Renzi Magistrate Makes Speech or Debate Even More Confusing

           The Magistrate Judge in the Renzi case has issued this report and recommendation on Renzi’s claim that the indictment violated the Speech or Debate Clause. 

            To recap, (now former) Congressman Renzi is alleged to have told landowners who wished to obtain federal land exchange legislation that he would sponsor the bill only if they purchased for inclusion in the exchange certain property owned by a James Sandlin (who happened to owe Renzi a substantial sum of money). 

            The government’s primary argument is that these allegations do not offend the Speech or Debate Clause because they involve only future legislative acts.  It relies on cases, such as United States v. Helstoski, 442 U.S. 477 (1979), which hold that the promise to vote for a bill in the future, at least in the context of the promise being made in exchange for a bribe, is not a legislative act protected by Speech or Debate. 

            The Magistrate begins his analysis by accepting the basic thrust of the government’s argument.  He states that “the government may establish the allegations with proof involving promises to vote and solicit other votes for the respective land swap proposals in return for the purchase of the Sandlin property; such promises are promises to perform future legislative acts, and as such, under Helstoski, are not protected.” 

            However, as the Magistrate obliquely acknowledges, the matter is not so simple as the foregoing quote would suggest.  The Renzi case would have been on all fours with Helstoski if Renzi were alleged to have promised to vote for the land exchange legislation in return for the purchase of some property unrelated to the legislation.  The same would be true if Renzi had allegedly stated that he would vote for the land exchange legislation only if the Sandlin property were included and the purchaser paid more than X amount for it.  In actuality, however, these allegations have not been made; instead, the core of the prosecution’s case is simply that Renzi corruptly insisted that he would support the land exchange legislation only if the Sandlin property were included.

In the ensuing ten pages, the Magistrate struggles to explain why this difference makes no difference. As he observes, the case law has not “established any definitive boundary for the lower courts to apply to establish whether an activity involves Speech or Debate.” Unfortunately, the Magistrate’s discussion does not bring that boundary into sharper focus; if anything, he blurs the lines even more.

Renzi argued that negotiating with private landholders is a routine and inherent part of the legislative process for land exchange legislation. The Magistrate’s response to this argument is particularly confusing: “Renzi’s conduct alleged in the indictment may be routine, it may be “procedurally” akin to negotiating an amendment to draft legislation, and some day communication between private landowners drafting legislation in the hopes their local representative might support it, and a representative who might at some future time support such legislation may be provided constitutional protections befitting that relationship, but presently this Court does not find that it is protected under the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution.” (emphasis in original).

What does this mean? Is the Magistrate suggesting that Renzi’s position is logical, but somehow conflicts with existing case law? Or is it that Renzi’s position may be right, but the Magistrate does not intend to be the first judge to say so? Hard to tell.

The Magistrate ascribes considerable significance to the fact that Renzi’s negotiations with the landowners occurred before legislation was introduced. He indicates at one point that the same negotiations, had they taken place before legislation was introduced, would have been “probably protected,” and, at another, “clearly protected” by Speech or Debate. Presumably the Magistrate is persuaded that such negotiations would themselves be part of the legislative process and therefore covered by Speech or Debate, even though they involve references to future legislative acts. For reasons that are unexplained, however, the Magistrate does not believe that the same can be said about negotiations that precede the introduction of legislation. To muddy the waters further, the Magistrate asserts that “there is no artificial line drawn at the introduction of legislation.”

Regardless of whether the negotiations were part of the legislative process, however, the Magistrate acknowledges it would be impermissible for the prosecution to use that evidence to impugn Renzi’s motivation for sponsoring the land exchange legislation. He states that “inquiring into Renzi’s motivation for telling the land proponents to include the property in their exchange packages, or Renzi’s motivation for sponsoring the package, would draw an impermissible inference into Renzi’s legislative acts, and would be privileged.”

This is, of course, precisely what the indictment seems to do when it alleges that Renzi and Sandlin entered into a conspiracy to deprive the United States of its right to Renzi’s “honest services” by “using the promise of Renzi’s exercise of his official authority in their favor to compel [the landowners] to purchase the Sandlin Property.” Although the indictment may not expressly state that Renzi had a corrupt motivation for telling landowners, this is implicit in the charges. If Renzi did not have a corrupt motivation for insisting that the Sandlin property be included in the legislative proposal, then the United States was not deprived of his honest services and there would be no basis for the indictment.

Finally, a word must be said about the Magistrate’s most far-fetched attempt to attempt to avoid the application of Speech or Debate. He suggests that the Clause does not apply because the alleged activities exceeded Congress’s jurisdiction. Why? Not because Congress lacks the power to enact land exchange legislation. Instead the Magistrate claims that “Congress’s jurisdiction in this instance certainly does not reach as far as the illegal conduct alleged to take place in the negotiations between the landowners and Renzi solely for the personal enrichment of Renzi.” In other words, because Renzi was alleged to have acted illegally, he is not entitled to protection of Speech or Debate. This assertion would make the Speech or Debate privilege meaningless. As the Helstoski Court noted, “the Speech or Debate Clause was designed to preclude prosecution of Members for legislative acts.” It would hardly achieve this purpose if the government could evade its strictures when the legislative acts were illegal.

In conclusion, I have to give the Magistrate some credit for grappling with the difficult case law in this area. Speech or Debate law is complicated, sometimes inconsistent and definitely under-theorized. Unfortunately, the Magistrate’s foray has not improved matters.

Lobbyist’s Invitation Raises Ethical Issue

            Via Election Law Blog and Political Activity Law comes this story from The Washington Times:  Senator Diane Feinstein cancelled a fundraiser after the lobbyist hosting it sent out an invitation using the Senator’s committee assignments as the theme for the event’s meal: 

Washington lobbyist Heather Podesta mentioned the intelligence committee in an e-mail invitation attached to a formal notice of the event, saying that the lunch at the upscale Charlie Palmer steakhouse in Washington would begin at noon. In the e-mail, she said donors who gave between $1,000 and $2,500 could order up “the Select Committee on Intelligence for the first course.”  

With a check “payable to Feinstein for Senate,” the e-mail said other courses include “your choice of Appropriations, Judiciary or Rules committees,” other panels on which she serves. 

What caught my eye from the article was this comment from Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW.  Sloan is quoted as calling the invitation “audacious, but legal.”  She goes on to say: “By correlating a fixed-price menu with Sen. Feinstein’s committee assignments, Podesta does what most of Washington assiduously seeks to avoid — makes clear that members of Congress are for sale.”  

Now Podesta’s invitation clearly showed bad judgment and illustrates the kind of behavior that ethical lobbyists should strive to avoid.  To say that the invitation “makes clear” that Senator Feinstein is “for sale,” however, goes a bit far.  A more charitable explanation is that the invitation was intended as a humorous way of conveying the Senator’s committee assignments.  No doubt this was for the benefit of invitees with an interest in matters before those committees, but this is still a long way from suggesting that either the Senator or the committees are for sale.   

It should be noted that lobbyists, at least those who are lawyers (as Podesta is), have ethical obligations that go beyond what is merely “legal.”  If Sloan’s interpretation of the invitation were correct, it would seem that Podesta would have violated Rule 8.4 of the D.C. Bar Rules of Professional Conduct.  This rule provides that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to “state or imply an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official.”   

It is a worthwhile caution for all lawyer-lobbyists to remember this rule, and to refrain from comments that can be interpreted as claiming an ability to improperly influence Members of Congress.

Secretary and Clerk Close Lobbying Loophole

The Secretary of the Senate and Clerk of the House have just issued a “clarification” that closes the “one free lobbying contact per quarter” loophole that I have discussed here, here and here in the last few days.  Under the clarified guidance, a registered lobbyist cannot be de-listed merely because that “individual did not in the current quarter and does not reasonably expect in the upcoming quarter to make more than one lobbying contact per quarter.” 

In the event that a registered lobbyist no longer reasonably expects to make any future lobbying contacts, the clarified guidance would still permit de-listing.  Although the statute does not directly address this situation, it seems to me a reasonable inference from the statutory definitions is that a “lobbyist” or an employee “acting as a lobbyist” is someone who is expected to make at least an occasional lobbying contact.  Otherwise, someone who technically qualified as a lobbyist at one time (even a junior employee who attended a couple of meetings) could remain so for years merely because he or she provided, or was expected to provide, even incidental support for lobbying contacts made by others.   

            It undoubtedly will be argued that this will enable de-listing of someone who functions as a “de facto lobbyist” behind the scenes, but who avoids lobbying contacts in order to escape the burdens of being designated as a registered lobbyist.  This problem, however, exists in any case for “de facto lobbyists” who never engage in more than one lobbying contact.  Moreover, to make de-listing unreasonably difficult would itself tend to discourage people from registering as lobbyists in the first place.  All in all, it seems to me that the Secretary and Clerk have reasonably resolved this issue.

Secretary and Clerk Acknowledge Review of Lobbying Loophole

From The Hill: 

“These new questions have prompted us to review the guidance to ensure that there are no inadvertent loopholes,” said Beth Provenzano, deputy chief of staff for the Senate secretary’s office. She added that the guidance was thoroughly vetted with Senate and House institutional attorneys before it was issued.

“We are actively reviewing the issue to see if there is a problem,” said the House clerk’s office in a statement.

Why did the President Cross the Road?

            Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight has posted some thoughts regarding the President’s removal of the Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service.  While Brian notes various troubling aspects of this matter (for more details see here), she contends that the removal complies with the letter, if not the spirit, of the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008 (a law co-sponsored by then-Senator Obama). 

            The IG Reform Act provides in pertinent part that “[i]f an Inspector General is removed from office or is transferred to another position or location within an establishment, the President shall communicate in writing the reasons for any such removal or transfer to both Houses of Congress, not later than 30 days before the removal or transfer.”  The President evidently attempted to comply with this requirement by letter to Congress in which he “explained” the removal as follows: “[I]t is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspector General.  That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.” 

            Brian argues that this “minimal explanation” satisfies the legal requirement.  She notes that Congress chose not to adopt a provision that would have limited the President’s ability to remove IGs to specific grounds, namely permanent incapacity, inefficiency, neglect of duty, malfeasance, felony conviction, gross mismanagement or waste funds, or abuse of authority.  Because Congress did not require that the President to have a good reason for firing an IG, she argues, it has only itself to blame for the fact that the President has given a bad one. 

            While Brian may very well be right that Congress would have done better to prohibit removal of IGs except for good cause, I do not see the connection between this issue and the notification provision.  Perhaps the President can, for example, remove an IG because his horoscope says that it is a good day to fire someone, but the law still requires him to notify Congress that this is the reason for the removal.   

            When Congress required the President to state the reasons for removing an IG, it was not looking for an answer analogous to the response to “why did the chicken cross the road?”  Explaining that the President removed or transferred an IG  because he lacks confidence in him is little better than explaining that the chicken crossed the road to get  to the other side.  The question remains, why did the President lose confidence in the IG? 

            The problem here is not that the President has given a bad reason for the removal.  It is that he has failed to give a reason at all or, at best, has given only one of the reasons for the removal.  The statute requires that the President give the “reasons” for the removal.  Unless the President lost confidence in the CNCS IG for no reason at all, the notice to Congress fails to meet this requirement.

Loophole Closing?

Via Election Law Blog, Ken Gross notes that the Clerk and Secretary are reconsidering the guidance that would allow de-listing of a lobbyist who engages in no more than one lobbying contact per quarter.  This comports with my information.  I suspect that there will be additional guidance in the near future that closes this loophole.

More on Lobbyist De-listing

Covington’s Political Law Update (hat tip again to Rick Hasen) also discusses the “de-listing” of lobbyist issue, stating as follows: 

“Many in Washington had interpreted the structure of the statute to mean that the 3-month period applies to the 20% time threshold, but not to the two-or-more-contacts requirement. The Clerk and Secretary apparently read this definition to mean that a lobbyist is an individual employed or retain for services that include more than one lobbying contact per quarter. If the Clerk and the Secretary stick to this view, individuals who have not had more than one contact in two consecutive quarters (and do not plan to in the future) can de-list, even if they still spend more than 20% of their time on lobbying activities. The Obama Administration’s restrictions on registered lobbyists has made the question of when a lobbyist can de-register more important than ever. Because the statutory basis for the Clerk and Secretary’s interpretation is somewhat dubious, it may be prudent to hold off a bit on de-listings until it is clear that they intend to stand by their interpretation.” 

Although the language of the new guidance seems quite clear, I think Covington’s caution is well-advised—it would be prudent to see if the Clerk and Secretary decide to reconsider this issue.

Lobbying Loophole?

            The Clerk of the House and Secretary of the Senate last week released new guidance on the requirements of the Lobbying Disclosure Act.  Among other things, this guidance addressed when a registrant may “terminate” a lobbyist (i.e., remove an individual from the list of persons who act as lobbyists on that registrant’s reports).  This is an issue that has become important only in the last couple of years, as being a “registered lobbyist” now involves both regulatory burdens and restrictions on one’s ability to obtain employment in the Obama Administration.   

            The new guidance states: “A registrant may remove a lobbyist only when (i) that individual’s lobbying activities on behalf of that client did not constitute at the end of the current quarter, and are not reasonably expected in the upcoming quarter to constitute, 20 percent of the time that such employee is engaged in total activities for that client; or (ii) that individual did not in the current quarter and does not reasonably expect in the upcoming quarter to make more than one lobbying contact per quarter.” 

            As pointed out by the law firm of Caplin and Drysdale (hat tip: Rick Hasen’s Election Law Blog), this guidance is problematic because “[t]he LDA, as well as prior House and Senate guidance, make clear that an individual qualifies as a lobbyist by spending 20% of his/her time engaged in lobbying activities for a client in a calendar quarter and making two or more lobbying contacts over the course of services provided for that client (even if the second contact occurs in a later quarter). Thus, an individual qualifies as a lobbyist if he/she made two or more lobbying contacts at any point during their work for a client, and not merely in the current or subsequent calendar quarter.”   

            Under the new guidance, someone who has made more than one lobbying contact for a client in the past, and continues to spend more than 20 percent of his or her time on lobbying activities, could apparently be de-listed if he or she made no more than one lobbying contact in the current quarter and did not expect to make more than one in the upcoming quarter.  This would essentially mean that one could be an unregistered lobbyist so long as one is careful to limit one’s lobbying contacts to one per quarter, though this would seem contrary to the language and prior interpretation of the LDA. 

            This would seem to open up a very significant new loophole in the LDA.

More on the British FOIA and the House of Commons

Those who follow matters of legislative privilege and transparency may find the U.K. FOIA case against the House of Commons to be of some interest.  One wonders how the observations of the British courts as to the lack of legislative transparency might be applied to the operations of the U.S. Congress. 

As mentioned in a previous post, the case began with FOIA requests by journalists, including Heather Brooke, seeking information regarding something called the Additional Expense Allowance.  As one court explained: 

The duties of Members of Parliament are chiefly carried out at Westminster and in their constituencies.  They often work long hours, and late into the evening.  As a result, MPs for constituencies outside inner London generally need to reside in two different places.  Since 1971 they have been entitled to claim expenses up to a set limit to defray the additional costs of hotel bills or a second home.  The allowance which they can claim for this purpose is called the Additional Expense Allowance or ACA. 

The FOIA requests were made to the House of Commons administration, rather than to individual MPs, because the House of Commons is a “public authority” subject to FOIA, while MPs are not. 

After the House refused to make the requested expense information available, the journalists went to the Information Commissioner, who issued a decision that was partially favorable to each side.  Both sides then appealed to the Information Tribunal, which issued a decision in February 2008.   

The House argued the case primarily on the grounds that the requests violated the privacy of the MPs whose expenses were at issue.  This, it seems, was a bad litigation strategy, because it required the Tribunal to balance the public interest in disclosure against the privacy interests that were implicated.   The Tribunal determined that there was a substantial public interest in disclosure, mainly due to the inadequacy of the ACA system itself.  It began by explaining: 

The framework of rules governing the administration of ACA is said to be based on the principle that Members are primarily responsible for identifying, claiming and certifying their own expenditure on allowances, and for the propriety of that expenditure.  Historically, this is because of their constitutional position as elected representatives.

 Although the Tribunal noted that “[i]t is not our function to say what system ought to be operated by the House,” it nevertheless could not “decide the issues which are before us without arriving at a view on the effectiveness of the existing controls.”   On that question, the Tribunal was decidedly unimpressed:

The laxity of and lack of clarity in the rules for ACA is redolent of a culture very different from that which exists in the commercial sphere or in most other public sector organizations today.While we can appreciate that the emphasis on self-certification is historically derived from Members’ constitutional position as elected representatives, even if self-certification were considered to be in principle an acceptable system in modern conditions, the inadequacy of that approach is manifest as soon as it is appreciated that the Members upon whom the responsibility of certification is placed do not have access to a clear, coherent and comprehensive statement of their entitlements such as might enable them to fulfill that responsibility.Moreover, the information which is published in the [parliamentary regulations] does not match the system as actually administered, and hence as actually experienced by MPs.In our judgment these features, coupled with the very limited nature of the checks, constitute a recipe for confusion, inconsistency and the risk of misuse.Seen in relation to the public interest that public money should be, and be seen to be, properly spent, the ACA system is deeply unsatisfactory, and the shortfall in both transparency and in accountability is acute.

In light of this finding as the “deeply unsatisfactory” nature of the ACA system, the Tribunal found that the public interest in disclosure clearly outweighed the MPs privacy interests (although it permitted some modest adjustments in the form of disclosure to protect certain personal information).

The House of Commons then appealed to the High Court of Justice, which affirmed the Information Tribunal.The judgment of the High Court, issued in May 2008, may be found here.In view of the Tribunal’s findings as to the unsatisfactory nature of the ACA system (which were not reviewable on appeal), the High Court agreed with its assessment of the public interest:

We are not here dealing with idle gossip, or public curiosity about what in truth are trivialities.The expenditure of public money through the payment of MPs’ salaries and allowances is a matter of direct and reasonable interest to taxpayers.They are obliged to pay their taxes at whatever level on whatever basis the legislature may decide, at least in part to fund the legislative process.Their interest is reinforced by the absence of a coherent system for the exercise of control over and the lack of a clear understanding of the arrangements which govern the payment of ACA.Although the relevant rules are made by the House itself, questions whether the payments have in fact been made within the rules, and even when made within them, whether the rules are appropriate in contemporary society, have a wide resonance throughout the body politic.In the end they bear on public confidence in the operation of our democratic system at its very pinnacle, the House of Commons itself.The nature of the legitimate public interest engaged by these applications is obvious.

The High Court also addressed how it had jurisdiction over Parliament, something that seems questionable in light of the history of legislative privilege in Britain. As the Court noted, “[i]t is a fundamental principle of our constitutional structures that Parliament should not normally be subject to judicial scrutiny or supervision” and “[l]egal proceedings like these are therefore rare.”

Nevertheless, the Court explained, “[t]he current litigation does not directly or indirectly impeach or question proceedings in Parliament and article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1689 [which protects legislative freedom of debate] is not engaged.”Moreover, the FOIA law itself expressly included the House of Commons as a public authority to which the law applied.In addition, the FOIA law made specific provision for parliamentary information to be exempted if disclosure might infringe upon legislative privilege, and in this regard the certificate of the Speaker of the House of Commons would be conclusive.As the Court noted, the Speaker had not signed any such certificate in connection with the ACA expenses.

Following the High Court decision, one imagines that the Speaker (who has since resigned) regretted his failure to sign such a certificate.There was, as I understand it, some consideration of asserting parliamentary privilege even after the High Court ruling.These issues, however, presumably became moot when the entire ACA database was leaked to the press.

Did Republicans Violate HPSCI Rules? Does it Matter?

           Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have alleged that Republican members violated committee rules by speaking with The Hill newspaper following a classified briefing by the CIA on interrogation methods.    Specifically, Representative Kline (R-Minn.) was quoted by the paper as follows: “The hearing did address the enhanced interrogation techniques that have been much in the news lately,” Kline told The Hill. “Based on what I heard and the documents I have seen, I came away with a very clear impression that we did gather information that did disrupt terrorist plots.”  The Democrats are threatening punitive sanctions for this alleged violation. 

            The rule in question is HPSCI Rule 12(a)(1), which states: 

            (1) Generally. Except as otherwise provided by these rules and the Rules of the House of Representatives, Members and Committee Staff shall not at any time, either during that person’s tenure as a Member of the Committee or as Committee Staff, or anytime thereafter, discuss or disclose, or cause to be discussed or disclosed:

(A) The classified substance of the work of the Committee;

(B) Any information received by the Committee in executive session;

(C) Any classified information received by the Committee from any source; or

(D) The substance of any hearing that was closed to the public pursuant to these rules or the Rules of the House. 

            If Kline had disclosed classified information to the press, he would be in violation of subsection (C) of this rule.  Such action would also violate House Rules and, potentially, federal law.  However, there appears to be no allegation that classified information was released.  (It is difficult to see how Kline’s statement, which is essentially the same as claims publicly made by former Vice President Cheney and many others in the past several months, could be said to reveal any classified information). 

            Nonetheless, subsection (B) prohibits not merely the discussion or disclosure of classified information, but of any information received in executive session.  Democrats can argue, therefore, that Kline violated the subsection by discussing the topic of the briefing and by disclosing that the information in the briefing indicated that enhanced interrogation techniques resulted in intelligence that disrupted terrorist plots.  Such a statement, they may contend, constitutes “discussing” and/or “disclosing” the information that was received. 

            Republicans can counter that subsection (B) does not prohibit discussing or disclosing the fact or topic of an executive session briefing, only “information received” in the briefing.  (They can point to the fact that the topic of the briefing was on the HPSCI website).  They can further argue that Kline did not discuss or disclose any information received in the briefing (e.g., by identifying terrorist plots that were disrupted), but merely stated his conclusion based on receiving that information.  They might also contend that the purpose of subsection (B) is to prevent the inadvertent disclosure of classified information, and that Kline’s statement was carefully worded to avoid any possibility of doing so.  Finally, they may argue (see this) that under the broad reading of subsection (B) the Democratic members of HPSCI would also be in violation.  [Update:  In this connection, it should be noted that Speaker Pelosi has made a number of remarks in recent weeks regarding an executive session briefing she received while a Member of HPSCI].

For purposes of thoroughness, we should also consider subsection (D). Although the proceeding in question has been variously described, I suspect that it was a briefing, not a hearing. If so, subsection (D) would not technically be applicable. In any event, I am not sure that asking the question of whether Kline’s statement disclosed the “substance” of the hearing, rather than any “information received” therein, advances the cause of either side. One might argue that the term “substance” is broader, thereby prohibiting even a general characterization of a hearing that does not reveal particular information. One could equally well argue that it is narrower, prohibiting only a disclosure of the essence of the hearing, rather than merely particular bits of information. In short, analyzing the question under subsection (D) does not seem to advance the ball any.

As a lawyer, the temptation is to analyze these competing claims based on the language and purpose and legislative history of the rule, and in light of any relevant precedents interpreting the language. It is doubtful, however, that such an analysis would yield any more definitive answers than suggested by the arguments summarized above, and I would suggest that the legalistic approach really misses the point. The Parliamentarians will tell you that the House and committee rules must be interpreted and applied in the spirit of “comity.” Although this philosophy can be frustrating to lawyers, it makes sense in light of the overriding goal of the rules—to establish settled expectations that allow the members to work together with some degree of mutual confidence. Neither using the rules to punish marginal or technical violations, nor looking for loopholes that enable circumventing the rules, is consistent with this goal.

Seen in this light, it is clear that the door opened by Representative Kline’s statement to the press, whether or not it was technically in compliance with the rules, needs to be firmly closed. In and of itself, the statement probably revealed nothing of significance regarding the executive session proceeding, but its natural effect is to pressure others on the committee to respond with their own public characterizations of the proceeding, which will not only risk the disclosure of sensitive information but call into question HPSCI’s ability to conduct future closed proceedings.

The larger problem, however, is that the political dispute regarding enhanced interrogations, and particularly the argument over what Congress knew and when it knew it, threatens to undermine HPSCI’s critical role in overseeing the intelligence community, and more broadly to harm the functioning and institutional reputation of the House. The only way to solve this problem is for the majority and minority to agree on an approach to resolving the matter. This is what then-HPSCI chairman Pete Hoekstra and Ranking Member Jane Harman did went confronted with the politically sensitive issue of Duke Cunningham’s activities as a member of the committee. They established a framework agreement to govern the rules of the investigation, retained a special counsel (me) to investigate and report, and worked together to ensure that the investigation received the committee’s full cooperation.

With respect to the question of what was disclosed to Congress about enhanced interrogations, this should be a relatively easy task. There were only a limited number of briefings regarding enhanced interrogations, a limited number of participants, and a limited number of relevant documents. A neutral fact-finder should be able to review this evidence and come to conclusion fairly quickly.

It is in the interests of the House for the majority and minority to come together, agree to turn down the temperature on this divisive political issue, and choose a mechanism to resolve the factual dispute. I would suggest that the newly created Office of Congressional Ethics could perform this function. Alternatively, the matter could be referred to the Ethics Committee, to a special counsel, or even to the House Inspector General. One way or another, however, this food fight should end.