Highlights of This Page
Fitzgerald decides not to prosecute Karl Rove. Bush admits to directing Dick Cheney to lead the White House smear campaign against Joseph Wilson.
See my Update Information page for an explanation of why this and other pages between September 2004 and September 2006 are not yet complete.
- June 5: Jonathan Hoenig, managing member of Capitalistpig Asset Management LLC, tells Fox News host Neil Cavuto a simple plan for improving performance in the stock market: "I think when it comes to Iran, the problem is we haven't been forceful enough. I mean if you -- frankly, if you want to see the Dow go up, let's get the bombers in the air and neutralize this Iranian threat." (MediaMatters)
- June 6: In her book Godless, published today, Ann Coulter writes that liberalism "is the doctrine that prompts otherwise seemingly sane people to propose teaching children how to masturbate, allowing gays to marry, releasing murderers from prison, and teaching children that they share a common ancestor with the earthworm." In another section of the book, talking about the group of 9/11 widows known as the "Jersey Girls," she writes, "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much -- the Democrat ratpack gals endorsed John Kerry for president -- how do we know their husbands weren't planning to divorce these harpies? Now that their shelf life is dwindling, they'd better hurry up and appear in Playboy." (Huffington Post, Joe Maguire)
- June 8: Interviewed by Air America's Al Franken, Democratic senator Ted Kennedy points out that during the Clinton administration, Congress issued 1,100 subpoenas. Under Bush, Congress has (to date) issued a grand total of three. "[T]hat's a pretty clear indication of the priorities that this [Republican-led] Congress has," Kennedy says. Kennedy blames Bush's vision of the "unitary presidency" (another word for dictatorship, says Franken's colleague Randi Rhodes) that so many Republicans support. "His inherent power now overrides all statutes and all international agreements" after 9/11 and the raft of "war powers" given, or taken, by the Bush administration. "What follows on that is the politics of fear. We've had that over the last five years. And it has been destructive of the public dialogue in terms of the debate on checks and balances between the executive and Congress. ...[I]t says 'We the People' -- the Constitution gave the power and authority effectively to Congress...it's we the people, it's the general welfare issue. ...The American people have to finally decide that they're being used and abused." (Air America Playbook)
- June 9: Robert Weiler is arrested after telling friends he made a pipe bomb to attack an abortion clinic; the bomb went off in a friend's home while authorities tried to disable it. Though no one was injured, the home suffered severe fire damage. Weiler planned to bomb a reproductive clinic in Greenbelt, Maryland as well as to use a handgun to, according to the ATF affidavit, "shoot doctors who provided abortions." Weiler drives a car with a front license plate reading "Choose Life" and "God is Pro-Life." (AP/WUSA-TV)
- June 10: Bush continues to pound the drums, telling reporters, "There's still difficult work ahead in Iraq. Yet this week, the ideology of terror has suffered a severe blow. Al-Qaeda has lost its leader in Iraq, the Iraqi people have completed a democratic government that is determined to defend them, and freedom has achieved a great victory in the heart of the Middle East." Bush is referring to the reported death of Iraqi al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, slain in a US air strike on a safe house in Baqubah, Iraq on June 7. (White House/Democratic Underground)
Fitzgerald decides not to prosecute Karl Rove
- June 12: While on a plane heading to Manchester, New Hampshire, Karl Rove learns from his lawyer that Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the Valerie Plame Wilson CIA leak, will not file charges against Rove for his role in leaking Plame's identity to the press. Fitzgerald doesn't have enough evidence against Rove to be certain of a conviction for leaking Plame's name, or for perjury or obstruction of justice charges. Rove celebrates by giving one of the nastiest speeches of his career, blasting Democratic opponents to the Iraq war as cowards and traitors. He attacks not only Senator John Kerry, but Representative John Murtha, a Democratic hawk who is now calling for withdrawals of troops from Iraq. "They are ready to give the green light to go to war," he says of Kerry and Murtha, "but when it gets tough, and when it gets difficult, they fall back on that party's old pattern of cutting and running. They may be with you at the first shots, but they are not going to be with you for the last, tough battles." If Murtha's advice is followed, Rove says, Iraq will become "a launching pad for the terrorists to strike the United States and the West. ...We were absolutely right to remove [Saddam Hussein] from power and we have no excuses to make for it." Murtha and Kerry are both military veterans with an array of combat medals and decorations; Rove, like almost all of his administration colleagues, is a war hawk who managed to duck out of actually serving his country himself.
- Nation reporter David Corn writes, "Bush administration (and Rove) advocates will spin this news as vindication for the mastermind of George W. Bush's presidential campaigns. But there is no need for baseless speculation to conclude that Rove was involved in the leak and that the White House misled the public about his participation and broke a pledge to fire anyone who had leaked information about Valerie Wilson, the CIA officer married to former ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of the administration. ...Not all wrongdoing -- not all lying -- in Washington is illegal. Rove escaped prosecution. But the episode has revealed the way the Bush White House really operates."
- Rove was saved from prosecution by his ever-facile lawyer, Robert Luskin. Fitzgerald had told Luskin that he was considering charges against Rove, centering on Rove's changed testimony before the grand jury investigating the Plame leak. Rove first told the grand jury that he had never spoken with Time reporter Matt Cooper (Rove indeed spoke with Cooper, and identified Plame as a CIA agent; Cooper reported Plame's identity in a news article after Robert Novak had outed her). Then he changed his story and admitted speaking to Cooper. He had turned over an e-mail, over a year after his documents had been subpoenaed, concerning his conversation with Cooper. But Rove had carefully made sure nothing about Plame's identity was in the e-mail. He still claimed not to recall the conversation with Cooper, but admitted that the e-mail showed the phone call had happened. To explain the discrepancy, Luskin told Fitzgerald about his own occasional chats with Time reporter Viveca Novak (no relation to Robert Novak). During one of those conversations, Luskin had told Novak, "Rove doesn't have a Cooper problem," meaning that Rove hadn't been Cooper's source. Luskin was, of course, lying. "That's not what I heard," she retorted. Luskin, surprised by Novak's assertion, had Rove's aides check Rove's computer for any e-mails containing a reference to Cooper or to Time. That was when the e-mail appeared. Luskin said it had been accidentally overlooked by the original White House search. And it was the errant e-mail that prompted Rove to change his story for the grand jury.
- As noted in earlier items, the e-mail had been printed out on November 25, 2003. Luskin claimed his conversation with Viveca Novak had taken place in October 2003. (The e-mail was from July 2003.) So, Fitzgerald wanted to know, why was the e-mail not turned over until October 2004, especially since Fitzgerald's original subpoena to the White House covered such communications? And why did Rove fail to mention the e-mail in his February 2004 grand jury appearance? Again, Luskin is ready with an explanation. Rove's office had indeed given Luskin the e-mail in question, but Luskin had simply overlooked it until October 2004, just before Rove was slated to testify for a third time and right after Cooper had been held in contempt for not testifying. Luskin admits that he might have fouled up in overlooking the critical e-mail. Luskin, an attorney with a reputation for careful, meticulous work, claimed that he just missed a key piece of evidence that caused his client to "inadvertently" lie to the grand jury, and that he didn't catch his mistake for over a year. Fitzgerald wasn't sure whether Luskin was admitting a genuine error or covering for Rove.
- Fitzgerald had had Viveca Novak testify in the fall of 2005, and her account conflicted with Luskin's. She recalled her conversation with Luskin about Rove to have taken place in March or May 2004, months after the e-mail had been printed out of Rove's computer. She couldn't remember the month, but she was certain that it had been well after her October 2003 meeting with Luskin, and no earlier than a January 2004 get-together for lunch. Novak's testimony suggested that her conversation with Luskin about Rove hadn't precipitated Luskin's request for a search of Rove's computer, because the search had taken place before the conversation. Novak's testimony undermined Luskin's complicated and facile explanation.
- Fitzgerald tried to sort through the haze by having Rove testify for a fifth time in April 2006. He asked again about Rove's conversation with Cooper, and whether his memory had truly played him false. Rove stuck to his story. Fitzgerald, a veteran prosecutor, knows that perjury is a difficult charge to prove. No matter what holes and contradictions are in the tissue of tales from Rove, Luskin, and Novak, he knows that a jury will have little trouble finding a reasonable doubt to the charges, especially with a veteran defense lawyer such as Luskin shepherding them towards that conclusion. Rather than take such a change of an acquittal, Fitzgerald decides not to pursue the perjury charge -- even though he is all but certain that Rove lied to the grand jury.
- As for prosecuting Rove for leaking Plame's identity, he never seriously considered filing that charge, for the simple reason that the Intelligence Identities Protection Act is almost impossible to enforce. He would have to prove that Rove was aware of Plame's status as a covert CIA agent. Hinging an entire case on a demonstration of "state of knowledge" is a tough task. Fitzgerald gave more thought to filing a charge against Rove under the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime to communicate any information relating to the "national defense" to anyone not authorized to receive it. But the law is rarely used, and Fitzgerald's charge would expand the law in a manner he wasn't sure a jury would allow. In essence, Fitzgerald's charge would expand the Espionage Act into a de facto Official Secrets Act, and set a legal precedent he felt uncomfortable attempting. It would certainly generate a firestorm of controversy and opposition. In the end, Fitzgerald decided not to go down that road.
- But the facts were established. Rove had knowingly divulged classified information -- Plame's identity -- to two reporters, Cooper and Robert Novak. "He had done so with relish," note reporters Michael Isikoff and David Corn. He had told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that Plame was "fair game." Then he, Libby, and the White House had lied systematically and repeatedly about their involvement in the leak, both to reporters, to the FBI, and to the grand jury. But Fitzgerald didn't think he could make the charges stick against Rove.
- Fitzgerald also decided not to charge the other major leaker in the Plame debacle, former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage. Armitage had contacted investigators early on and confessed to leaking Plame's name to Robert Novak. He said he felt terrible about his "mistake." Although questions still swirled around his role in the leak -- his close relationship with Rove; the circumstances of the meeting with Novak through the auspices of Washington lobbyist Ken Duberstein and Armitage's boss, Colin Powell; the timing of the leak (days after the Wilson affair was stirring up a hornet's nest of controversy); the source of Armitage's information about Plame, a classified State Department intelligence memo -- Fitzgerald found himself in the same predicament as with Rove. He couldn't prove Armitage lied under oath, and he couldn't prove that Armitage had knowingly divulged classified information.
- But after Fitzgerald decided not to prosecute Armitage, Armitage contacted Fitzgerald with another tidbit of information: he had not only told Novak about Plame, he had told reporter Bob Woodward as well. He had forgotten about the conversation with Woodward, who was gathering information for his book Plan of Attack (which never mentions Plame). Worse, the conversation with Woodward took place before June 23, 2003, the date that, according to Fitzgerald's timeline, was when Libby "was the first official known to have told a reporter" about Plame when he revealed her identity to Judith Miller. Armitage had spoken to Woodward over a week earlier. Fitzgerald had Armitage testify again about the Woodward conversation, and had Woodward testify as well after Woodward secured a waiver from Armitage. Woodward played his own game with the facts, acknowledging to Post readers that he had cooperated with Fitzgerald, but failing to name Armitage as his source in his news article. Woodward hadn't even told his editors about the conversation with Armitage until October 2005, for fear that if word leaked out, he would be subpoenaed to testify. Woodward also said that he had told fellow Post reporter Walter Pincus about the Armitage claim, but Pincus denied that Woodward told him anything about Plame: "Are you kidding?" he recalls. "I certainly would have remembered that."
- Woodward came under intense criticism for his role in the investigation. For years, he had been openly scornful of the investigation, deriding the leak as "laughable" and innocent "gossip," and saying that any charges against anyone, including perjury, were unwarranted. He made these statements while personally holding back his own participation in the leak. He had even suspected that Armitage was the leaker to Robert Novak. But he said nothing for years. As for Armitage, Woodward said he himself had prompted Armitage to confess his contact with Woodward. He had realized, after watching the October 28, 2005 announcement of Lewis Libby's indictment, that he realized Armitage had told him about Plame over a week before the June 23 date given by Fitzgerald as the first contact by the White House with a reporter over Plame. He then went into what he called an "incredibly aggressive reporting mode," calling Armitage and saying, "Do you realize when we talked about this and exactly what was said?" Armitage replied that he felt it necessary to let Fitzgerald know about the Woodward leak, and he did so. But Armitage wouldn't allow Woodward to publicly identify him as Woodward's source. So, did Armitage forget about his conversation with Woodward until the reporter reminded him of it in October 2005? Or was he hiding his knowledge from Fitzgerald?
- Woodward told Fitzgerald that he tried to get more information from Armitage about Plame, but could not. That indicates that Woodward had reminded Armitage about their conversation well before October 2005. Armitage, said Woodward, had refused to discuss anything regarding the Plame leak investigation with him, particularly any details about his grand jury testimony. After the Woodward revelation, Armitage was "very depressed," according to a friend. Another friend said, "We were very worried about Rich." But Fitzgerald decided not to press charges against Armitage, and, following standard grand jury procedures, did not reveal anything about Armitage's role in the leaks.
- For his part, Bush dismisses questions about the leak investigation after the dismissal of charges against Rove, saying, "I've made the comments I'm going to make about this incident, and I'm going to put this part of the situation behind us and move forward." But Bush has never addressed the "incident." After initially declaring he would fire anyone involved in the leak, he had said nothing about the investigation. He had refused to fire either Lewis Libby or Karl Rove. He had refused to discuss the White House's own false claims that Rove and Libby had nothing to do with the leak. He had refused to discuss his own knowledge of the leak, or the smear campaign against Plame's husband. Regarding Rove, he had said on June 14, 2006, "I trust Karl Rove, and he's an integral part of my team." As Isikoff and Corn note, "The stonewall strategy had worked."
- Of Rove's speech in New Hampshire, Isikoff and Corn write, "Rove wasn't just countering a policy critique of the war: he was seeking to delegitimize another Iraq war critic. This was the sort of conduct that had gotten Rove, [Lewis] Libby, and the White House into trouble in the first place. The speech was a clear sign that Bush's number one aide was unrepentant -- about the war, about the leak, about how he and the White House played politics, about everything." And why not? As the AP's Pete Yost observes of the news that Rove will not be charged, "The decision not to charge Karl Rove shows there often are no consequences for misleading the public."
- Murtha, a crusty ex-Marine, has no patience for Rove's gleeful rhetoric. He responds to Rove's ugly allegations by slamming Rove for "sitting in his air-conditioned office with his big, fat backside, saying 'Stay the course!'" Robert Novak, the conservative columnist who outed Plame at the behest of Rove and other White House officials, attempts to smear Murtha in a column four days later that brings up the 26-year old issue of Murtha's involvement in the FBI's Abscam investigation of congressional bribery; the smear doesn't stick very well because Murtha refused to take a bribe from an FBI plant, and was never charged with any wrongdoing. Novak, another chickenhawk who refused to serve in the military, writes of Murtha's own stellar military record, "Murtha now wears his heroic combat record like a suit of armor." (Michael Isikoff and David Corn, The Nation)
- June 15: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter says he will hold oversight hearings on the Bush administration's use of signing statements, and that he "totally opposed" Bush's practice of pronouncing himself exempt from obeying statutes even as he signs them into law.
"I think there is a very strong sense in the Congress in opposition to signing statements," Specter, a Republican, says. "We're going to go into the background and get some specifics from the administration on why they think they're appropriate, and consider what we can do.... We want to get a fuller statement from the president about what he thinks his authority is here." Specter has threatened for over two months to hold hearings, after calling Bush's use of signing statements "a very blatant encroachment" on the Constitution, but, as so often is the case with Specter, his words do not match his actions. No hearings have as yet been scheduled.
- While Specter blames the delay on the Judiciary Committee's busy schedule, ranking Democratic member Patrick Leahy says such hearings need to be scheduled immediately. Leahy calls Bush's use of signing statements to claim the right to disobey laws is "an egregious violation of the law and the Constitution, and they're getting away with it because they have a rubber-stamp Congress that won't stand up for the law and the Constitution." He adds, "Basically the White House has determined that they'll put the president and those around him above the laws that everybody else has to follow, and the Republican-controlled Congress won't speak up."
- Specter has criticized Dick Cheney for undermining Specter's efforts to subpoena telephone company executives about the administration's domestic spying programs, warning Cheney that the administration's efforts to expand executive power at the expense of Congress -- including "the presidential signing statements where the president seeks to cherry-pick which parts of the statute he will follow" -- could lead to "a constitutional confrontation between Congress and the president." (www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2006/06/16/senators_renew_call_for_hearings_on_signing_statements/)
- June 16: Donald Rumsfeld's chief civilian advisor, Steve Herbits, tells Rumsfeld over lunch that he needs to consider the idea posed by Democratic senator Joseph Biden and former CFR president Leslie Gelb -- to partition Iraq into three semi-autonomous regions for the Kurds, Shi'ites, and Sunnis, declare victory, and get out. The country's populace is dividing itself into sectarian enclaves, Herbits notes. "It is an exit strategy," Herbits says. "It would be something this administration could adopt in the name of freedom and self-determination. And they could call it victory." (Bob Woodward)
- June 22: Fox host Geraldo Rivera accuses Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry of aiding and abetting the insurgents in Iraq: "I've known John Kerry for over 35 years. Unlike me, he is a combat veteran, so he gets some props. But in the last 35 years, I've seen a hell of a lot more combat than John Kerry. And for a smart man like that in a political ploy to set a date certain only aids and abets the enemy, and the Democrats are at their own self-destructive behavior once again." (MediaMatters)
Bush admits to directing Dick Cheney to lead the White House smear campaign against Joseph Wilson
- June 24: Bush is interviewed by federal prosecutors working the Valerie Plame Wilson CIA leak case. During the interview, he makes the startling admission that he himself directed Vice President Dick Cheney to personally lead an effort to counter allegations made by former ambassador Joseph Wilson that his administration had misrepresented intelligence information to make the case to go to war with Iraq. During the interview, he also admits to having directed Cheney, as part of that broader effort, to disclose highly classified intelligence information that would not only defend his administration but also discredit Wilson. Bush denies knowing that Cheney had directed Lewis Libby to covertly leak the classified information, from the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, to the media instead of releasing it to the public after undergoing the formal governmental declassification processes. And he denies directing anyone to disclose Plame's identity to anyone. He adds that he has no information showing that Cheney disclosed Plame's identity or directed Libby or anyone else to do so. The information comes from anonymous sources familiar with Bush's interview who spoke with reporter Murray Waas.
- Libby, facing five charges of perjury, making false statements, and obstruction of justice in the Plame leak scandal, has said that neither Bush nor Cheney directed him to leak Plame's identity to the press, and Cheney has also denied his involvement. There is mounting evidence showing Cheney was indeed involved in the Plame leak, and some of that evidence indicates that Bush, too, was involved, though to what degree is as yet uncertain. One senior government official familiar with the discussions between Bush and Cheney, but does not have firsthand knowledge of Bush's interview with prosecutors, says that Bush told Cheney, "Get it out," or "Let's get this out," regarding information that administration officials believed would rebut Wilson's allegations and would discredit him. One of Waas's sources who has what Waas calls "direct knowledge of Bush's interview" says that Bush's account is similar to that of the senior official. Libby used almost identical language in his testimony to the Plame leak grand jury, saying that Cheney had told him to "get all the facts out" that would defend the administration and discredit Wilson. Whether this is because Bush and Libby are both telling the truth, or both are participating in an orchestrated scheme to lie about their involvement in outing Plame, is not clear.
- Waas writes, "A central focus of Fitzgerald's investigation has been why Libby would devise a cover story on how he learned of Plame's CIA work when prosecutors had obtained Libby's own notes showing that Libby had first gotten the information from Cheney. Libby told the FBI and testified to the grand jury that he had forgotten what Cheney had told him by the time that he made the Plame disclosure to reporters." As noted elsewhere in this site, Libby's defense is that Cheney told him about Plame, but Libby promptly forgot it until he was reminded of Plame's covert identity as a CIA agent by NBC reporter Tim Russert. Russert and many others have flatly contradicted Libby's version of events, and special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has charged Libby with lying about it. Fitzgerald's investigators have a substantial amount of evidence that Cheney and Libby spoke about the matter in detail shortly after Wilson's column appeared on July 6. Cheney's handwritten notes in the margin of the Wilson column are one reason that prosecutors have believed that the two men spoke earlier than Libby has said they did. So the question remains: why would Libby lie to the FBI and to the grand jury?
- One obvious reason is that Libby didn't want to admit to revealing classified information. His doing so could have resulted in loss of his White House position as well as criminal charges. He could also have been trying to protect Cheney, Bush, or both -- from embarrassment at the very least, or perhaps even charges of criminal behavior on their parts. Waas writes, "Sources say investigators believe it is possible that Libby was trying to obscure Cheney's role in the Plame leak -- either by the vice president directing Libby to leak her CIA status, or through a general instruction from Cheney encouraging Libby to get the word out about Plame's role in sending Wilson to Niger. They say it is also possible that Libby lied to conceal the fact that he leaked Plame's identity to the press without Cheney's approval."
- The deliberate leaking of selected portions of the formerly classified NIE also took place at the same time that a formal interagency declassification process to make those portions public was underway. Waas observes, "It is unclear why Cheney and Libby were apparently acting without the knowledge of other senior government officials who were working with Cheney and Libby to formally declassify much of the very same information. Waas identifies the following officials as leading the effort to formally declassify parts of the NIE: White House communications director Dan Bartlett, then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, and then-CIA Director George Tenet. A senior government official who has spoken to the president about the matter said that although Bush encouraged Cheney to get information out to rebut Wilson's charges, Bush was unaware that Cheney had directed Libby to leak classified information -- a claim that has been refuted. The White House has pointed out that the president and vice president have broad executive powers to declassify whatever information they believe to be in the public interest.
- Court papers filed by Fitzgerald in April 2006 suggest that Libby was reluctant to leak any classified information to the press, and only did so after being assured that his actions were approved by both Bush and Cheney. One example is Libby's July 8, 2003 meeting with New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Fitzgerald has told the court that Libby "testified that he was specifically authorized in advance of the meeting to disclose [portions] of the classified NIE to Miller on that occasion. [Libby] further testified that he at first advised the Vice President that he could not have this conversation with reporter Miller because of the classified nature of the NIE. [Libby] testified that the Vice President later advised him that the President had authorized [Libby] to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE." In addition, Libby "testified that he spoke to David Addington, then Counsel to the Vice President, whom [Libby] considered to be an expert in national security law, and Mr. Addington opined that presidential Authorization to publicly disclose a document amounted to a declassification of a document."
- A senior government official familiar with the matter says that in directing Libby to leak the classified information to Miller and other reporters, Cheney said words to the effect of, "The president wants this out," or "The president wants this done" -- further evidence of the involvement of both Bush and Cheney. (National Journal)
- June 26: After meeting with a group of supporters, Bush tells the press, "I told the folks here that the politics in Washington can be rough. But make no mistake about it, I am determined to succeed. And we will implement a plan to achieve victory, which is necessary, and that they need to tell the troops that no matter how tough it looks here in the nation's capital, that I know we're doing the right thing, and I know we will win." More than three years into Iraq and Bush is still promising that a "plan for victory" is forthcoming.... (White House/Democratic Underground)
- June 27: Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter says he is "seriously considering" filing legislation to give Congress legal standing to sue Bush over his use of signing statements to reserve the right to bypass laws.
(As has so often been the case in the past, Specter's bark is worse than his bite. After he makes some obligatory noises in defense of democracy, he slinks back into line and behaves until the next time he chooses to pretend to stand up to the White House. Specter will not seek the legislation he is threatening.)
- Specter makes his idle threats after chairing a committee hearing on Bush's use of signing statements, which Bush has illegally used to challenge the constitutionality of more than 750 laws when signing legislation. If Congress had the power to sue Bush, Specter said, the Supreme Court could determine whether the president's objections are valid under the Constitution. "There is a sense that the president has taken the signing statements far beyond the customary purviews," Specter says at the hearing. He adds that "there's a real issue here as to whether the president may, in effect, cherry-pick the provisions he likes, excluding the provisions he doesn't like.... The president has the option under the Constitution to veto or not." Bush has opted not to veto any bills; instead, he signs the bills into law, then signals his intention to reinterpret them, or ignore them entirely, through a so-called signing statement.
- In a truly unbelievable assertion, deputy assistant attorney general Michelle Boardman tells the committee that, far from using the statements to abrogate the law and marginalize Congress, Bush uses the signing statements instead of vetoes to show his respect for the legislature: "Respect for the legislative branch is not shown through [making a] veto," she says. "Respect for the legislative branch, when we have a well-crafted bill, the majority of which is constitutional, is shown when the president chooses to construe a particular statement in keeping with the Constitution, as opposed to defeating an entire bill that would serve the nation." Boardman then tosses the entire idea of Constitutionality out the window by asserting Bush's rights as an absolute and final arbiter of the law, saying that he has the power and responsibility to bypass any statute that conflicts with the Constitution, even in cases "where the Supreme Court has yet to rule on an issue, but the president has determined that a statutory law violates the Constitution."
- Democratic senator Russ Feingold counters that Bush uses signing statements "to advance a view of executive power that, as far as I can tell, has no bounds. [The White House has] assigned itself the sole responsibility for deciding which laws it will comply with, and in the process has taken upon itself the powers of all three branches of government." Other Democrats join Feingold in grilling Boardman; in contrast, only one Republican committee member, John Cornyn, bothers to even show up for the hearing, and Cornyn spends his time wondering why Bush's signing statements are "controversial at all." Democrat Patrick Leahy says that Bush and his defenders show "utter contempt" for the concerns of Congress about Bush's expansive theory about his own constitutional powers. "Ms. Boardman, I wish you well," he says. "But, you know, it's almost irrelevant what you say because, once again, this administration has said, even with a rubber-stamp Republican Congress, they don't care what we think. They're going to decide what laws to follow and what laws to disobey, and...nobody up here will call them on it."
- After the hearing, White House press secretary Tony Snow claims that the signing statements, which have no legal status whatsoever, are being used to fix "relatively minor" Constitutional flaws that Congress had "unwittingly" included in bills during the lawmaking process. Some of those "relatively minor" flaws discussed in the hearing include Bush's refusal to abide by the Congressional ban on torture, and Bush's illegal domestic surveillance program.
- Harvard legal expert Charles Ogletree tells the committee, "This excessive exercise of executive power, coupled with the failure to use the authorized veto power, creates serious issues of constitutional magnitude, and requires a legislative response." (Boston Globe)