Friday, April 11, 2008

Arguments on Privilege for Two Bush Aides

Arguments on Privilege for Two Bush Aides

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Washington - President Bush's refusal to let two confidants provide information to Congress about fired federal prosecutors represents the most expansive view of executive privilege since Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee told a federal judge Thursday.

Lawyers for the panel, which Democrats control, argued in court documents that Mr. Bush's chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten, and Harriet E. Miers, a former White House counsel, were not protected from subpoenas last year that sought information about the dismissals.

The legal filing came in a lawsuit that pits the legislative branch against the executive in a fight over a president's powers.

The committee is seeking the testimony as it tries to make a case that the White House directed the ouster of nine United States attorneys because they were not supportive enough of Republican agendas.

The White House says such communications are covered by executive privilege.

House lawyers told the judge, John D. Bates of Federal District Court, that subpoenaed White House officials could not simply skip hearings as Ms. Miers had done during the panel's inquiry. They also said any documents or testimony believed to be covered by privilege must be itemized for Congress's assessment.

Fred F. Fielding, the White House counsel, declared Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten immune from prosecution because their refusal to comply with the subpoenas was done at White House direction, under privilege.

The House voted 223 to 32 in February to hold Mr. Bolten and Ms. Miers in contempt. Most Republicans boycotted the vote. Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked the attorney general to refer the matter to a federal prosecutor. He refused, and the panel sued.

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