The U.S. attorney scandal took another turn late in the day on Tuesday when President Bush went before the cameras and made an offer to have his top aides testify about their roles in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys last December, as long as their testimony was given in private, not recorded, and not under oath. Bush characterized the congressional investigation, which is being led by Democrats, as a,”partisan fishing expedition.” President Bush said, “We will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants. … I have proposed a reasonable way to avoid an impasse.”

Bush said that he let it be known through White House counsel Fred Fielding that Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and their aides would only be made available to testify under his terms. “Such interviews would be private and conducted without the need for an oath, transcript, subsequent testimony or the subsequent issuance of subpoenas,” Fielding said in a letter to the Senate and House Judiciary committees and their ranking Republicans. “If the Democrats truly do want to move forward and find the right information, they ought to accept what I proposed,” Bush said. “If scoring political points is the desire, then the rejection of this reasonable proposal will really be evident for the American people to see.”

The president also said that he would fight any attempt to subpoena the White House aides. “If the staff of a president operated in constant fear of being hauled before various committees to discuss internal deliberations, the president would not receive candid advice and the American people would be ill-served,” he said. “I’m sorry the situation has gotten to where it’s got, but that’s Washington, D.C., for you. You know there’s a lot of politics in this town.” Democrats quickly dismissed President Bush’s offer. “It’s sort of giving us the opportunity to talk to them, but not giving us the opportunity to get to the bottom of what really happened here,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said.

Schumer brought up the point that it isn’t being placed under oath that is the big issue for Democrats, but the existence of a transcript of the testimony is critical to the investigation. The New York senator said that even without oaths, the aides would be legally required to tell the truth in front of Congress. However, without a transcript, “it would be almost meaningless to say that they would be under some kind of legal sanction,” Schumer said. My point is simple. If the administration acted legally, then they should have nothing to fear from a transcript of the testimony.

But this is the Bush administration we are talking about and, they have a long record of playing fast and loose with not just legal definitions, but also the law itself. President Bush will probably try to fight the subpoenas with arguments of executive privilege and national security concerns. My guess is that he will lose on both of those grounds.

There is nothing in the mechanics and discussions of how and why these attorneys were fired, that could jeopardize national security. The question centers on the usage of executive power, not Bush’s powers as commander in chief. If the administration really did nothing wrong, they would let the aides testify, but not under oath, and allow the testimony to be recorded in a transcript. If no one broke the law, then this should be no big deal.

 Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse

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