Senate Judiciary Committee postpones vote on clemency documents
Torricelli and Hatch say there is no legal standing for executive privilege
By Dana Bash/CNN
September 16, 1999
Web posted at: 6:17 p.m. EDT (2217 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate Judiciary Committee postponed for one week a vote to subpoena documents from the White House on President Bill Clinton's clemency offer to 16 Puerto Rican nationalists.
Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) complied with the request of the ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), to wait until the two could discuss the issue and move in a "bipartisan fashion."
Hatch reiterated his outrage that after he requested documents on the clemency issue from the Justice Department more than two weeks ago, the agency has not yet complied.
"The department is deeply mistaken if it believes it can elude compliance with our request for documents with such a gambit, which I have empirically confirmed as being a constant truth under this administration," said Hatch.
"The issuance of subpoenas is a matter I take very seriously and have exercised only after reflection and on rare instances," Hatch continued. "Unfortunately I am convinced that the time has now come when we must view the department's delay as a denial."
On the White House claim of executive privilege in the clemency matter, Hatch said "I don't see any standing for executive privilege in any way, shape or form."
One committee Democrat, Robert Torricelli of New Jersey, says he intends to vote in favor of sending the subpoenas.
Torricelli agreed with Hatch that executive privilege would probably not hold up.
"They may chose to do so, but I don't believe legally it could be sustained," he said.
Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California also wants to issue subpoenas, but wants to see Republican and Democratic committee staff reports on legal precedent of executive privilege before she decides whether it is prudent.
As the ranking Democrat, Leahy told Hatch he hopes the two can meet in the next week to come up with a bipartisan approach to issuing subpoenas, scheduling hearings and calling witnesses.
Leahy said he stands by his opposition to Clinton's decision to grant clemency, and hopes a Judiciary investigation could emulate those conducted on the so-called Ruby Ridge incident, where the parties worked together and "the end result was something the public and the Senate accepted." The Senate investigated at length the Ruby Ridge incident, in which FBI agents shot and killed two family members after a long standoff at a rural Idaho home in 1992.
Hatch wrote Attorney General Janet Reno on September 1, asking for documents reflecting the Justice Department's position on clemency, material provided to the White House on clemency, correspondence or other documents reflecting the views of the agencies or U.S. Attorneys on the issue, and all materials which relate to the propriety of offering clemency.