White House cites executive privilege, keeps Obama adviser from testifying about Iran nuclear deal
We are again seeing politics as usual from the Administration that promised us they would be the most transparent ever. (Of course that was gov-speak for just the opposite.) What do you think? Tell us in the comments.
This article was originally published at the Washington Times.
By Stephen Dinan – The Washington Times – Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Sen. Tom Cotton accepted the challenge, but President Obama’s speechwriter and high-ranking foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes ducked out of a hearing Tuesday where he was to explain whether he misled the country in pushing the Iran nuclear deal.
Members of Congress had been eager to prod Mr. Rhodes over misrepresentations, but the White House had seemed skeptical, saying lawmakers should poke one of their own, Mr. Cotton, an Arkansas Republican that Mr. Obama’s aides say has been misleading.
Mr. Cotton jumped at the chance — and then the White House backed out, refusing to let Mr. Rhodes testify, citing executive privilege.
“Specifically, the appearance of a senior presidential adviser before Congress threatens the independence and autonomy of the president, as well as his ability to receive candid advice and counsel in the discharge of his constitutional duties,” W. Neil Eggleston, the White House’s chief lawyer, wrote to the House Oversight Committee on Monday.
Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz was nonplussed.
“What is mystifying to me is how readily available he made himself to the media,” the Utah Republican said Tuesday morning as he kicked off the hearing, which went ahead without Mr. Rhodes or Mr. Cotton, who Mr. Chaffetz said wasn’t needed anymore after Mr. Rhodes refused.
Mr. Chaffetz then went on to play a clip of Mr. Rhodes from early 2015 saying the negotiations produced access to Iran’s nuclear facilities anytime and anywhere — then played a clip of Secretary of State John Kerry later that summer saying that was never a goal, and wasn’t part of the agreement.
It’s not unusual for the administration to refuse to let top White House advisers testify.
Cabinet officials and others confirmed by the Senate have a duty to Congress, but the president’s own staffers, who do not face confirmation, answer only to him, and administrations of both parties regularly decline to let them appear before Congress.
The theory is that if they are required to answer questions publicly, under oath, about their actions in the White House, they will be less forthcoming.
But initially, when first asked last week about the possibility of Mr. Rhodes testifying, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said it “has nothing to do with executive privilege.”
On Monday, Mr. Eggleston reversed that decision and did assert privilege.
“These experts here are all repeating the same talking points,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said.