Bush Stops Inquiry -
Dan Burton (R):
'We've Got A Dictatorial President'
By Glen Johnson
The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON - President Bush yesterday invoked executive privilege to block a congressional subpoena exploring abuses in the Boston FBI office, prompting the chairman of a House committee to lambaste his fellow Republicans and triggering what one congressman said is the start of "a constitutional confrontation."

"You tell the president there's going to be war between the president and this committee," Dan Burton, the Indiana Republican who heads the House Government Reform Committee, told a Justice Department official during what was supposed to be a routine prehearing handshake.

"His dad was at a 90 percent approval rating and he lost, and the same thing can happen to him," Burton added, jabbing his finger and glaring at Carl Thorsen, a deputy assistant attorney general who was attempting to introduce a superior who was testifying.

"We've got a dictatorial president and a Justice Department that does not want Congress involved. ... Your guy's acting like he's king."

The searing tone continued for more than four hours from Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. All objected to the order Bush signed Wednesday and made public yesterday. It claimed executive privilege in refusing to hand over prosecutors' memos in criminal cases, including an investigation of campaign finance abuses, saying doing so "would be contrary to the national interest."

Committee members said the order's sweeping language created a shift in presidential policy and practices dating back to the Harding administration. They complained also that it followed a pattern in which the Bush administration has limited access to presidential historical records, refused to give Congress documents about the vice president's energy task force, and unilaterally announced plans for military commissions that would try suspected terrorists in secret.

Representative William Delahunt, a Democrat and former district attorney, said: "This is the beginning of a constitutional confrontation. In a short period of time, this Department of Justice has manifested tendencies that were of concern to Senate members during the confirmation hearings for John Ashcroft as attorney general."

The Government Reform Committee is investigating the FBI's use of confidential informants while the bureau investigated New England organized crime activities.

The committee is seeking information on deals Boston FBI officials struck with suspected murderers Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi and James "Whitey" Bulger. It is also exploring what FBI officials, including former Director J. Edgar Hoover, may have known about the innocence of Joseph Salvati of Massachusetts.

Salvati spent 30 years in prison for the 1965 murder of Edward "Teddy" Deegan in Chelsea, but the Governor's Council commuted his sentence in 1997. His conviction was overturned in January after a judge concluded that FBI agents hid testimony that would have cleared Salvati because they wanted to protect an informant. ___
"It would be easier if I was a dictator." -George W. Bush, shortly after his innnauguration, 2001

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