White House: Transcripts are a "perjury trap"

Why write things down when you can just trust administration officials to tell the truth?

Published June 28, 2007 5:18PM (EDT)

In a conference call with reporters today, a senior administration official -- it was pretty clearly White House counsel Fred Fielding --- was asked why the White House is willing to have former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former White House political director Sara Taylor talk with congressional investigators about the U.S. attorneys scandal only if no one is allowed to transcribe what they say.

His answer: Why write things down when you can just trust White House officials to tell the truth?

But we paraphrase. Here are the words the senior administration official actually said:

"Obviously, there has been a lot of discussion back and forth in that regard. The position that the president took and conveyed to the committees and the offer of compromise did not include transcripts. The accommodation was designed to provide information, not to appear to be having testimony without having testimony. One of the concomitants of testimony, of course, is transcripts.

"As far as the debate goes, often cited is that a transcript is not wanted because otherwise there would be a perjury trap. And, candidly, as everyone has discussed, misleading Congress is misleading Congress, whether it's under oath or not. And so a transcript may be convenient, but there's no intention to try to avoid telling the truth."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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