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2415Bush won't supply subpoenaed documents

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  • Greg Cannon
    Jun 28, 2007
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070628/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush_subpoenas

      Bush won't supply subpoenaed documents

      By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent 29
      minutes ago

      WASHINGTON - President Bush, moving toward a
      constitutional showdown with Congress, asserted
      executive privilege Thursday and rejected lawmakers'
      demands for documents that could shed light on the
      firings of federal prosecutors.

      Bush's attorney told Congress the White House would
      not turn over subpoenaed documents for former
      presidential counsel Harriet Miers and former
      political director Sara Taylor. Congressional panels
      want the documents for their investigations of
      Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' stewardship of the
      Justice Department.

      The Democratic chairmen of the two committees seeking
      the documents accused Bush of stonewalling and disdain
      for the law, and said they would press forward with
      enforcing the subpoenas.

      "With respect, it is with much regret that we are
      forced down this unfortunate path which we sought to
      avoid by finding grounds for mutual accommodation,"
      White House counsel Fred Fielding said in a letter to
      the chairmen of the Senate and House Judiciary
      Committees. "We had hoped this matter could conclude
      with your committees receiving information in lieu of
      having to invoke executive privilege. Instead, we are
      at this conclusion."

      Thursday was the deadline for surrendering the
      documents. The White House also made clear that Miers
      and Taylor would not testify next month, as directed
      by the subpoenas, which were issued June 13. The
      stalemate could end up with House and Senate contempt
      citations and a battle in federal court over
      separation of powers.

      "Increasingly, the president and vice president feel
      they are above the law," said Senate Judiciary
      Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. He portrayed the
      president's actions as "Nixonian stonewalling."

      His House counterpart, Judiciary Chairman John
      Conyers, D-Mich., said Bush's assertion of executive
      privilege was "unprecedented in its breadth and scope"
      and displayed "an appalling disregard for the right of
      the people to know what is going on in their
      government."

      In his letter, Fielding said Bush had "attempted to
      chart a course of cooperation" by releasing more than
      8,500 pages of documents and sending Gonzales and
      other senior officials to testify before Congress. The
      White House also had offered a compromise in which
      Miers, Taylor, White House political strategist Karl
      Rove and their deputies would be interviewed by
      Judiciary Committee aides in closed-door sessions,
      without transcripts.

      Leahy and Conyers rejected that offer. Republican Sen.
      Orrin Hatch of Utah, a member of the Judiciary
      Committee, said the Democrats should have accepted it.

      "We would be much farther ahead in finding out whether
      there's any real impropriety here or not," said Hatch,
      a former chairman of the committee. He also said
      presidents have legitimate reasons to protect the
      confidentiality of the advice they get.

      In his letter, Fielding explained Bush's position on
      executive privilege this way: "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 advisors and between those advisors and
      others within and outside the Executive Branch."

      This "bedrock presidential prerogative" exists, in
      part, to protect the president from being compelled to
      disclose such communications to Congress, Fielding
      argued. And he questioned whether the documents and
      testimony the committees seeking are critically
      important to their investigations.

      It was the second time in his administration that Bush
      has exerted executive privilege, said White House
      deputy press secretary Tony Fratto. The first instance
      was in December, 2001, to rebuff Congress' demands for
      Clinton administration documents.

      Tensions between the administration and the
      Democratic-run Congress have been building for months
      as the House and Senate Judiciary panels have sought
      to probe the firings of eight federal prosecutors and
      the administration's program of warrantless
      eavesdropping. The investigations are part of the
      Democrats' efforts to hold the administration to
      account for the way it has conducted the war on
      terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

      Democrats say the firings of the prosecutors over the
      winter was an example of improper political influence.
      The White House says U.S. attorneys are political
      appointees who can be hired and fired for almost any
      reason.

      Democrats and even some key Republicans have said that
      Gonzales should resign over the U.S. attorney
      dismissals, but he has steadfastly held his ground and
      Bush has backed him.

      Just Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee
      subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick
      Cheney's office, demanding documents pertaining to
      terrorism-era warrant-free eavesdropping.

      Separately, that panel also is summoning Gonzales to
      discuss the program and an array of other matters —
      including the prosecutor firings — that have cost a
      half-dozen top Justice Department officials their
      jobs.

      The Judiciary panels also subpoenaed the National
      Security Council. Leahy added that, like Conyers, he
      would consider pursuing contempt citations against
      those who refuse.

      ___

      Associated Press Writer Deb Riechmann contributed to
      this story.