Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter

FILE - The U.S. Capitol Building is seen at sunrise in Washington, Nov. 17, 2008. VOA

The Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee is set to vote Wednesday to authorize subpoenas to obtain the full report on Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election from special counsel Robert Mueller, as well as the testimonies of five former White House officials interviewed by the special counsel.

Lawmakers were expected to vote along party lines to authorize Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler to subpoena documents and testimony from five former Trump aides, including former political advisor Steve Bannon and former White House Counsel Donald McGahn.

While Trump has left it to Attorney General William Barr to decide whether to release the complete report, the president is expected to assert what is known as executive privilege over some portions of records other congressional committees are seeking as part of their investigation of the administration. That has set the stage for a showdown between Democrats in Congress and the White House, raising the specter that the issue may ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

FILE – U.S. Attorney General William Barr leaves his house after Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion between U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia in the 2016 election in McClean, Virginia, March 25, 2019. VOA

But if the past is any indication, the coming battle is likely to be fought — and eventually settled — through political give and take between the executive and legislative branches of government rather than the courts, said Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and author of an acclaimed book on executive privilege.

“Historically, I found in my studies on executive privilege that presidents and Congress have done a good job of engaging in a negotiating process and settling these matters because they both understood that they had a real incentive not to let this go into the courts and not to let these matters drag on,” Rozell said.

Executive privilege

Executive privilege is the right of the president and his senior advisers to protect certain communications from disclosure to Congress and the courts. While the courts have long recognized that power, as well as Congress’ authority to investigate the executive branch, they’ve been reluctant to decide disputes over access to records between the two branches of government.

“Courts have typically required the executive and the legislative branches to engage in a good faith back-and-forth accommodation process about the information before the court will ultimately decide the issue of whether certain documents or testimony are required to be provided to the Congress,” said Margaret Taylor, a senior editor at the popular Lawfare legal blog and a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.

FILE – The letter that Attorney General William Barr sent to Congress on March 29, 2019, is photographed in Washington. VOA

Short of serving a subpoena, Congress has other tools it can use to seek access to information from the executive branch, including the power of appropriation and the power to confirm senior administration officials, Taylor said.

“These are other tools that Congress can use to hasten … the provision of information from the executive branch to the Congress,” Taylor said.

Congress’ power to investigate

While not enshrined in the Constitution, Congress’ power to investigate and obtain confidential information from the executive branch is “extremely broad” and has been recognized as essential to its legislative function, according to the Congressional Research Service.

To obtain information or testimony from executive branch officials, congressional committees initially submit a request. When that fails, Congress can resort to another means of compulsion: subpoenas.

Failure to comply with a congressional subpoena can lead to a vote by the full House or Senate holding the person in contempt of Congress and referring him or her to the Department of Justice for prosecution. If the Justice Department is unwilling to bring charges, Congress can seek a civil judgment from a federal court compelling the individual to respond.

With the power of executive privilege, presidents have wide latitude to refuse to fully comply with congressional subpoenas. While there is no consensus on the scope of executive privilege, Taylor said presidents have claimed executive privilege over several categories of information — sensitive or classified information; presidential deliberations with advisers; attorney-client communications; law enforcement investigations and national security matters.

“These claims of executive privilege aren’t always successful,” Taylor said. “Sometimes the president ends up waving the privilege and going ahead and sharing the information.”

While presidents going back to Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s have asserted executive privilege, previous presidents “exercised various forms of presidential secrecy that are consistent with what we today call executive privilege,” Rozell said.

Past examples

But it was during the 1970s Watergate scandal that the concept became firmly established when the Nixon administration unsuccessfully fought a grand jury subpoena to turn over secret recordings of White House conversations between President Richard Nixon and his aides.

“The Supreme Court in that case said there is a principle of executive privilege, but it does not apply in this particular instance because there are allegations of wrongdoing, and criminal justice requires access to as much information as possible in order to get the facts,” Rozell said.

FILE – President Richard M. Nixon, is shown at his desk in the White House, Feb. 16, 1969. VOA

Since Nixon, American presidents have invoked executive privilege to varying degrees of success.

In 2001, President George W. Bush asserted executive privilege over internal Justice Department deliberations regarding the FBI’s handling of confidential informants in the 1960s. Turning over the documents, Bush wrote, would “inhibit the candor necessary” to the deliberative process and would be “contrary to national interest.” Congress fought back and eventually reached an agreement with the Justice Department to receive the documents.

On occasion, presidential claims of executive privilege have ended up in court, although by the time a court has issued a verdict, the issue has become moot.

In 2011, the House Oversight Committee subpoenaed internal Justice Department communications and other records as part of its investigation of “Operation Fast and Furious,” a federal gun-running program run amok. Then-President Barack Obama invoked executive privilege to deny the committee access to the records. Three and half years later, a federal court rejected Obama’s assertion of privilege while recognizing that some records were protected and ordering the two sides to negotiate an agreement.

ALSO READ: On NATO’s 70th Birthday, Trump Takes Credit for Increased Burden Sharing in Defense Spending

The Supreme Court has never considered a case over a congressional subpoena versus executive privilege. But given the apparent unwillingness of both the administration and congressional Democrats to compromise, experts say the possibility the issue will land before the high court can’t be discounted.

“I don’t think it’s likely that a subpoena dispute will end up before the Supreme Court,” Rozell said. “Usually, it would be a lower level federal court that would get involved. But it could conceivably be a battle that goes all the way to the United States Supreme Court.” (VOA)


Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Char Dham Yatra resumed on Friday with more than 16,000 devotees resuming the pilgrimage from the Rishikesh camp.

As weather cleared up in Uttarakhand, Char Dham Yatra restored on Friday with more than 16,000 devotees resuming the pilgrimage from the Rishikesh camp.

According to sources, road leading to Badrinath has been repaired and helicopter service has also resumed.

Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited Dungi village and met families of people who were missing after the landslip incident, and consoled them.

Dhami assured them of all possible assistance. Two people from the village are still reported to be missing.

Pilgrims were seen leaving from Rishikesh Char Dham Bus terminal and Haridwar bus station for the pilgrimage since morning.

As per the state government, various departments -- Devasthanam Board, police are assisting the pilgrims.

Police Chowki Yatra Bus Terminal, Rishikesh, was announcing passenger-information via loudspeaker.

Free RT-PCR tests of pilgrims were being conducted at Rishikesh bus terminal.

Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board's media in-charge Dr Harish Gaur said pilgrimage was on in Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, while for Kedarnath, helicopter service was also available.

Though the weather was cold in all dhams, thankfully there was no rain, he added.

Portals of the temple in Badrinath will close on November 20, Gangotri on November 5, while that of Kedarnath and Yamunotri on November 6.

Uttarakhand floods, triggered by a major downpour from October 17 to 19, have claimed 65 lives so far, 3,500 people have been rescued while 16,000 evacuated to safety.

Seventeen teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), seven teams of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), 15 companies of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and 5,000 police personnel have been engaged in rescue and relief operations.

The state has already been provided with Rs 250 crore Disaster Fund which is being used for relief works.

To prevent spread of the diseases, the Central and state governments have decided to send medical teams to the affected areas.

Snapped power lines will be restored at the earliest, the government assured.

The state government said that as soon as alert for heavy rainfall was issued, the Incident Response System was activated at state and district levels, and pilgrims were halted at safer places. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Uttarakhand, India, Char Dham Yatra, PushkarDhami, Rishikesh.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Naga leaders are adamant in their main demands for a separate Constitution and flag.

The Centre has continued the Naga peace talks with the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) leaders, but negotiations face roadblocks as the Naga leaders are adamant in their main demands for a separate Constitution and flag.

The sources aware of these developments said that the Centre was hopeful that a successful solution of the six decades-long peace talks would arrive at a logical conclusion, but in the recent statements, Naga leaders have accused the Centre of offering post-solution options.

Sources quoting the stand of Naga leaders said that NSCN's stand was loud and clear that it would not follow the forbidden route to the Naga solution that was linked to foregoing the Naga national flag and Constitution, which is the face of the Naga political struggle and identity.

The Naga leaders have also said that the Centre has been using divisive policy and flattery in the name of finding the Naga political solution when the matters heated up.

When the Centre resumed the peace process in September this year and sent the former special director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) A.K. Mishra as the Ministry of Home Affairs' emissary to the rebel outfit's chief negotiator and general secretary T. Muivah, he assured him (Muivah) that the peace talks would be initiated under the original framework signed in 2015, a source in the Naga rebel group said.

"Here we are talking about the Naga national flag and Yehzabo (Constitution), the two issues that are holding up the Naga solution under the ongoing Indo-Naga political talks in Delhi.

"The chequered history of the Indo-Naga political issue is clear enough before us, with accords and agreements that were never meant to be implemented in letter and spirit", an important office-bearer of the rebel outfit said while criticizing the governments' stand.

Accusing the Centre, he further accused the Centre of persuading the Naga people again to accept whatever is being offered to hurry up the Naga talks.

On the invitation of the Centre, the senior leaders of the NSCN-IM including T. Muivah arrived in the national capital on October 6 this year to hold another round of talks with the Centre.

Both, the Centre and the Naga leaders had indicated their keenness on resolving this long pending issue by the end of this year in an amicable manner.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma, who is also chairman of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), and Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had been actively involved in the resumption of the peace talks and taking it forward to a logical conclusion.

Soon after the transfer of Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi, who was appointed as the Centre's interlocutor for the Naga peace talks on August 29, 2014, to Tamil Nadu, the peace talks resumed on September 20 in Kohima when the Centre representative met the Naga leaders and invited them to visit Delhi for further rounds of peace talks.

The NSCN-IM and the other outfits entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India in 1997 and over 80 rounds of negotiations with the Centre have been held in the past in successive governments. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Nagaland, India, Constitution, Politics, Flag.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

India-England test series will now be played next year from July 1 at Edgbaston Stadium

The series decider for the Test series between England and India will now be played at Edgbaston from July 1 next year, said the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday. India is currently leading the series 2-1 before the fifth Test at Old Trafford was cancelled hours before the start due to concerns over COVID-19 outbreak in the tourists' camp.

"The fifth match of the LV= Insurance Test Series between England Men and India Men has been rescheduled and will now take place in July 2022. The match, which was due to take place last month at Emirates Old Trafford, was called off when India were unable to field a team due to fears of a further increase in the number of Covid-19 cases inside the camp," said an ECB statement.

"With India leading the series 2-1, the concluding fifth match will now take place from July 1, 2022, at Edgbaston, following an agreement between the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)," added the statement.

ECB also said that due to the rescheduled Test, the white-ball series between England and India will now start six days later than originally planned. The T20I series will begin on July 7 at Ageas Bowl with Edgbaston and Trent Bridge hosting the second and third matches respectively on July 9 and 10. It will be followed by the ODI series starting on July 12 at The Oval followed by Lord's and Old Trafford hosting the second and third ODI on July 14 and 17 respectively.

"Ticket holders do not have to take any action as all tickets will remain valid for the equivalent rearranged matchday at their host venue. Host venues will communicate the new fixture details to ticket purchasers and the options available to them, including the timeframe for requesting a refund if they are not able to attend the new match day," further said the statement.

"We are very pleased that we have reached an agreement with BCCI to creating a fitting end to what has been a brilliant series so far. I'm very grateful to all the venues involved for the cooperation they've shown in allowing us to reschedule this match. I'd also like to thank Cricket South Africa for their support and understanding to allow these changes to be possible," said Tom Harrison, the CEO of the ECB.

"We would like to apologise again to fans for the disruption and disappointment of September events. We know it was a day that so many had planned long in advance. We recognise that accommodating this extra match means a tighter schedule for the white ball series. We will continue to manage our players' welfare and workloads through next year while we also continue to seek the optimum schedule for fans, players and our partners across the game."

"I am delighted that the England-India Test series will now have its rightful conclusion. The four Test matches were riveting, and we needed a fitting finale. The BCCI recognizes and respects the traditional form of the game and is also mindful of its role and obligations towards fellow Board Members. In the last two months, both BCCI and the ECB have been engaged in discussions and our efforts were aimed at finding a suitable window. I thank the ECB for their understanding and patience in finding an amicable solution," said BCCI Secretary Jay Shah. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: India, Britain, BCCI, Test Match, Cricket.