A federal judge has issued an injunction ordering Vice President Dick Cheney to preserve all of his official records from the last seven and a half years. Court orders haven’t been necessary for this sort of thing, since the Presidential Records Act of 1978 has mandated that every President and Vice President of the United States beginning with the first term of Ronald Reagan keep and maintain records of their official duties. The records become public, accessible via Freedom of Information Act requests five years after the end of the administration. Government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed suit against this particular vice president because Cheney, that rascally thwarter of democracy, has been arguing that he shouldn’t have to preserve all of his records.
From the Washington Post story by Christopher Lee:
The narrower interpretation of the statute held by Cheney’s office also excuses him from preserving other records that would shed light on his role in the Bush administration, “including those relating to Cheney's work on the National Security Council and those where he acted without instructions from the president, such as his efforts to win reauthorization of a top-secret warrantless wiretapping program.”
[T]he vice president has long resisted revealing any aspect of the inner workings of his office. He has, for example, shielded information such as the names of industry executives who advised his energy task force, his travel costs and details, and Secret Service logs of visitors to his office and residence. Cheney also has argued that he is not part of the executive branch.
Not encouraging to those of us who think that, like, the people of the United States have a right to, you know, know what the fuck their elected officials are doing. The most interesting sentence in that block quote is the last one: Cheney has argued that, as the vice president, he is not part of the executive branch.
Isn’t that equivalent to arguing that Earth is not a part of the solar system? Let us recall Article II, Section I of a little document called the United States Constitution:
Not much room for interpretation there. Cheney’s argument is that his role as President of the Senate makes him a member of the legislative branch, not the executive, and therefore some of his official records should be exempt from the PRA. This unique (read: retarded) interpretation overlooks the fact that the vice president, like the president, is chosen by electors; that the requirements to hold the office of vice president are identical to those for the president and unique from those of either the House of Representatives or the Senate; that the actual Office of the Vice President is located in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, not in any of the half-dozen buildings provided for offices of members of congress; and that it fucking says in the Constitution that the vice president is a member of the executive branch.
The Executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years . . . together with the Vice-President chosen for the same Term[.]
I should also note that the Presidential Records Act specifies the Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President, not “the executive branch,” so Cheney can claim he’s a part of the Slough branch of Wernham Hogg if it makes him happy, he still has to preserve his records and turn them over to the National Archives in January. It’s too bad he needed a federal judge to tell him so.