On the March 21 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash reported that Democrats had “defied” President Bush by authorizing subpoenas for White House senior adviser Karl Rove and other current and former administration officials to testify in the ongoing investigation into the U.S. attorney firings, again suggesting that the Democrats' insistence that White House staff testify in public and under oath constituted defiance of the president, rather than Bush's insistence that interviews be conducted in private, not under oath, and with no written record being a defiance of Congress and its oversight responsibilities. As Media Matters for America noted, on the March 21 edition of CNN Newsroom, Bash asserted that the House Judiciary Subcommittee was going to “pretty much defy the president point blank” by voting to authorize subpoenas.
During her Situation Room report, onscreen text repeatedly read “Dems Defy President Bush,” referring to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law's decision to authorize the full committee chairman, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), to issue subpoenas to Rove, former White House legal counsel Harriet Miers, and others.
The onscreen text, “Dems Defy President Bush,” was shown even during the sections of Bash's report in which two Republican members of Congress, Sens. John Cornyn (TX) and Arlen Specter (PA), were shown disagreeing with Bush's preconditions for interviewing Rove and others. Bash read a quote by Cornyn that “if there is going to be information provided it best be provided in public,” which was also posted on-screen. Specter was shown saying: “It would be very helpful to have a transcript. My own preference would be to have it open, so that people see what is going on.”
However, in introducing her report, Bash stated: “Hours after the president warned them not to do it, House Democrats defied him and authorized subpoenas for Karl Rove and other top White House aides.”
Later during the report, after Bash reported that there could be a “bipartisan counterproposal” to Bush's position on testimony limitations and host Wolf Blitzer questioned whether Bash was “suggesting the White House could have some serious problems with fellow Republicans on the Hill,” onscreen text read, “Sources: Some Sen. Republicans Not on Board with W.H. Proposal.”
From the 4 p.m. ET hour of the March 21 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BASH: Hours after the president warned them not to do it, House Democrats defied him and authorized subpoenas for Karl Rove and other top White House aides.
REP. LINDA SÁNCHEZ (D-CA): In the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it.
BASH: Democrats flat-out rejected the White House proposal for Bush aides to talk to lawmakers in private with no oath and no transcript, but the House Judiciary chairman promised not to issue the subpoenas unless he has to. He called it leverage, a back-up plan.
REP. JOHN CONYERS (D-MI): To hold these subpoenas in abeyance and hope that we will continue the discussions. So far, the discussions have been very disappointing.
SÁNCHEZ: We must prepare for the possibility that the Justice Department and the White House will continue to hide the truth.
BASH: Republicans opposed authorizing subpoenas now, saying it was premature and political.
REP. CHRIS CANNON (R-UT): The only purpose of subpoenas issued to the White House now is to fan the flames of -- and photo-ops of -- partisan controversy for partisan gain.
BASH: But in the Senate, some of the president's fellow Republicans are siding with Democrats. They, too, have complaints about the White House's take-it-or-leave-it offer. John Cornyn, a staunch Bush ally, tells CNN: “I'm a little bit dubious about an interview behind closed doors. ... If there is going to be information provided it best be provided in public.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee's top Republican agrees, and says he's worried having no transcript or formal record could create conflicting accounts of what Rove and others say.
SPECTER: It would be very helpful to have a transcript. My own preference would be to have it open, so that people see what is going on. There's a tremendous amount of public interest.
BASH: Now, Specter also said is that if this does get stuck in the courts, it could be there for at least two years. That's why he is arguing for Democrats and the White House that it is in everybody's interest to really come back to the table and try to figure out a way to get through this beyond the courts. He also said that he is going to send a letter along with the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee to the White House, so, Wolf, the White House is saying, “This is our final offer,” but they may be getting a bipartisan counterproposal very soon.
BLITZER: You're suggesting the White House could have some serious problems with fellow Republicans on the Hill.
BASH: Well, something that surprises that we picked up today, Wolf, in talking to Senate Republicans, they had a -- they huddled in a closed-door meeting earlier today -- Republicans on the Judiciary Committee -- trying to figure out what's going to happen tomorrow because in the Senate Judiciary Committee, they're going to have the same vote on whether to authorize subpoenas, and we're told by several senators coming out, they didn't have consensus. And what does seem to be coming out from some Republicans is that they're uncomfortable with this idea of not having public testimony because they say, “Look, it is better for everything that goes on in government to come out and be in the public sphere,” so there is some -- a little bit of uncomfortable-ness, if you will, by some Republicans on that issue.