Ex-White House aides refuse to testify in US Attorney probe

[JURIST] Former White House Political Director Sara M. Taylor [SourceWatch profile] refused to answer questions from the the US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] in connection with the US Attorney firings controversy [JURIST news archive] Wednesday, saying that she did not have the ability to independently "assess or question" President George W. Bush's assertion of executive privilege [JURIST report]. Taylor said she will answer questions in the future [opening statement] if the committee's subpoena [JURIST report] is backed by a judicial determination that the congressional need for information outweighs the executive's interest to receive candid advice without fear of public dissemination. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy [D-VT] [official website] said in his opening statement [text] that

Congress will continue to pursue the truth behind this matter because it is our constitutional responsibility - and it is the right thing to do. I hope Ms. Taylor chooses to reject the White House’s insistence that she abet their stonewalling and, instead, works with us so that we can get to the bottom of what has gone on and gone wrong.
Former White House counsel Harriet Miers [official profile], who was scheduled [press release] to appear Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee [official website], has also been directed by the administration not to comply with the congressional subpoenas. In a Wednesday letter, Miers' lawyer said that she would not testify [press release] before the committee under directions from current White House Counsel Fred Fielding. Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. and subcommittee Chairwoman Linda Sánchez have threatened to subject Miers to contempt proceedings [statement, PDF] if she disregards the subpoena.

In recent weeks, the White House and the congressional judiciary panel heads have quarreled over the administration's assertion of executive privilege. On Monday, the White House defended its executive privilege claim against accusations that its blanket assertion of executive privilege belied good faith [JURIST reports]. The White House insists that it will only allow top White House officials to give unsworn, unrecorded, and behind-closed-door interviews to the judiciary committees, an offer congressional leaders have rejected. Taylor's refusal to testify may ultimately result in a contempt of Congress [backgrounder] citation against her. AP has more.

 

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