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House lawyers slam White House executive privilege claims as broadest 'since Watergate'

[JURIST] The White House's interpretation of executive privilege to shield former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and current White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten [official profiles] from Congressional subpoenas represents the broadest construction of the doctrine since Watergate, lawyers for the US House Judiciary Committee [official website] told the US District Court for the District of Columbia in court papers [motion, PDF] Thursday. Lawyers for the Executive branch argued that Miers and Bolten were immune from prosecution as their refusal to cooperate with subpoenas was directed by the White House, and therefore protected by executive privilege [press briefing transcript].

In February, members of the House voted 223-32 [roll call; JURIST report] to issue contempt citations for Miers for failing to testify and citations for both Miers and Bolten for refusing to produce documents related to the 2006-2007 firings of nine US attorneys [JURIST news archive]. The same month, Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey urging him to begin a grand jury investigation [JURIST report] into the conduct of the two White House aides and saying that the House would initiate a civil lawsuit if she did not receive a response within one week. Mukasey refused to present the contempt citations to a grand jury [JURIST report] in a response the following day, and the committee filed a civil lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] seeking enforcement of the subpoenas. AP has more and offers additional coverage.

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