What Is The White House Hiding?
August 8, 2005 - 11:17am ET
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Over the weekend, the White House quietly announced its refusal to turn over John Roberts' documents from his time as Solicitor General under the president's father. Wade Henderson, of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, was quick to respond, accusing the White House of "thumbing its nose at the American people." LCCR is now circulating a petition to urge release of key documents.
<!--StartFragment -->LCCR argues there is a "well-established judicial precedent for receiving similar documents from nominees, including materials from the Solicitor General's Office," and cited Sen. Orrin Hatch's position on the issue as support:
"Even Senator Orrin Hatch has sharply dismissed claims of attorney-client privilege by government lawyers, stating on the Senate floor: "No statute or Senate or House rule applies the attorney-client privilege to Congress. In fact, both the Senate and the House have explicitly refused to formally include the privilege in their rules. . . . This body cannot simply take the President's claim of privilege against Congress at face value. To do so would be to surrender an important constitutional obligation."
As Principal Deputy Solicitor General, Roberts said, "my sole client was the United States." As such he and the administration have an obligation to be straight with the American people. While incomplete, documents from his time in the Reagan administration portray a troubling record on a number of issues important to ordinary Americans, including disturbing efforts to reshape civil rights policies such as court-ordered desegregation of public schools, as well as voting rights and Title IX implementation.
"Bork, Rehnquist, and Roberts' former boss, William Bradford Reynolds all complied with Senate requests," said Henderson. "What does the White House have to hide?"
Investigative journalist and TomPaine.com contributor Russ Baker thinks the White House stance may have more to do with George junior protecting George senior than protection of Roberts himself. Writing about the White House stonewalling over the release of Roberts' documents in his blog, BakerMuckraker, Baker speculated that the information revealed in these documents might bring up some not-so-pleasant memories about Bush 41's dirty dealings (note last graf below):
This is kind of interesting, because it continues a pattern of the younger Bush preventing the release of information from the period when his father was in Washington, either as vice president or president. (Click here to read a 2002 article of mine on the subject.) This resistance began almost immediately upon George W's ascension in 2001, when his administration began blocking the routine release of documents from dad's days as vice president. Now why was that? Does it have to do with efforts to keep bottled up details on what Bush senior did in relation to the Iran-Contra scandal -- or any number of other still-murky matters? It would certainly be intriguing to learn more.
In any case, this past January represented another disclosure milestone. Twelve years had passed since Bush senior left office, and, under the Presidential Records Act, it was time to release all documents from the George HW. Bush White House, save the most highly sensitive (hence the really good stuff -- but it's likely that some gems would emerge anyway).
Administration sources told the New York Times that Roberts' papers from that period aren't covered by the Act, because they record "sensitive, deliberative, confidential" conversations among administration lawyers in developing cases for argument before the Supreme Court.
But that's hardly all they would show. Plenty else was of concern to the Solicitor General's office, which was busy being helpful to Iran-Contra conspirators such as Admiral John Poindexter, and hostile to then-Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh. What was going on at the Solicitor General's office, and being said about those still-murky times might shed light not just on Roberts, but on the president's father -- and maybe even explain a little about why George HW Bush is so fond of Judge Roberts.
Is Russ right? We won't know for sure unless we see those documents, now, will we?<!--StartFragment -->
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