A BUZZFLASH NEWS ALERT
by Meg White
Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) is hoping for a change of pace when it comes to the testimony of a top Bush Administration official before the House Judiciary Committee Friday morning:
“How about the truth for a change? That would be something different for starters.”
This time, he might get it. On May 28, Wexler called for former Bush Administration Press Secretary Scott McClellan to testify before the committee, on which the Congressman serves.
Shortly thereafter, Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI) extended an invitation to McClellan to testify. McClellan accepted.
Most of the interest in McClellan’s testimony surrounds the content of his new tell-all book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception. In it, he suggests high-level White House officials orchestrated illegal leaks of confidential government information, and even lied outright in the lead-up to the war in Iraq.
In a phone interview with BuzzFlash Thursday, Wexler cited the book as a compelling reason to call McClellan to testify:
“Scott McClellan made some remarkably significant comments and revelations in his book regarding the truthfulness of the Bush Administration, and under oath, we’ll have an opportunity to examine those revelations.”
After years of top-level Bush Administration officials ignoring the committee’s subpoenas and refusing to testify, McClellan’s willingness to talk signals a special occasion to Wexler.
“So far, the administration, by and large, has thumbed its nose at Congress,” he said. “This is, I think, the first and best opportunity the public has had to get a glimpse of the degree of the abuse of power that President Bush and Vice President Cheney have foisted on the American people.”
Depending upon what McClellan says, tomorrow’s hearing may give the committee more ammunition to call other administration officials in to testify.
“The evidence he provides should be expounded upon and I think Mr. Rove should be brought before the committee. And I don‘t think we should simply stop at issuing contempt citations,” he said. “I believe we should go further.” Wexler also mentioned the previous failure of both former White House counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten to testify before the committee.
Though the White House has consistently used executive privilege to keep its officials off the stand, what McClellan has to say may change that. In any case, Wexler said there isn’t much in the way of an argument to keep McClellan off the stand.
“The White House has abused the executive privilege process before on many occasions. It’s a very difficult argument to make here. I mean, Mr. McClellan has written a book for the whole world to see,” he said. “Any expectation of privilege or privacy with respect to Mr. McClellan seems to have been long waived. I think it would be a farce if that was attempted.”
Wexler said he thought each committee member would have his or her own particular area of interest that may guide their questioning of McClellan. On the docket for questioning could be anything from a program to spy on Americans to misappropriation of funds destined for the war in Afghanistan.
Wexler is most interested in the role high-level officials played in the leaking of the identity of CIA undercover agent Valerie Plame Wilson and the firing of U.S. attorneys for political reasons, as well as the possibility that the administration authorized the illegal use of torture on detainees.
He also thinks his fellow Congressmen may make for good political theater:
“One of the most interesting parts of what will happen will be not only the questions of the Democrats, but I think it’ll be interesting to hear the questions of the Republicans. Some Republicans both on the committee and off the committee may choose to seek to undermine Mr. McClellan’s credibility.”
Wexler sees the hearing as closely related to the articles of impeachment Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) introduced against the president earlier this month. Wexler was the first co-sponsor of the resolution and was a leader in calling for hearings to begin the impeachment process against Vice President Cheney last year. The Bush impeachment resolution is awaiting a hearing in the Judiciary Committee.
“I think there will be some people who will possibly take some of Mr. McClellan’s testimony and try to insert (it) in the articles of impeachment,” he said. “I think we have an obligation to follow the evidence one way or the other.”
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ALERT