Senate Judiciary Committee explores limits of presidential powers

[JURIST] Witnesses before the US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] on Tuesday presented testimony [video; hearing materials] discussing the Rule of Law and criticizing the White House [official website] for exceeding the limits of constitutional authority during George Bush's presidency. At a Subcommittee on the Constitution [official website] hearing, subcommittee chairman Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) [official website] opened the hearing:

[F]or the past seven and a half years, and especially since 9/11, the Bush Administration has treated the Constitution and the rule of law with a disrespect never before seen in the history of this country...That is why I called this hearing – to hear from legal and historical experts on how the next President should go about tackling the wreckage that this President will leave. I've asked our two panels of experts who will testify to be forward-looking – to not only review what has gone wrong in the past seven or eight years, but to address very specifically what needs to be set right starting next year and how to go about doing it.
Read Feingold's full opening statement [text]. Later in the hearing, Brennan Center for Justice [advocacy website] counsel Frederick Schwarz Jr. testified [prepared statement, PDF] that current policies and practices need to be reviewed and amended:
The abuses that have taken place must be accounted for. We need to know what went wrong, how it is that mistakes and illegal actions were allowed to occur, and how they have harmed us. When there are allegations that ultimately are proven wrong, they should be aired and names cleared. When the United States has conducted its anti-terrorism policy forthrightly and wisely, it should be commended for doing so. But given the ample evidence that the Administration’s unchecked policy is out of balance, it is far more likely that the greatest need is institutional repair and restoration of the rule of law.
The Subcommittee went on to hear additional testimony from several members of the legal community, including law professors and other advocacy groups.

In July, the House Judiciary Committee heard similar testimony [JURIST report] from witnesses with sharply divided opinions on whether Bush had overstepped his constitutional authority to a degree which would justify his impeachment. The continued hearings on President Bush's alleged misuse of executive powers follow a number of allegations of wrongdoing. Earlier this year, Bush invoked executive privilege [JURIST report] to prevent members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform [official website] from obtaining an FBI report on an interview with Vice President Dick Cheney concerning the Valerie Plame CIA leak scandal [JURIST news archive]. In June, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General [official website] issued a report [PDF text; JURIST report] admitting that it had improperly granted preferential treatment to politically-conservative internship candidates in 2002 and 2006.

 

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