Saturday, July 21, 2007

Executive Privilege or Presidential Stonewalling -But What About Ethics?

Washington Post writers Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein set the stage of the controversy between Congress and the President in their article titled, "Broader Privilege Claimed in Firings." It is a legal dilemma that awaits resolution so that all can get to the bottom of what happened with the US Attorney "firings."  The issue is not that the President has the power to hire and fire United States Attorneys, but rather whether there was a impropriety in the criteria used with respect to the recent housecleaning.  And in the next few weeks, and perhaps months, it is likely that these two branches of government will be at odds in the battle of determining who will proceed with a contempt action, how it will be accomplished, and the method of doing it (all discussed in detail in the Washington Post piece).

But there is another level to this discussion that merits consideration.  Professional ethics for attorneys requires one to withdraw when he or she has a conflict of interest. It would seem that the DOJ has a conflict here and that they are not able to proceed on an action requested by Congress under law, and also promote an executive privilege claim that they contend is warranted here. They have an interest in this litigation and should be removed from proceeding.  But the real question is whether Attorney General Gonzales will let this happen.


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