On the March 21 edition of CNN Newsroom, CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash asserted that the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law was going to “pretty much defy the president point blank” by voting to authorize (which the subcommittee subsequently did) subpoenas for White House senior adviser Karl Rove and other current and former administration officials in the ongoing investigation into the fired U.S. attorneys. Bash did not explain how the Democrats' insistence that current and former White House staff testify in public and under oath constituted defiance of the president, rather than President 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.
On the March 20 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, Bash's colleague, CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, asserted as fact that the White House's conditions for allowing staff to speak to members of Congress stemmed from a “belie[f], on principle alone here, that they have got to fight,” indicating that she has apparently dismissed other possible reasons why the White House might not want staff to testify under oath.
Similarly, on the March 21 edition of NBC's Today, NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell asserted that the “the idea behind the White House opposition” to having Rove and others testify under oath is “that the president believes any president should be able to get candid advice from senior advisers without worry about being brought before Congress and questioned.” O'Donnell, too, offered no other possible reasons why Bush might not want staff to testify.
From the 7 p.m. ET hour of the March 20 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
WOLF BLITZER (host): We're watching every angle of this showdown and potential constitutional crisis. Our congressional correspondent Dana Bash is on Capitol Hill, but let's go to the White House where correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is standing by. Suzanne, how far is the president willing to take this fight?
MALVEAUX: Wolf, the president is going to take this all the way. This is their final offer, senior administration officials tell me. And they say they believe this is a very generous offer. This president is going to take it all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary, really to -- to respond with a sledgehammer, a political sledgehammer to this potential threat to the White House and to this challenge to the White House over executive privilege and executive power.
BLITZER: Why is he so fired up on this?
MALVEAUX: Well, you know, ever since I covered this president, that the president, as well as the vice president, have felt that the executive branch has been severely weakened since Watergate, that it got worse during the Clinton era, and this is really considered a test case here, Wolf.
The Democratic Congress that has this subpoena power, they want to flex their muscles with that. They're very eager to do so. And the White House, which feels like this is just the beginning of a slippery slope, that if they allow Rove and Miers to go under oath that it's going to open the flood gates for everybody else. So, they believe, on principle alone here, that they have got to fight this, and they've got to respond using a political sledgehammer, Wolf.
From the 9 a.m. ET hour of the March 21 edition of CNN Newsroom:
TONY HARRIS (anchor): Dana, good morning to you. So, Dana, what now? Where are we?
BASH: Well, here's where we are. In about an hour, Tony, the House Judiciary Committee is going to meet and pretty much defy the president point blank. They are going to vote to authorize the chairman of that committee to issue subpoenas if he thinks that's necessary, essentially giving him what we've been talking about for the past couple of days, an insurance policy of sorts if these negotiations completely collapse. That's going to happen in about an hour in the House. The Senate's going to do the same exact thing tomorrow, Tony.
HARRIS: OK, Dana, publicly, Democrats are saying, “No deal; public testimony; on the record with a transcript; under klieg lights on CNN live.” But in the backroom there somewhere, is there some wiggle room?
From the March 21 edition of NBC's Today:
O'DONNELL: The White House is making an offer, one the president labels “unprecedented.” Three thousand pages of emails and documents already turned over, and Congress can privately interview top officials, but with a catch: no oath, no transcript, no public hearing. Democrats say: “No way.”
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY) (video clip): What is the objection to an oath? There's nothing to hide. And everyone's telling the truth. There should be no objection to oath.
O'DONNELL: And the idea behind the White House opposition is that the president believes any president should be able to get candid advice from senior advisers without worry about being brought before Congress and questioned. Congress sees it differently, and those subpoenas could be authorized as early as today.