April 4, 2007

Ensuring Executive Branch Accountability

"The Supreme Court has long recognized that the power to investigate and the attendant use of compulsory process are inherent in the legislative function vested in the Congress by Article I of the Constitution." [1]

"Unlike executive branch agencies, the White House has no inspector general to
investigate abuses and it is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Only Congress can provide appropriate oversight and accountability."

"the Congressional Research Service reports that presidential advisers have
testified before congressional committees at least 73 times since 1944—including
individuals occupying the most senior positions in the White House from Chiefs of Staff to National Security Advisors to White House Counsels." [2]

"... on the current investigation of the circumstances surrounding the firing of the U.S. Attorneys. At stake is a question of whether there was interference in the administration of justice for political ends."

"Simply put, issues surrounding the administration of justice are paramount and constitute the heart of a legitimate legislative inquiry."

"It has been said many times in the course of this affair that U.S. Attorneys “serve at the pleasure of the president.” As a matter of law, this is a non-debatable proposition. Once confirmed, they can be removed for any reason, or for no reason at all.

But that cannot be the end of the story. The fact that the president has the power to
remove them doesn’t make it proper for him to do so. Depending on the reason for his
actions, it may be highly improper and even illegal."

"If the president fires a U.S. Attorney to obstruct or interfere with a pending
prosecution or to influence the course of a prospective prosecution, he has crossed the line. Such interference is not only improper but depending on the circumstances may be illegal as well."

Attorney General Robert Jackson said in 1940, “The [93 US] prosecutors ha[ve]
more control over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America. His
discretion is tremendous.” [3]

"Once they take their oath of office, the 93 U.S. Attorneys are the personification of the system of justice in this country. If that system is to command popular respect, they must be beyond reproach."

"This is the concern which makes it imperative that this committee get the facts [from the White House] so it can determine precisely what happened in these cases" of fired U.S. Attorneys.


These are excerpts and citations from the testimony of John D. Podesta Before the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, U.S. House of Representatives Hearing on “Ensuring Executive Branch Accountability” March 29, 2007

1. e.g. McGrain v. Daugherty 273 US 135 (1927); Sinclair v. United States 279 U.S. 263 (1929); Watkins v. United States 354 U.S. 178 (1957)

2. Harold C. Relyea and Jay R. Shampansky, Presidential Advisers’ Testimony Before Congressional Committees: An Overview, CRS Report for Congress (April 14, 2004).

3. Robert Jackson, The Federal Prosecutor, Address Delivered at the Second Annual Conference of the United States Attorneys (April 1, 1940).

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