Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Desiree Rogers and Executive Privilege: What Did the President Know and When Did He Know It?

Okay, here's a follow up to my earlier post, "Desiree Rogers Won't Testify: White House Claims Executive Privilege in Crashergate Inquiry; Obama Cronies Circle Wagons as Damage Mounts!"

It turns out that the administration's claim of executive privilege in the Crashergate scandal is getting some attention.

Michael Shearer, at Time, asks, "
Does Obama's Social Secretary Deserve Executive Privilege?":
The White House announced Wednesday that Social Secretary Desiree Rogers would not be testifying to Congress Thursday about the two reality television aspirants who got by the Secret Service at a recent state dinner to shake hands with President Obama. "I think you know that based on separation of powers staff here don't go to testify in front of Congress," said Press Secretary Robert Gibbs in his daily briefing. "She will not be testifying in front of Congress tomorrow."

The decision is not likely to be contested by Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee, saving Rogers a potentially embarrassing turn in the hearing room spotlight. Since Rogers was only invited to testify by the ranking Republican on the committee, New York Rep. Pete King, and not subpoenaed
she faces no legal consequences for declining to attend.

But Gibbs' justification for Rogers' absence — invoking the separation of powers — nonetheless raised some eyebrows among legal scholars. "I'd completely fall out of my chair if they invoked executive privilege with regards to a social secretary arranging a party," said Mark J. Rozell, a public policy professor at George Mason, who recently wrote a book on executive privilege. "There is no prohibition under separation of powers against White House staff going to Capitol Hill to talk about what they know."

In response to questions from TIME, White House Spokesman Nick Shapiro said it was important for the keep confidential some internal discussions at the White House. "The job of White House staff must be to provide confidential advice without the threat of having to testify about that advice before Congress, which is why the general rule has long been that White House staff do not appear before Congress," Shapiro said in an email. "This is an aspect of the separation of powers, in the same way that executive branch officials cannot intrude into confidential relationship involving congressional or Supreme Court staff members."

Presidents usually invoke executive privilege for big reasons, like to hide a scandal. President Nixon, in 1973, refused special prosecutor Archibald Cox's subpoena for the Watergate tapes. So, today, when we hear the administration call on the doctrine of separation of powers (executive privilege) in refusing Rogers' testimony before the Congress, it obviously sounds like the Obama White House has something to hide. I mean, c'mon, does the Social Secretary sit in on White House domestic and foreign policy briefings? It would sound simply absurd, but given the unprecedented corruption of this regime, nothing can be taken for granted.

Sandy Levinson has some thoughts as well, "
Original Intent and the White House Social Secretary":
The White House is apparently invoking the theory of separation of powers to prohibit Desiree Rogers, President Obama's Social Secretary, from testifying on the recent imbroglio regarding gate-crashing at the White House. My own view is that the White House is making a big mistake for no defensible reason.
I'm less inclined to think of this simply as a matter of original intent, however. The invocation of executive privilege is more tied to the rise of the imperial presidency, and for all of Barack Obama's calls for change (we can believe in), he's looking more sleazy than any administration since the burglers broke into the Democratic headquarters June 17, 1972.

So, to keep the analogy going, "what did the president know and when did he know it?", to borrow from Howard Baker's famous query during the Watergate hearings 36 years ago. With President Nixon, it was the break-in at the Watergate office complex, and subsequent cover up. With President Obama it's seemingly something less nefarious, like authorizing a change in security procotcol for White House social functions. So, why then the cover up, with claims to executive privilege?

Well, remember, if the House Homeland Security panel gets Ms. Rogers before the committee, she's sworn under oath to tell the truth. Perhaps there's more to the president's relationship to the Salahis? Recall, "
White House 'Gatecrashers' Tied to Terror Sympathizer." And of course, there's lots of intel in Ms. Rogers' neighborhood as well.

See Michelle Malkin, "
A hard-hitting MSM investigation of Chicago crony bundler Desiree Rogers?; Update: WH invokes separation of powers." Plus, via Michelle's entry, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, "White House social secretary's faux pas draws House committee interest":
The social secretary is responsible for all entertaining in the White House. This was President Obama's first state dinner. And, unfortunately, it is likely to be remembered by history for a scene very close to farce.

Rich Masters, a former top policy and communications adviser to Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who now does crisis public relations for a living, said he would advise Rogers to appear at Thursday's hearing.

"From a PR perspective, it is always advisable to be as open and honest as possible about these things," he said. "It's clear mistakes were made, but if she does not appear, you run the risk of you being the scapegoat."

For the administration's political enemies, Rogers is a tempting target, both because of how close she is to the Obamas and because of the unusually high-profile panache and glamour she has brought to a job.

Rogers, for example, not only planned the dinner, but was on the guest list along with her ex-husband, John Rogers, who co-chaired the Obama Inaugural Committee.

I'm not holding my breath.

More at Memeorandum.