Democrats: White House must answer subpoenas

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

WASHINGTON -- House Democrats threatened Monday to hold President Bush's key confidants in contempt of Congress unless they comply with subpoenas for information on the Justice Department's purge of federal prosecutors last winter.

The White House shrugged off the ultimatum, saying the information is off-limits under executive privilege and that the aides in question -- White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten and former presidential counselor Harriet Miers -- are immune from prosecution.

"It won't go anywhere," predicted White House press secretary Dana Perino.

Congressional Democrats nonetheless submitted their 102-page report, and a Republican rebuttal, to the House clerk Monday afternoon. The report accused Miers of contempt for failing to appear and testify as subpoenaed. She and Bolten were charged with failing to produce documents on whether the prosecutors were fired at the White House's behest.

Also in the sights of House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers, D-Mich.: Karl Rove, the architect of Bush's rise to the White House and a top political adviser who left last summer.

House Democrats were trying to round up a majority to pass the citation, said two House officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process was ongoing.

In a separate letter, Conyers urged White House counsel Fred Fielding to comply.

"As we submit the committee's contempt report to the full House, I am writing one more time to seek to resolve this issue on a cooperative basis," Conyers said in a letter to Fielding.

The Congressional Research Service, Conyers added, reported that in at least 74 instances, sitting White House advisers have testified before Congress once there was a committee contempt vote.

"I very much hope that we can similarly avoid a constitutional confrontation in this case," Conyers said.

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