Heard an interesting snippet on NPR yesterday, and I found the transcriplt at NPR : Documents Show Justice Ranking U.S. Attorneys. Here's the key quote:
In a letter Thursday, White House Counsel Fred Fielding told Congress he won't budge from his original offer — to let Congress interview White House staffers privately, with no oath or transcript.
Sources tell NPR that Fielding actually wants to negotiate with Congress about how the interviews will take place. But Fielding has not been able to persuade President Bush to go along.
Assuming this is accurate, the most likely back story to this leak is that Fred Fielding is trying to save his reputation. And that means there's some really bad stuff lurking behind the stonewall. It also fits the public image of Bush as stonewaller-in-chief. (Shorter GW Bush: 'Congress, read my lips, no Iraq withdrawal. But come on by for a chat and I'll be happy to harangue you as long as you listen quietly.')
An alternate explanation for this story is that someone, perhaps Fielding perhaps someone else, is trying to put pressure on Gonzales or the White House to see reason. But I think that's less likely here. In previous administrations, leaks like this used to be salvos fired in internecine wars among the palace guard. That's been remarkably not the case in this administration due to a combination of exemplary message discipline and know-nothing disinterest in both reportage and reality. Then again, Fielding earned his chops in two of those earlier administrations…
(Sorry this is a late comment; I started writing it the other day but wasn’t able to finish my thought before now.)
I’m not sure it’s possible to read it as him trying to save his reputation, at least not as an attempt likely to be successful. Assuming this leak (“Sources tell NPR that Fielding actually wants to negotiate with Congress about how the interviews will take place. But Fielding has not been able to persuade President Bush to go along.”) in any way reflects actual information connected to his role as White House counsel, and assuming its leakage wasn’t specifically part of a calculated strategic effort by him on behalf of the White House, it would seem to constitute an enormous ethical breach. Two breaches, even: one, of the duty of confidentiality (what normal lawyer would be allowed to have an office be so porous when it comes to information connected with a client’s representation?), and two, of zealous advocacy/conflict of interest, if suddenly his desire to look out for himself puts that objective at cross-purposes with his looking out whole-heartedly for his client.
Maybe he’s trying to save his skin politically, but his best bet to save his skin *as a lawyer* would be to be the best, most prototypical lawyer he can be, so that at the end of the day he can say he truly was being the zealous advocate of his client our notion of justice demands, and not a party to his client’s behavior.