Can it really be true? Will the high priest of executive privilege actually submit to a Congressional subpoena?
When House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI) invited a slate of current and former administration officials to testify about the authorization of torture, I was skeptical that he would meet much cooperation. But when it came to David Addington, Dick Cheney's chief of staff and longtime consigliere, the idea seemed downright ludicrous. If Addington has spoken publicly or even given an interview in the last eight years, I'm unaware of it.
But in a letter (pdf) to the committee yesterday, the vice president's counsel Kathryn Wheelbarger signaled a willingness to cooperate. It was, for sure, a long way from the original reply, which I summarized at the time as, "You're asking the wrong person, but even if you were asking the right person, you couldn't make him show up, and even if he did show up, he wouldn't say anything."
Yesterday's letter is a change of tone. Because the committee has signaled that it will limit the range of its inquiries (this is Addington only speaking for himself, he can't speak about communications with the Vice President or President, he has the right to invoke "applicable legal privileges), Addington seems to be leaning towards showing up.
That doesn't mean that the vice president's office has changed their mind about whether he has to show up, mind you. The courts would agree that Addington is "immune from compulsion," Wheelbarger writes. But Addington might show up out of the goodness of his heart, "as a matter of comity," as the letter puts it.
The letter falls short of saying that Addington will definitely show up to Tuesday's hearing, but Wheelbarger does write that "the Chief of Staff to the Vice President is prepared to accept timely service of a Committee subpoena for testimony for a hearing on May 6, 2008." When the Politico asked Cheney's spokeswoman whether this meant that Addington would comply, she said "Since he hasn't been issued a subpoena, it would be a little premature to comment on whether he would comply." He is a coy one, that Addington.