This just in:
“The executive’s current claim of absolute immunity from compelled Congressional process for senior presidential aides is without any support in the case law,” Judge John D. Bates ruled in United States District Court here.
Unless overturned on appeal, a former White House counsel, Harriet E. Miers, and the current White House chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten, would be required to cooperate with the House Judiciary Committee, which has been investigating the controversial dismissal of the federal prosecutors in 2006.
Judge Bates, a Bush appointee, has hitherto stayed loyally on the reservation. Chief Justice John G. Roberts even appointed him to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2006 to replace a judge who resigned after learning that Bush had been been illegally bypassing FISA for years.
Apparently Judge Bates is not so picky that he won’t serve on a rubber-stamp court. But it turns out he draws the line, thank you Lord, at the idea of turning Congress too into a rubber stamp.
Bates is likely to be reversed on appeal, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia having been systematically packed with GOP hacks for decades. (Its chief judge is David B. Sentelle, of blessed memory for siccing Kenneth Starr on Clinton and overturning the felony convictions of Oliver North and John Poindexter.)
Or the whole can of worms could easily be kicked down the road until the election is past. Or the case could be fast-tracked to the Supreme Court where it would be sure to receive the same sort of rough frontier justice meted out to Al Gore in 2000.
But still, but still. We strict constructionists must content ourselves with the occasional crumbs thrown to us by judges who legislate from the bench. Thus it is encouraging to see that at least one Bush appointee wants to put a leash, however flimsy, on Little Caesar’s imperium.