Visit the Group News Blog operated by friends of Steve:

Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


One can dream

A Historic Moment if Cheney Testifies Live, as Expected

Published: February 12, 2007

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 — If he testifies as expected, Dick Cheney would be the first sitting vice president, at least in modern times, to appear as a witness in a criminal trial. And if he testifies in court, he may also be the first to give live testimony in defense of a subordinate’s actions on his behalf, legal historians said.

Mr. Cheney’s testimony as a courtroom witness for his former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr., would break with one of the closest historical parallels, when former President Ronald Reagan testified in 1990 via videotape as a defense witness in the trial of his former national security adviser, John M. Poindexter.

The Reagan videotape offered an insight into the unpredictability of criminal trials. His appearance seemed to have little direct impact on the trial, but it created a permanent historical record of his failing memory, which would have been preserved through a printed transcript had he appeared as a live witness but would not have caused the same impact as the widely broadcast videotape.

Courts have traditionally shown great deference to high-ranking executive branch officials, requiring them to testify only when they are thought likely to provide crucial testimony that cannot be obtained elsewhere through documents or other witnesses.

“One of the considerations is, you can’t start dragging the vice president or president away from their jobs,” said Theodore B. Olson, a lawyer in Washington who represented Mr. Reagan when he was asked to testify in Mr. Poindexter’s trial.

Even so, presidents and vice presidents have found themselves caught up in politically volatile inquiries. A few vice presidents were themselves the subjects of criminal proceedings, like Aaron Burr, who was tried for treason and acquitted in 1807 after he left office, and Spiro Agnew, who resigned in 1973 and pleaded no contest to tax and money laundering charges.

In more recent times, presidents and vice presidents have more frequently been questioned as witnesses, usually in private. But even an interview behind closed doors can prove embarrassing, as when a Congressional committee released President Bill Clinton’s videotaped deposition in 1998 to an independent prosecutor in the investigation of his involvement with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern.

Vice President Al Gore was questioned in 2000 by Justice Department prosecutors in a campaign finance investigation, and when he was vice president in 1988, George H. W. Bush was interviewed by an independent prosecutor in the Iran-contra investigation. Those interviews were not made public and never forced either Mr. Gore or Mr. Bush to appear in court.

But no sitting vice president has testified in a criminal trial in recent times, said Joel K. Goldstein, a professor at the St. Louis University law school who has studied the vice presidency. Mr. Reagan was the last president to appear as a witness.

Unlike Mr. Cheney, who would appear as a voluntary witness, Mr. Reagan resisted testifying, primarily because his lawyers said he could shed little light on the obstruction issues in the trial, Mr. Olson said. “There are no hard and fast rules about a president’s testimony,” he said. “It really is a balancing process. Is this really necessary, or is there a less intrusive way to get the evidence?”

The betting is that both Cheney and Libby will not testify. But if he does, imagine him trying to bully Fitzgerald like Wolf Blitzer. If he can hold on, the grilling he takes will well, make his current job tenuous.

Labels: , ,