King George’s realm is a little less secure today as a federal court has ruled that aides to the president must comply with Congressional subpoenas to appear before them. Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten were compelled by Congress to supply testimony and documents to the House Judiciary Committee’s investigation into the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys-firings that appear to have been politically motivated.
Judge John Bates, an appointee of the elder Bush, said in his written opinion (.pdf) that there is nothing in case law to support the claim of absolute immunity offered by the Bush administration,
The Executive cannot identify a single judicial opinion that recognizes absolute immunity for senior presidential advisors in this or any other context. That simple yet critical fact bears repeating: the asserted absolute immunity claim here is entirely unsupported by existing case law. In fact, there is Supreme Court authority that is all but conclusive on this question and that powerfully suggests that such advisors do not enjoy absolute immunity
It’s important to note that this is not a done deal as the administration is expected to appeal the decision. Nor does this decision strip away all claims to executive privilege with regard to specific documents or conversations, only that the Bush aides mustcomply with the subpoenas and actually appear before the committee. The decision does however apply to Karl Rove who in a separate incident has also refused to appear before Congress.
Whether or not any useful testimony comes from this remains to be seen but the real significance is in the fact that yet again the courts have ruled against Bush’s radical theories of executive power to go along with previous court decisions against his un-American and un-Constitutional opinions regarding habeas corpus and torture.
Bush has thumbed his thumbed his nose at the Constitution and to the rule of law, indeed the “unitary executive” theory his administration adheres to not only flies in the face of the American values of liberty and equality that we cherish, but Bush actually believes places him above the law, hence his notion that he has the authority to excuse his aides from complying with legally issued subpoenas, something that if anyone else did would quickly land them in jail.
So today’s ruling is a small but welcome chip in the crown of King George and his imperial presidency.