Conyers: Probe of Bush administration to continue

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rep. John Conyers Jr.

  • See video of FOI Day 2009 events

    WASHINGTON — House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. says he is not ready to “move on” and shrug off the alleged constitutional violations of the Bush administration.

    “We’ve come out of a horrible period,” Conyers said in a keynote address before the 11th annual National Freedom of Information Day Conference at the Newseum March 13. “This is going to be examined for quite a while.”

    The Michigan Democrat pointed to a lengthy report issued in January by his committee that cataloged what Conyers characterized as the misdeeds of President George W. Bush’s tenure, ranging from the “contrived” war in Iraq to the politicization of the Justice Department. In a foreword to the report, Conyers referred to Bush and then-Vice President Dick Cheney when he wrote, “I have never wavered in my belief that this President and Vice-President are among the most impeachable officials in our Nation’s history, and the more we learn the truer that becomes.”

    In his talk before FOI advocates, Conyers repeated that view, stating, “We came very close to removal proceedings on the president on a large number of counts.”

    Conyers said his investigation of the Bush administration would include deposition testimony from former White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers about alleged political firings of U.S. attorneys. Under an agreement reached earlier this month, claims of executive privilege by the two will be “significantly limited.”

    The controversy over their testimony, Conyers said, opened an opportunity to “strengthen the law and increase openness” when claims of executive privilege are made.

    The annual FOI Day program is sponsored by the First Amendment Center.

    On other matters, Conyers said the Bush administration had made a “deliberate effort” to appoint “young neocons” to the federal judiciary.

    Asked about President Barack Obama’s recent issuance of a signing statement as he signed a bill — after criticizing Bush’s use of such statements — Conyers said “it wasn’t one of the … great positions he has taken” since becoming president. Signing statements, in which presidents criticize or say they won’t enforce parts of the legislation they are signing, have been attacked as signs of presidential arrogance and refusal to follow the wishes of Congress.

    Conyers added, “I don’t take the position that the president should never have the right” to make signing statements. “It’s how often he uses them, and to what purpose.”

    Asked whether cameras would ever be allowed in federal courts, including the Supreme Court, Conyers said that they would come eventually, but “how soon, I have no idea.” Referring to Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., Conyers added, “The chief justice is stoutly resisting them.”