Executive privilege forever

EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE FOREVER…. The New York Times’ Charlie Savage reports that congressional Democrats are planning to move forward on unanswered questions about Bush administration misconduct, even after the current president leaves office. There’s an expectation, though, that Bush will continue to block subpoenas and claim executive privilege indefinitely, whether he’s in office or not.

The areas of interest are pretty expansive. There are unresolved scandals, some of which may involve criminal activity, on everything from the administration’s torture policies to its infamous U.S. Attorney purge. Congress keeps asking, and Bush keeps stonewalling. It’s been going for a couple of years, and given the seriousness of the wrongdoing, Democratic lawmakers don’t plan to let up.

“I intend to ensure that our outstanding subpoenas and document requests relating to the U.S. attorneys matter are enforced,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.). “I am hopeful that progress can be made with the coming of the new administration.”

It raises a good question about the plans of the incoming president and his congressional allies: do they a) encourage accountability and pursue ongoing Bush investigations; b) leave Bush in the past and focus on their policy agenda; or c) try to do both at the same time?

…Mr. Obama has expressed worries about too many investigations. In April, he told The Philadelphia Daily News that people needed to distinguish “between really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity.”

“If crimes have been committed, they should be investigated,” Mr. Obama said, but added, “I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt, because I think we’ve got too many problems we’ve got to solve.”

But even if his administration rejects the calls for investigations, Mr. Obama cannot control what the courts or Congress do. Several lawsuits are seeking information about Bush policies, including an Islamic charity’s claim that it was illegally spied on by Mr. Bush’s program on wiretapping without warrants.

And Congressional Democrats say that they are determined to pursue their investigations — and that they expect career officials to disclose other issues after the Bush administration leaves. “We could spend the entire next four years investigating the Bush years,” [Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon] Whitehouse said.

Jonathan Stein and Brian Beutler have more on this. It’s a development to keep an eye on next year.