As with all liveblog thread, please keep comments to a minimum where possible, so that the servers can survive the onslaught. That includes holding back on one-liners and such — please — so that I don’t have to constantly cut liveblogging short to begin new threads. And now, to testimony…
10:30 am ET
SARA TAYLOR OPENING: Has worked in various political capacities for the Bush Administration. Professional opportunities given to her by the WH have had a profound impact on my life. I am here to testify pursuant to subpoena, as a willing and cooperative citizen.
Received a letter from WH counsel, informing me that the President has directed me NOT to testify regarding internal or external communications, conversations, or other information regarding the firing of USAttys and any and all matters that may pertain thereto. President claims this information is privileged, and she will honor that because she is unable to determine what is or is not covered.
She will answer what she can, and commits to abide by whatever judicial determination may be made in the weighing of the assertion of privilege versus the committee’s need to know information.
SEN. LEAHY QUESTIONS: Why did you resign as WH political director? Taylor says that she’s 32, and has additional career and personal goals in her life. Considered leaving last year, maybe summer, and informed Rove that she would be leaving in December. Says that the investigations into the USAtty matter was not a factor — says that she hasn’t told anyone that this was a factor. Did anyone at the WH tell you that you would be protected from legal consequences for not testifying — nor anyone from outside the WH.
Doc. # OAG1814. 2/16/07 e-mail exchange between Taylor and Kyle Sampson. Taylor says that she has seen this document. The gwb43.com domain is controlled by the RNC — she used this e-mail addy for political matters. Says that she read it regularly — pretty frequently. Knows from press accounts that she had 66,000 e-mails. This e-mail addy goes back to 2001/2002. The reason for the e-mail account was so that political appointees did not violate the Hatch Act — as a result of that system, I had two computers, two blackberries…as someone who tried to be efficient with her time, I would sometimes just use the wrong computer.
Leahy asking about violations of the Hatch Act — whether or not you purposely violated, the law is the law. Have you reviewed all of the e-mails that you had from the RNC? Taylor says that her attorney has looked through the e-mails. Her attorney sent them to the WH for their review. Leahy asks: so you have not determined whether they were responsive to our subpoena? Taylor says yes — we sifted through the e-mails and determined whether they were responsive to the subpoena, and then those that were responsive were sent to the WH for them to decide whether Congress could have any of the responsive e-mails.
Taylor says as she read Fielding’s letter, any conversation which may or may not have occurred is under the President’s assertion of executive privilege. (CHS notes: We’re getting into the “I’m not going to answer this, because I’m providing the WH some CYA” portion of the testimony.)
SPECTER QUESTIONS: Says that he agrees with Taylor’s declining to answer Leahy’s questions was correct under Fielding’s letter, but says he thinks Fielding’s rationale for privilege is wrong, and that Congress ought to challenge it. (CHS notes: Specter, having his cake and eating it to, today.) Going into the Griffen issue in Arkansas. Going through all of the circumstances on the Cummins/Griffen issue. Taylor says that she had heard that Cummins may have said something around 2004 that he was thinking about leaving — doesn’t remember where she read that or when. Specter says that her testimony is contrary to McNulty’s testimony — and asks her to account for the differences.
Specter says that she was closer to Griffen because he was her deputy political director. Fair to say that she knew Griffen better than McNulty. Questions about intervention by Rove and Miers — what knowledge do you have of that? Says that a lot of people thought very highly of Griffen’s character, work ethic and skill. Did Rove or Miers intervene? Taylor says she can’t answer that — says she doesn’t specifically know for sure that one or both or either did. What other people are you referring to that approved of Griffen? He worked with a number of people in the WH — had worked at WH, at DOJ, knew folks in Arkansas — a lot of people knew him and thought highly of him.
We again go through the Leahy and Specter colloquy on the decided lack of work ethic of the GOP side of the committee, excepting Specter and Grassley who actually showed up to earn their paychecks today. I sense a recurring theme…and Specter seems seriously annoyed by his lax colleagues today.
SEN. KOHL QUESTIONS: Going through the Biskupic question. Taylor says that she doesn’t know anything about the Biskupic issue — says she didn’t discuss it that she can ever remember.
SEN. FEINSTEIN QUESTIONS: Who decided which USAttys to fire and how were they selected? Can’t really answer. Where did the plan to do this originate? Can’t answer. What was the basis to fire these attorneys — what citeria were used? I don’t know. Did you add or remove names yourself? I don’t recall doing that. Going over some of Sampson’s testimony — he said the replacement of the USAttys wholesale was a “bad staff plan” — said that Taylor supported avoiding Senate confirmation for USAtty replacement. Taylor says she was just upset about her pal Griffen and didn’t want him to have to go through a bunch of mean questions from the Senate — mean old Sen. Pryor. Taylor says that Sampson’s characterization is not an accurate portrayal of her position — she was only upset about them “pulling the rug out from under Griffen.”
Now getting into the Cummins “lazy” comment from Taylor — Taylor says that the comment was unkind and unnecessary, says she had heard that from someone else, and that she feels that it was unfair and apologizes to Cummins. (CHS says: could we have some follow-up as to where she had heard that, please?) Taylor says that she doesn’t recall seeing the plan for firings. Who suggested names for the Dec. 7th firings? Taylor says she can’t answer that question. Were you aware that USAttys were going to be called and asked to summarily resign? Taylor says she declines to answer, now consulting wih her attorney. (CHS notes: let the flashbulbs pop.) Taylor says that she had heard that some USAttys would be replaced, doesn’t recall if that was going to be the date for replacement. Can’t answer question on what she did when she heard that USAttys were going to be replaced, either.
SEN. SCHUMER QUESTIONS: Says that the WH has put her in a position to be a tightrope walker in answering questions that you want to answer. In fact, you have answered some questions about views at the WH that you answered for Sen. Specter. This shows that the broad claim of privilege doesn’t stand up — it is a weak claim, and you have a genuine desire to answer questions that you can answer. The claim of privlege is specious. Can’t answer a question about external communications coming from outside the WH, according to Fielding’s letter. Schumer says that he’s asking about things from outside the WH. Again, Taylor says that Fielding directed her not to answer. Taylor says that she would like to answer, but she’s following Fielding’s guidelines. Schumer again addressing that to her counsel — because this is dealing with people outside the executive branch. Eggleston says that President has made this assertion, and that they aren’t going to analyze whether it is or is not appropriate. (CHS notes: in other words, take it to court, because my client isn’t going out on a limb for you.) We have a bit of parsing of the Fielding letter wording, and some more consultation time with counsel.
Taylor now answering the question. She says that she heard complaints about all things all the time from all over the country as the WH political director. How about complaints about USAttys? Taylor says that she suspects there were calls — but she doesn’t recall specific phone calls.
SEN. DURBIN QUESTIONS: Durbin unhappy with the WH obstacles in getting to the truth on this. Was Rove your boss? What contacts did you have with him? Yes, he was her boss and she had contact with him multiple times per day, every day.
Am going to start a fresh thread and get another cuppa coffee…