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No Authority Over The Vice President?

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THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW - May 5, 2008
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Cheney Lawyer Claims Congress Has 
No Authority Over Vice President
By Elana Schor
The Guardian UK

The lawyer for US vice-president Dick Cheney claimed today 
that the Congress lacks any authority to examine his 
behaviour on the job. 

The exception claimed by Cheney's counsel came in response 
to requests from congressional Democrats that David 
Addington, the vice-president's chief of staff, testify 
about his involvement in the approval of interrogation 
tactics used at Guantanamo Bay. 

Ruling out voluntary cooperation by Addington, Cheney 
lawyer Kathryn Wheelbarger said Cheney's conduct is 
"not within the [congressional] committee's power of 
inquiry". 

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"Congress lacks the constitutional power to regulate by 
law what a vice-president communicates in the performance 
of the vice president's official duties, or what a vice 
president recommends that a president communicate," 
Wheelbarger wrote to senior aides on Capitol Hill. 

The exception claimed by Cheney's office recalls his 
attempt last year to evade rules for classified documents 
by deeming the vice-president's office a hybrid branch of 
government - both executive and legislative. 

The Democratic congressman who is investigating the legal 
framework for the violent interrogation of terrorist 
suspects, John Conyers, has asked Addington and several 
other top Bush administration lawyers to testify. Thus 
far all have claimed their deliberations are privileged. 

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However, Philippe Sands QC, law professor at University 
College, London, has agreed to appear in Washington and 
discuss the revelations in Torture Team, his new book on 
the consequences of the brutal tactics used at Guantanamo. 

Excerpts from Torture Team were previewed exclusively by 
the Guardian earlier this month. 

Two witnesses sought by Conyers, former US attorney general 
John Ashcroft and former US justice department lawyer John 
Yoo, claimed that their involvement in civil lawsuits 
related to harsh interrogations allows them to avoid 
appearing before Congress. 

In letters to attorneys representing Ashcroft and Yoo, 
Conyers shot down their arguments and indicated he would 
pursue subpoenas if their clients did not testify at his 
May 6 hearing. 

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"I am aware of no basis for the remarkable claim that 
pending civil litigation somehow immunises an individual 
from testifying before Congress," Conyers wrote. 

Conyers, who chairs the House of Representatives judiciary 
committee, also questioned the reasoning of Cheney's lawyer 
in a letter to Addington. 

"It is hard to know what aspect of the invitation [to you] 
has given rise to concern that the committee might seek to 
regulate the vice president's recommendations to the 
president," Conyers wrote. 

"Especially since far more obvious potential subjects of 
legislation are plentiful," he added, mentioning several: 
US laws on the use of torture on terrorist suspects, the 
15-year-old War Crimes Act, and the rules that allowed 
the Bush White House to receive legal advice from a 
specialised office within the justice department. 

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