Bush threatened with contempt
By By Joe Baker
By Joe Baker
Some congressmen are growing increasingly irritated at the Bush administration over its refusal to release certain documents to their committees. One is Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee. Burtons committee is conducting three separate investigations relating to campaign finance reform and to improper use of informants by law enforcement.
President Bush has refused to release any of the requested documents, claiming executive privilege. UPI quoted Burton as telling Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Bybee, who was testifying before the committee: Should I get about 30 Republicans and all of the House Democrats and vote to hold the president in contempt of Congress?
One of Burtons long-running investigations deals with the FBIs use of informants over a 30-year period while the bureau was investigating organized crime in New England. The committee first asked for 13 memos related to decisions by the prosecution and later subpoenaed them from the Justice Department. It also requested two documents pertaining to its investigations of campaign finance violations by the Clinton administration.
On Dec. 12 President Bush announced he would not give the materials to the committee. Burton argued that the documents are harmless to the Bush administration and that they could shed some light on failures by the FBI that culminated with several innocent men spending years in prison for crimes they did not do, even though evidence is strong that the FBI knew they were not guilty.
Burton said the documents might reveal how two top FBI informers managed to play on their relationship with agents to expand their criminal empires with the help of their handlers.
The committee chairman commented: Our government put an innocent man in jail for 30 years, and you dont want us to know why? We want to find out if there are people in jail or that have been put to death by the Justice Department for crimes they did not commit. If I have to fight my own party (to get the contempt citation), I will. But I dont want to do this, so you people must be nuts.
Bybee said the administration would be happy to sit down with Burton and the committee. That prompted Burton to make his remarks about citing the president for contempt. He said his committee and its power of subpoena should have the final word on what documents it needs to see while investigating abuses of power.
Investigators were further irritated by the arrival of thousands of pages of Justice Department documents which had been requested but not subpoenaed. That came as the administration permitted the committee to view but not to copy or release one of the memos it had subpoenaed.
Arguments over withholding information from committees and others are becoming commonplace with the Bush administration. It is involved in several with the General Accounting Office, the governments investigative arm, and with Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., whose committee is investigating the Cheney energy task force and its relationship to Enron.