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Yoo's On First

The House Judiciary Committee hearing with David Addington and John Yoo is proving to be exceptionally bitter and acrimonious even by House Judiciary Committee standards. If you're around C-SPAN, I recommend turning it on--this is entertaining stuff. Addington continually displays unveiled contempt for the members of the committee (I was about to say "thinly veiled," but even that would be too charitable). Yoo is slightly more polite, but no more helpful. The members of the committee are responding in turn, often cutting the witnesses off after just one or two words and going around in hilariously circular arguments. With the exception of the gracefully cool Artur Davis of Alabama, who wisely chose to forego questioning the witnesses and simply lecture them ("You had a Congress that was a rubber stamp for the administration's national security agenda. ... Everyone in this room knows to an absolute certainty that they would have given you everything you wanted in October 2001 if had you bothered to ask"), the Democratic members of the committee are having a pretty hard time getting even basic, uncontroversial information out of the witnesses. Here's a typical exchange (transcript unofficial, from my notes):

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D-MN): "Mr. Yoo, was the advice in your [August 2002 "torture"] memo implemented by the administration?"

JOHN YOO: "Was it implemented?"

ELLISON: "Yes--was your advice followed?"

YOO: "Well, it depends what you mean--"

ELLISON: "Are you denying knowledge of what the word 'implement' means?"

YOO: "You're asking me to define what you mean by the word 'implement'?"

ELLISON: "The memo was implemented at some point, right?"

YOO: "Well, I just don't know--"

ELLISON: "Was the guidance followed and put into action?"

YOO: "You're asking whether the memo was followed? The memo was signed--"

ELLISON: "I'm not asking whether the memo was signed, I'm asking whether it was followed."

YOO: "I don't have personal knowledge as to how it was followed."

ELLISON: "I'm not asking how it was followed, I'm asking whether it was followed."

YOO: "So you're asking me about things other people would have done--"

ELLISON: "Mr. Schroeder, do you understand what implement means?"

It's pretty much been an hour and a half of that so far; Yoo has invoked executive privilege several times so far in refusing to answer questions about specific legal advice he gave the president. Addington, if it's possible, has been even less informative. When Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz questioned him about whether he saw detainees being interrogated on a visit to Guant