WASHINGTON (Mar. 13)
The State Department made it clear today that it expects President Carter to invoke “executive privilege,” the purpose of which invoke “executive privilege,” the purpose of which would be to deny the Congress documents and other information it may seek with regard to the U.S. vote in support of the United Nations Security Council’s March I anti-Israel resolution which the President subsequently repudiated as a “mistake.”
The Department’s chief spokesman, Hodding Carter, said today that he was “confident” that we will uphold the Constitutional separation of powers (between the legislative and executive branches) formally and finally when Congress may speak to us.” Reminded by a reporter that a basis for President Carter’s election in 1976 was his commitment to “open government,” the State Department spokesman said “We will address the problem as it becomes necessary. Our basic legal position is established.”
In a letter to the House foreign Affairs Committee yesterday from Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations J. Bryan Attwood, delivered shortly before it began its hearing on a resolution of inquiry into the UN vote “mistake,” the State Department said it would not provide the committee with its informational materials given to the President because they would fall under “executive privilege.”
Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D. NY) who, with Reps. Christopher Dodd (D. Conn.) and Hamilton Fish (R.NY), is seeking an open hearing on the steps that led to the U.S. vote, told the House committee that previous administrations used the tactic of executive privilege to hide embarrassing information. This was apparently a reference to such actions in the Nixon Administration.
Hodding Carter, without mentioning former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger by name, remarked that “My boss” predecessor was eloquent on the subject” of executive privilege and this is “something much higher than embarrassment.”
The House committee hearing ended with chairman Clement Zablocki (D.Wisc.), who is usually sympathetic to the Administration’s positions, winning agreement to summon Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to appear before it, “hopefully next week” behind closed doors, It was unlikely that Vance’s subordinates or any White House personnel would be summoned to testify without a battle within the committee. Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was to have held a hearing on the same matter today, has not yet scheduled a firm date. Its hearing might be held next Thursday.
There is a feeling in some knowledgeable quarters that the delays in the two hearings were seen to have been engineered, at least in part, by supporters of President Carter’s re-election. Their purpose apparently, according to some observes, is to avoid criticism of the President on issue that relates to possible damage to American national interests in advance of the Presidential primaries to be held in illinois on March 16 and in New York on March 16 and in New York on March 25.
In a related development, although Carter has repudiated the U.S. vote in favor of the anti-Israel Security Council resolution, the State Department said yesterday it has “no plans” to formally notify the UN on the President’s position which he has stated several times. Spokesman Carter was asked “whether and when” the U.S. would circulate a document at the UN setting forth the President’s repudiation of that resolution and setting forth the principles governing U.S. policy on the Arab-Israeli situation. “I have no answer to offer you because we have no plans to do it,” spokesman Carter replied. He said the U.S. position was expressed by the President in a statement on the night of March 3 repudiating the U.S. vote.