[Richard Painter, guest-blogging, March 24, 2009 at 6:11pm] Trackbacks
Vice President Cheney:

A few commentators bring up Vice President Cheney.

I represented the President and his staff, not the Vice President and his staff. David Addington handled that side of things, and I don't think he is blogging today.

I take issue in my book, however, with the Vice President on a few matters including the following:

Although the Vice President did not retain an economic interest in Halliburton that likely affected his official duties, the complex arrangement used by his lawyers to donate his Halliburton stock options to charity while he retained title to the options would not have passed muster under the federal conflict of interest statute 18 U.S.C. 208. The only reason the arrangement worked legally was because Section 208 applies to every federal employee except the President and Vice President. Anything he did to dispose of Halliburton stock or stock options would be purely voluntary. Nonetheless, when appearances mean everything in Washington, he should have gotten rid of the options. Once the invasion of Iraq and reconstruction of Iraq were imminent, this became an even more pressing concern.

The Vice President's staff at times spent too much time arguing about who had the power to tell who to do what -- separation of powers and executive power issues -- instead of who should do what. For example, there was a dispute with the National Archives over whether its regulations for handling of classified information applied to the Office of the Vice President (OVP). Because OVP has both legislative and executive branch functions these are fascinating constitutional questions for a law review article, but OVP's spat with the National Archives did not address the issue that most Americans care about, which is whether proper procedures for handling classified information are being followed. This was particularly worrisome when there was in fact a controversy over whether classified information about a CIA agent was leaked and the OVP had some connection with that controversy. I was the person charged in November 2005 with giving ethics lectures, together with Bill Leonard from the National Archives, to the entire White House staff on handling of classified information and other ethics matters (this is I believe the only time I was written about widely in the newspapers). From an ethics lawyers' perspective it does not help to have some people arguing about whether the rules technically apply to them.

Finally, Scooter Libby got a good deal from the President; a full pardon would have been too much. Perjury traps are not that difficult to avoid if one uses an old strategy called telling the truth. I regret that we did not include in White House ethics lectures a warning "do not lie under oath" but such should be self evident, particularly after the previous President nearly lost his job over perjury or near perjury on a relatively minor matter.