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White House cites executive privilege to block testimony on US Attorney firings

[JURIST] The White House Thursday rejected congressional subpoenas [JURIST report] for the testimony of former White House counsel Harriet Miers [official profile] and former White House Political Director Sara Taylor [SourceWatch profile] and their documents relevant to the ongoing probe of the US Attorney firings controversy [JURIST news archive]. In a letter [PDF text] to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) [official websites], Solicitor General Paul Clement said that

for the President to perform his constitutional duties, it is imperative that he receive candid and unfettered advice and that free and open discussions and deliberations occur among his advisers and between those advisers and others within and outside the Executive Branch. Presidents would not be able to fulfill their responsibilities if their advisers on fear of being commanded to Capitol Hill to testify or having their documents produced to Congress were reluctant to communicate openly and honestly in the course of rendering advice and reaching decisions. These confidentiality interests are especially strong in situations like the present controversy, where the inquiry seeks information relating to the President's powers to appoint and remove U.S. Attorneys — authority granted exclusively to the President by the Constitution.
Leahy characterized [press release] the response as "Nixonian stonewalling," and promised to "take the necessary steps to enforce our subpoenas backed by the full force of the law." Conyers condemned [press release] the White House response as an indication of the "reckless disrespect this administration has for the rule of law" and also pledged to enforce the subpoenas, which may ultimately result in contempt of Congress [backgrounder] citations against Miers and Taylor. Both lawmakers rejected the White House's offer of providing unrecorded testimony behind closed doors. AP has more.

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