Perjury trap

PERJURY TRAP….The White House “offer” to the Senate Judiciary Committee was fairly straightforward: if members wanted to talk to WH staffers about the prosecutor purge, the discussions had to be a) private; b) not under oath; and c) without transcripts. It’s that last one that never made any sense.

Indeed, the Bush gang never even tried to rationalize it. That is, until today.

The White House organized a conference call this morning with an official who certainly appeared to be Counsel Fred Fielding, who finally shed some light on why the president would make staffers available for private interviews, but only if there was no transcript of their remarks.

“Obviously, there has been a lot of discussion back and forth in that regard. The position that the president took and conveyed to the committees and the offer of compromise did not include transcripts. The accommodation was designed to provide information, not to appear to be having testimony without having testimony. One of the concomitants of testimony, of course, is transcripts.

“As far as the debate goes, often cited is that a transcript is not wanted because otherwise there would be a perjury trap. And, candidly, as everyone has discussed, misleading Congress is misleading Congress, whether it’s under oath or not. And so a transcript may be convenient, but there’s no intention to try to avoid telling the truth.” (emphasis added)

Got that? As Fielding sees it, if there’s a written record of what Bush’s aides say, senators might have proof if they lie. It’s preferable, then, to have no record and simply assume that White House staffers are being honest. And if you disagree with any of this, you prefer “confrontation” to cooperation.

He did not appear to be kidding.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.