd admit it.

Yes, Mr. President. Firing government lawyers because they weren't "loyal Bushies" is politics.

Insisting on measures to ensure that the witnesses answer fully and accurately? That's known as respecting the Constitution.

Here's the truth about executive privilege. It's not a bad idea. Sometimes the need for candor may be so strong as to outweigh the need for Congress to have access to the information.

But here? The Bush administration simply has no legal leg to stand on should they try and raise executive privilege in the next few days. As the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, it simply doesn't apply when shielding internal government deliberations "does not serve the public's interest in honest and effective government." In this case, the intrusion on executive deliberations are minimal, and Congress's need for complete and accurate answers about the politicization of our nation's law enforcement is very, very high.

Even staunch Republican allies of the Bush administration agree. Former Senator Fred Thompson noted back in 1995 "it is well established that in exercising its constitutional investigatory powers, Congress possesses discretionary control over witnesses' claims of privilege." And Orrin Hatch? "This body cannot simply take the President's claim of privilege against Congress at face value."

The White House officials involved in conversations surrounding the U.S. attorneys firings can and should testify publicly and under oath.

Being Chief Executive might still be a privilege for George W. Bush.

The rest of us? Not so much.

Be sure to take a look at our fact sheets. Campaign of Secrecy examines the Bush administration's long history stretching the notion of executive privilege. Without Merit offers a detailed look at why privilege cannot be invoked in this instance.