Bush may claim privilege in CIA case

President George W. Bush Thursday ordered White House lawyers to use claims of executive privilege to prevent senior White House aides from cooperating with the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into destruction of videotapes that showed CIA interrogators torturing terrorism suspects.

White House sources tell Capitol Hill Blue that the claims of executive privilege are just “the first step” in a coordinated campaign to stonewall the investigation and prevent administration aides from giving depositions or submitting to interviews with Justice Department investigators.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey announced the investigation this week, appointing veteran prosecutor John Durham of Connecticut to handle the probe. Democratic leaders and Constitutional law experts, however, say the Justice Department, which ultimately answers to the White House, cannot be expected to fully investigate Bush’s involvement and say the probe needs a special prosecutor.

Constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University professor, says Bush can block any effective legislation.

Appearing on MSNBC, Turley said:

Picking some guy in Connecticut or Cincinnati or Delaware or any other state doesn’t make any difference. His boss is Michael Mukasey. And Michael Mukasey’s boss is the president of the United States. And if torture occurred, he was the guy who ordered it. So this doesn’t help a conflict of interest at all.

Others argue that Durham is a good choice. Reports The Associated Press:

Durham will serve as acting U.S. attorney on the case, a designation the Justice Department frequently makes when top prosecutors take themselves off a case. He will not serve as a special prosecutor like Patrick Fitzgerald, who acted autonomously while investigating the 2003 leak of a CIA operative’s identity.

“The Justice Department went out and got somebody with complete independence and integrity,” said former Connecticut U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy, who worked with Durham. “No politics whatsoever. It’s going to be completely by the book and he’s going to let the chips fall where they may.”

Durham gained national prominence following the 1989 murder of Mafia underboss William Grasso, which led to one of the biggest mob takedowns in U.S history. He then turned to Connecticut street gangs, winning dozens of convictions and putting some gang leaders in jail for life. Former Attorney General Janet Reno hand-picked Durham to lead the investigation into the FBI’s use of mob informants in Boston.

Durham, a Republican, has shown no tolerance for corruption in either party. He supervised the corruption investigation that sent former Republican Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland and several members of his administration to prison.

“He’ll suck the political air right out of the investigation and just go after the facts,” said Mike Clark, a retired FBI agent who investigated Rowland. “He’s going to do it his way and just keep digging.”

The CIA already had agreed to open its files to congressional investigators, who have begun reviewing documents at the agency’s Virginia headquarters. The House Intelligence Committee has ordered Jose Rodriguez, the former CIA official who directed the tapes be destroyed, to appear at a hearing Jan. 16.

The White House, however, is not promising such a level of cooperation. In past criminal investigation (like the probe into the outing of covert CIA Valerie Plame), Bush promised full cooperation by White House aides. This time around, the Administration is silent.

“Publicly, the White House is not saying a damn thing,” says one Justice Department lawyer. “That’s a bad sign.”


  1. mikee59

    I think comparisons with Watergate are valid, but superficial. In the early 1970s Congressmen and appointed Justice Department lawyers still understood that they swore to uphold the Constitution:

    I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God. (Senate Oath)

    The Reagan Revolution began the process of undermining their understanding of their oath. The ’94 seizure of Congress by Gingrich, with his open disregard for his oath, completed the process. It’s shameful to hear Justice Department lawyers openly admit their first loyalty is to Bush. It’s shameful to see Senators openly place their ideologies and party affiliations above their Constitutional duties. Those men and women represent a society adrift from its moorings, a polity more interested in getting even than seeking justice.

    Cheney and his partners-in-crime learned from the excesses Nixon and his henchmen. It’s significant that Cheney, Rumsfeld, the late Rehnquist, and many others who came in with Bush II were active in politics during Watergate. I would enjoy seeing them all tried for treason, but given the nature of Congress, and their expertise in covering their tracks, I doubt that any of them will see justice.

  2. barak

    Damn! Another Watergate in the making. The arrogant SOB who stole the office of the Presidency twice thinks he can get away with it again. Question # Uno is if the American People will let him. “Has apathy taken over?” is a superfluous question. The real question is whether the students, the originators of movements in the 70s that lit fires under enough people to make them angry that Nixon’s arrogance was intolerable, and his crimes and dirty tricks games not acceptable. Fifty Thousand and more of our soldiers died in a wrong war and that motivated the people to act. Four thousand is inconsequential, unless you are either one of them or the parent or relative of the fallen. Those soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are not heros, they are unfortunate pawns in Bush’s greed and Cheney’s manipulations.
    Remember the slogan of the Yippee/Hippie Movements–the one that said: “What would happen if they gave a war and nobody came?” Well, what would happen if all the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan left, came home of their own accord? Peace in our time?
    I sure would like to find out and I would dare any of the sickening self-serving politicians in and seeking office to send the men and women back into the line of fire.

  3. Steve Horn

    Of course they won’t cooperate. This administration will never cooperate. They’ll lie, obscure, spin, twist and turn, they won’t allow themselves to be questioned under oath or with a record of the testimony being taken and they’ll drag the process out until 2008 is over. When it’s all said and done they’ll shuffle off to various high paying jobs within “think tanks” or other quasi-governmental positions and continue to sell their influence to the highest bidder – as they’ve done for the past seven years.
    Unless congress takes steps to impeach Bush nothing will change, and as Pelousy said, impeachment is off the table.



  4. LurkingFromTheLeft

    The headline should really give credit

    …where credit is due –

    …Dick C told Georgie B to say this stuff –

    …Smirk could not put together the intellectual energies required to make up this shit –

    …oops, back to wiping asses again –

    …and we know who wipes Darth’s – it is George Knucklewalker –


  5. acf

    “Damn! Another Watergate in the making. The arrogant SOB who stole the office of the Presidency twice thinks he can get away with it again.”

    So, do we see now, how important the Roberts and Alito additions to the Supreme Court of Scalia and Thomas are?

  6. Donnat

    After this probe, maybe they can hire an investigator to find out who swiped Bush’s lips.

    Maybe they vanish incrementally every time he tells a lie.


  7. SEAL

    How could there be much ass wiping with people who don’t give a shit? They don’t care about the oath they took to protect and defend the Constitution and have broken more laws and have a larger cime organization than Al Capone. They are mass murderers on a par with Adolf Hitler. They have lied and bullied their way on a path of destruction unprecedented in history. And they will never pay for their crimes.

    When Bush leaves office he will strip it of anything and everything that could evidence he had ever been there and return to his “ranch” consisiting to two dogs and go on an ego trip with the building of his epic library. He will probably be made a member of the Board Of Directors of one of the family firms where he only has to show up once a month for meetings. He will be given no authority or say in any of the business or anything else the family is involved in because they know how stupid and worthless he is.

    He will probaly make a huge ass out of himself by trying to create some grand organization or business on his own because he will miss having the power and authority he has wielded for 8 years. He will waste an enormous amount of money doing this. However, it will undoubtably be someone else’s money just as he has done all of his life.

    Yale and Harvard should have their accreditation revoked for issuing George W. Bush his degrees.

  8. Warren

    Kabuki theater at it’s finest. The actors in elaborate costume go through the motions. The Magistrate (Mukasey) investigates the wrong-doings of the Villainous Gang (CIA). But, the Magistrate’s boss (Bush) is also boss of the Villainous Gang. The Magistrate is supposed to investigate the Villainous Gang, but knows of the incredible conflict of interest. Yet he performs his part anyway, with great fanfare. Why? He knows his role in the play – to detract attention and influence from any other Magistrates that might actually conduct a real investigation.

    The audience loves it. They applaud the Magistrate in his fight against the Villainous Gang and forget about the boss.