President Bush has claimed executive privilege as his reason for denying Henry Waxman's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee access to documents that would prove whether the president pressured the EPA to lower smog standards earlier this year:
President Bush has asserted executive privilege over thousands of pages of documents that would show whether the President and his staff complied with the Clean Air Act in overruling EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson on important environmental decisions. The Bush Administration sent notice to Waxman 15 minutes before his committee was to vote on whether to compel the EPA administrator and a White House budget official to testify as to President Bush's involvement. Waxman's reaction: "I have a clear sense that their assertion of this privilege is self-serving and not based on the appropriate law and rules," came as he canceled the vote.
This latest salvo between Congress and the recalcitrant White House is part of an ongoing investigation into President Bush's intervention into smog standards (amidst refusals to supply officials for testimony in other matters - i.e. Karl Rove in the Valarie Plame matter):
"Never before has a president personally intervened at the 11th hour, exercising political power at the expense of the law and science, to force EPA to accept weaker air quality standards than the agency chief's expert scientific judgment had led him to adopt," said John Walke, clean air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a private advocacy group. "It is unprecedented and an unlawful act of political interference."This comes as ongoing pressure and interference by Bush Administration officials was confirmed by EPA Scientists:
The Union of Concerned Scientists has released an online survey of thousands of EPA scientists in which over half the scientists cited political interference in their work and their findings."I don't think we've had a situation like this [claim of executive privilege] since Richard Nixon was president when the president of the United States may have been involved in acting contrary to law, and the evidence that would determine that question for Congress in exercising our oversight is being blocked by an assertion of executive privilege," Waxman stated.
Waxman (D-CA) said he will review Attorney General Mukasey's claim of right to executive privelige before deciding upon his response. He added that he would not stop in his efforts to require the head of the EPA, Stephen Johnson, and a White House Management and Budget official, Susan Dudley, to testify as to the president's interference in lowering the smog standard to a lesser level than recommended by experts, along with his refusal to comply with the committee's request in what has been described as an ongoing pattern of "an overly broad use of executive privilege."
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