Bush Denies Congress Access to Aides


(Gold9472: What if the "candid advice" the President is given calls for the murdering of Americans on American soil?)

Published: July 9, 2007

WASHINGTON, July 9 — President Bush, invoking executive privilege for the second time in his clash with lawmakers over the firing of federal prosecutors, said today that he is refusing to comply with Congressional subpoenas for testimony from two top former aides.

In a letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, Mr. Bush’s counsel, Fred F. Fielding, declared that the legislative and executive branches of government were at an impasse. Mr. Fielding wrote that the president is directing the two aides — Sara M. Taylor, the former White House political director, and Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel — not to testify.

“The assertion of executive privilege here is intended to protect a fundamental interest of the presidency: the necessity that a president receive candid advice from his advisors and that those advisors be able to communicate freely and openly with the president,” Mr. Fielding wrote, adding that in the case of the firing of federal prosecutors, “the institutional interest of the executive branch is very strong.”

The move was not unexpected. Mr. Bush said last month that he had no intention of letting Ms. Miers or Ms. Taylor testify.

The president offered at that time to allow the two women, as well as other top aides — including Karl Rove, his chief political strategist — to be interviewed by lawmakers, so long as the interviews were not under oath and were not transcribed. Though Democratic leaders in Congress rejected that offer as insufficient, Mr. Bush renewed it today.

The latest refusal to comply with the subpoenas ratchets up the tensions in an already tense legislative-executive clash, and heightens the likelihood that the two sides will wind up in court.

Congressional Democrats are trying to determine who sought the firings of nine federal prosecutors, and why. They want to know whether White House officials, including Mr. Rove, interfered with hiring and firing decisions at the Justice Department for political reasons, or perhaps to thwart certain investigations.

Last month, Mr. Bush said he would not comply with subpoenas for documents in the case. At that time, the committee chairmen — Representative John Conyers of Michigan and Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, both Democrats — wrote to Mr. Fielding to complain that the president was not acting in good faith.

In his letter today, Mr. Fielding complained about the tone and language the Democrats used, telling them he wanted to convey "a note of concern over your letter’s apparent direction in dealing with a situation of this gravity."
But Mr. Leahy, anticipating today’s action, issued a statement over the weekend accusing the White House of stonewalling.

“The White House continues to try to have it both ways, to block Congress from talking with witnesses and accessing documents and other evidence while saying nothing improper occurred,” the senator said. “I hope the White House stops this stonewalling.”