David S. Addington, successor to Scooter Libby as Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff, makes yet another appearance in the Republican Divide.
Bush imposed a 45-day seal on the records recovered from Congressman Jefferson’s office in the execution of a search warrant for the Department of Justice. DOJ sought further evidence of crimes related to fraud and bribery.
The Republican spin is to belittle it as an “impromptu raid.” Never mind that it was duly ordered by the Chief Judge when previous subpoenas had been refused.
Why the seal? Bush thinks the Constitution is a morning jog in London. Both the FBI Director and the Attorney General have strenuously defended the search. Special procedures required a pre-distribution independent review to willow out privileged information. Besides, $90,000 was found in Rep. Jefferson’s freezer, identical to the cash he was videotaped receiving. As NBC News reported this past week:
Inside the administration, Vice President Dick Cheney’s office was pushing for the materials to be returned. Cheney’s Chief of Staff David Addington argued internally that the search was questionable.
We have a problem, folks, a lawyer who in his arrogance essentially claims superiority over the court’s Chief Judge and all the lawyers on the government’s case — including FBI Director Robert Mueller, who supervised the Noriega and Gotti prosecutions, thank you. The job of arguing that the search was questionable is up to Jefferson’s lawyer, not Cheney’s.
Addington hasn’t switched sides: he simply values secrets as a tool of power. The underlying concern is clear: If secrets can be discovered in offices of the legislative branch, how soon can secrets be discovered in offices of the executive?
Keeping secrets has been part of Cheney’s (and Addington’s) goal of increasing executive power and authority. As described in “In Cheney’s Shadow, Counsel Pushes the Conservative Cause” in the Washington Post Oct. 4, 2004:
Cheney has tried to increase executive power with a series of bold actions — some so audacious that even conservatives on the Supreme Court
sympathetic to Cheney’s view have rejected them as overreaching. The vice president’s point man in this is longtime aide David Addington, who
serves as Cheney’s top lawyer.
Keeping secrets requires blocking public knowledge.
Addington also led the fight with Congress and environmentalists over access to information about corporations that advised the White House on energy policy. He was instrumental in the series of fights with the Sept. 11 commission and its requests for information.
Addington’s opposition to restrictions on the executive branch extended even against policies banning detainee torture. As recounted February 2006 in The New Yorker, Matthew Waxman, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, and Rumsfeld’s chief advisor on detainee affairs, had suggested the Pentagon adopt the Geneva conventions’ ban against cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees.
Not long afterward, Waxman was summoned to a meeting at the White House with David Addington. Waxman declined to comment on the exchange, but, according to the Times, Addington berated him for arguing that the Geneva conventions should set the standard for detainee treatment. The U.S. needed maximum flexibility, Addington said.
Addington’s pressure on the President to return the documents recovered by the FBI from Rep. Jefferson’s office is really no surprise. Neither, unfortunately, is Bush’s caving in with a seal. It takes character to trade in power for some sunshine.
And what about the non-congressional scam artists caught with mega-bucks tucked into frozen food containers in the freezer? They’ll be making creative Jefferson defenses against office searches.