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Weeks after claiming that it was not a part of the executive branch, the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney appears to be readying an independent assertion of executive privilege.
The move emerged in an exchange of letters with the Senate Judiciary Committee, which granted an extension for the White House to comply with a subpoena on documents related to President George W. Bush's domestic spying program.
US Constitution, Article 1, (Fourth Statement in) Section 3:
The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
US Constitution, Article 2, First Statement in Section 1:
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice-President chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows...
US Constitution, Article 4:
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
By now you've heard about Dick Cheney's fascinating new legal argument that he's not in the executive branch, so he doesn't have to comply with executive secrecy rules. I'm not always Rahm Emanuel's biggest fan, but his plan to cut executive-branch funding for the VP's office is a very sensible response. On the other hand, let's not be hasty about this. After all, if Cheney's not in the Executive Branch he can't claim executive privilege.
"If he believes his legal case," Mr. Emanuel wrote in an email, "his office has no business being funded as part of the executive branch." But imagine how much light we can shed into the dark corners of Mr. Cheney's office if his argument holds.
Surely you remember that infamous energy task force, the one where Mr. Cheney let his oil industry pals and their lobbyists come in and literally write their own rules? Cheney argued that the public had no right to information about the workings of that task force - because of executive privilege.
Mr. Emanuel, I respect your smarts and your chutzpah for coming up with this strategy. If for any reason it doesn't work out, however, here's your silver lining: A Vice President who's not in the Executive Branch can't withhold information from legislators under the separation of powers doctrine.
In fact, here's an even better idea: Since he says he's fundamentally a member of the Senate, why not bring him up on Senatorial ethics charges? Let the investigations commence!