George Bush is the law

PHOTO: George W. Bush in the Oval Office

Attorney General Michael Mukasey essentially told Congress it’s OK for the president to break the law if the Department of Justice, which is run by people of the President’s choosing, says it’s OK.

“Our” Attorney General Michael Mukasey speaking before Congress:

Delahunt: You said if an opinion was rendered, that would insulate him from any consequences.

Mukasey: We could not investigate or prosecute somebody for acting in reliance on a justice department opinion.

Delahunt: If that opinion was inaccurate and in fact violated a section of US Criminal Code, that reliance is in effect an immunity from any criminal culpability.

Mukasey: Immunity connoted culpability.

Delahunt: This is brand new legal theory.

Mukasey: Disclosure of waterboarding was part of CIA interrogation and permitted by DOJ opinion, would and should bar investigation of people who relied on that opinion.

Delahunt: Let’s concede that waterboarding is in contravention of international obligation. If opinion rendered that amounted to malpractice, whoever employed that technique, simply by relying on that opinion would be legally barred from criminal investigation.

Mukasey: If you’re talking about legal mistake, there is an inquiry regarding whether properly rendered opinions or didn’t. But yes, that bars the person who relied on that opinion from being investigated.

Delahunt: I find that a new legal doctrine. The law is the law.

Mukasey: If it comes to pass that somebody at a later date that the opinion should have been different the person who relied on the opinion cannot be investigated.

Someone forgot to tell Mukasey that Congress makes the laws, and the President and his underlings are supposed to follow them.

This is a rude wakeup call to anyone who actually thought that Mukasey would be an improvement over Alberto Gonzales because of his independence. However, none of this is truly surprising coming from the Bush administration, which believes in the “Unitary Executive.”

Congress and the courts could still rein in this president if they so choose, but I’m not going to put money on it. The Constitutional system of checks and balances requires each branch of government to have the spine so sorely lacking.


On a side note, I just had to laugh at this interview from FOX News (h/t Glenn Greenwald):

CHRIS WALLACE: I want to follow up on that. Whether it is interrogation of terror prisoners or the intercepting of surveillance among al Qaeda members, are you ever puzzled by all of the concern in this country about protecting of rights of people who want to kill us?

GEORGE BUSH: That is an interesting way to put it. I wouldn’t necessarily define some of the critics of my policy that way. I would say that they want to be very careful that we don’t overstep our bounds from protecting the civil liberties of Americans.

I think you’ve got a little something on your nose there, Mr. Wallace.


  1. Ian

    I like how even the President is more rational than Fox News.

  2. Chris

    Yeah… your propaganda has to be pretty blatant before Bush gets embarrassed.

  3. Cameron

    Isn’t he just saying that the DOJ interpreted the law — which it did, no matter what you think the interpretation should be — and that Congress would have to change the law to change the interpretation? Seems like a pretty clear-cut case of Mukasy just pointing out that it’s unconstitutional to make or change a law, and then prosecute someone for what happened before that change was made. In short, DOJ decided it was legal then. If it’s illegal now, that still doesn’t warrant prosecution for when it was legal.

  4. Cameron

    ex post facto! that’s the term i was trying to remember. you can’t make ex post facto laws.

  5. Chris

    That would be all well and good if the DOJ were a judicial body, but they aren’t. What the AG is saying is that the DOJ will not investigate someone who broke the law, if the DOJ had previously told that person it was okay to do so. At the very least, someone from the DOJ should be punished for giving that advice in the first place.

  6. Cameron

    Uh… aren’t all the federal judges in the DOJ?

  7. Chris

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. Federal attorneys are definitely in the department however.