No matter that Jefferson was under criminal investigation, no matter that the subpoena was validly issued by a U.S. judge, Capitol Hill was said to be a sanctuary into which no law enforcement agent of the executive branch had a right to intrude.
Journalists make the point that Nixon aides, among them this writer, testified under oath in televised hearings before the Watergate Committee, that President Nixon was ordered by the Supreme Court to turn over tapes of his most confidential Oval Office conversations.
But those tapes were ordered turned over to an independent special prosecutor, whose office had been set up to investigate the White House and prosecute former White House aides. The executive branch was investigating the executive branch.
As for the Senate Watergate Committee, it was a special committee with which President Nixon, after the White House aides involved in the scandal had been removed, had agreed to cooperate. The same was true of President Reagan in the Iran-Contra affair.
In this matter of the eight U.S. attorneys, what do we know? That they were fired by the president at whose pleasure they served. That there is no hard evidence any was fired to abort a criminal investigation. That some were incompetent. That others, like Carol Lam of San Diego, had their own agenda and were not dealing resolutely, as Justice was demanding, with the illegal immigration scandal.
Congress has many powers, among them the right to command the presence and public testimony of every executive branch officer in the Cabinet departments. But Congress has no right, in its oversight function, to command the testimony of a president's closest aides as to what they told the president in confidence, any more than it has a right to the testimony of Supreme Court clerks as to what they told the chief justice.
If Congress presses ahead with these subpoenas, the president should use every weapon in his arsenal to repel this act of aggression by a rogue Congress against the Office of the President of the United States.
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