Talking Points Memo has a great video of White House Press Secretary Dana Perino trying to explain to the press corps why Cheney was a member of the executive branch when he wanted to claim executive privilege but is now suddenly not a member of the executive branch for purposes of evading regulations on classified documents. It’s fun watching her play dumb and contradict herself. One minute she’s saying “this is more complicated than you’re making it out” and the next minute she’s saying “i think you’re making this more complicated than it really is.” She keeps making the argument that Cheney is a member of both the executive and legislative branches, but as one reporter points out they seem to think that means that he doesn’t have to follow the rules of either. I’ll post the transcript below the fold, but watch the video; it’s a lot of fun.
Q Dana, as long as we’re talking about branches of government, can you go back to Vice President Cheney again, the argument that he’s not part of the executive branch. Does the President believe he’s part of the executive branch?
MS. PERINO: I think that that is an interesting constitutional question, and I think that lots of people can debate it. I think when we were talking about the EO from last week, we’ve gone over that several times. You probably don’t want me to go over it again. But the Vice President — any Vice President has legislative and executive functions.
Every Vice President has legislative and executive functions. The executive functions are given to him by the President. For example, the Vice President’s paycheck comes from the Senate. So these are — that’s an interesting constitutional question. When we are talking about this EO, it is separate and apart from — the President and the Vice President oversee the executive agencies. Supreme Court precedent shows that the Vice President and the President are not seen as an agency when it comes to executive orders.
Q I know that’s your argument about an agency, but it’s very separate from the argument the Vice President is making. And what is the President — what is the White House’s view of the argument the Vice President is making on whether or not he’s part of the executive branch?
Q For one, I think — I mean, the information is clearly —
MS. PERINO: I’m not opining on it, because the President did not intend for the Vice President to be subject as an agency in that section of the EO.
Q That’s an entirely different argument. So you don’t Vice President’s —
MS. PERINO: No, it’s the same —
Q You don’t support the Vice President —
MS. PERINO: I’m not opining on it either way.
Q But, Dana, how could the Vice President, earlier in the administration, argue he didn’t have to turn over records about the energy task force, for example, because he was a member of the executive branch? He clearly stated that.
MS. PERINO: You could ask the Supreme Court who ruled in his favor.
Q But he did not say, I’m a member of the legislative branch, as well, so I don’t have to — I mean, he clearly stated that there was strong executive power and he didn’t have to turn over these records. Now, when it suits his interest, he seems to be saying a different legal argument.
MS. PERINO: Look, I’m not a legal scholar and there’s plenty of them that you can find in Washington, D.C. But just that very point that you’re making there shows that he has functions in both the executive branch and the legislative branch.
Q But he didn’t mention those functions — dual functions in the early legal arguments at the beginning of the administration. He only used the executive branch arguments.
MS. PERINO: Look, you can try to call his office and try to get more information. I’m not opining on his argument that his office is making. What I can tell you is that the President did not intend for him to be treated separately from himself in this executive order regarding the ISOO office.
Q So, also, though, you mentioned a moment ago that the Vice President gets his paycheck from the Senate.
MS. PERINO: Yes.
Q Does the White House then also believe he should get funding for the Vice President’s office from the legislative branch instead of from the executive branch?
MS. PERINO: I don’t know. These are not in position —
Q Well, you just noted that. You just noted he gets his paycheck —
MS. PERINO: I’m just — the reason I noted that is because I’m trying to illustrate the point that he has roles in both the legislature and in the executive branch.
Q But the National Archives documents they want have to do with his executive branch functions; I mean, the secret documents one assumes are from his duties of Vice — as Vice President.
MS. PERINO: In the executive order, the President and the Vice President are discharged separately from agencies, in which — it might be awkward if the President, who is the supervisor of this office, was asking that office to come in and investigate themselves. And in this executive order the President is saying that the Vice President is not different than him.
Q When did he decide that? Just in 2003? I mean, he —
MS. PERINO: In terms of the executive order? I need to go back —
Q He did it for a couple of years before that. He just was doing that out of the good of his heart, or —
MS. PERINO: I think so. (Laughter.)
Q Okay. The office also has a 30-year history, which is part of why the National Archives Oversight Office is concerned, because other Presidents had provided — other White Houses had provided this information. And so it really is a break with a pattern. Why is that necessary?
MS. PERINO: I don’t know why the EO was amended in 2003, and I can try to go back and find out. What I do know is that when the President wrote this EO, it’s clear in the reading of it that he does not intend for the Vice President to be seen as separate from himself. And they are not asking someone who is subordinate to them to come in and investigate them. And I think that the ISOO office has had only a complaint about the Vice President’s office, not about other places within the executive branch. And so that can be resolved either by the Justice Department or, as I am telling you, as the President’s spokesman, he did not intend for the Vice President to be seen as separate from himself.