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Public Statements

Authorizing Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to Initiate or Intervene in Judicial Proceedings to Enforce Certain Subpoenas

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. NORTON. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I have come back from walking out of this proceeding to address the serious, baseless charge of a coverup. No one in the majority has been able to charge that the Attorney General or his top lieutenants knew about the gunwalking initiated in the Bush administration because there is no evidence of that after 16 months of investigation.

This contempt resolution stems from a letter from the Justice Department correcting the record resulting from a prior letter written in the Legislative Affairs section of the Justice Department that there was no gunwalking. That letter relied on statements of ATF officials and Justice Department officials who this Justice Department then fired and did its own investigation. So what you have is contempt for correcting the record.

What the Justice Department did was the opposite of a coverup. But it is alleged that if the Department has nothing to hide, it would simply turn over everything in its possession. The other side has gone so far as to say that when the President invoked executive privilege, he too was implicated in a coverup. But the Supreme Court itself has said that while the privilege is not absolute--and here I am quoting--human experience teaches us that those who expect public dissemination of their remarks may well temper candor with concerns for appearances. Thus, Presidents have repeatedly asserted executive privilege to protect confidential executive branch deliberative materials from congressional subpoena.

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Ms. NORTON. The last leg of today's weak reed of contempt is the claim that the President asserted executive privilege too late. Why not from the beginning?

The President, like every President before him, did not assert the privilege until negotiations broke down. But the committee proceeded without even examining the basis for the privilege, as prior Chairs of our committee have done. A coverup is the most irresponsible allegation of this debate because no evidence of a coverup has been submitted.

This subpoena is so partisan and political that I expect any court to do just what our committee should have done--compel the parties to sit down and negotiate.

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