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Attempt to put pressure on White House aides through contempt

The controversy over the firing of the US attorneys by the Bush justice department has been played at various levels and through the media over the past few months. Congress has been attempting to get White House aides and Justice Department personnel to depose in front of them for months now. When Attorney General Gonzales came for this cross-examination, his performance was not very inspiring. His cross-examination was harsh, with both Democrats and Republicans firing very direct questions at him, and very skeptical of what he had to say.

Well, this investigation continues to play along, although it has now seemed to reach an impasse. The House committee has issued contempt notices to 2 aides – the former White House counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten. The White House refuses to let them depose before the committee, claiming executive privilege. There does not seem to be any likely solutions, with this matter heading to the courts for a solution, something that will take some time to time to resolve:

The House Judiciary Committee Wednesday passed two measures to hold former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten in contempt for failing to answer subpoenas related to the firings of eight U.S. Attorneys last year. The resolutions will now go to the full House for consideration, where they will likely be voted upon after the August recess, according to a senior Democratic aide.
Earlier this year the Administration offered to let Miers and senior advisor Karl Rove meet with the committee for a one-time, off the record interview, which would not be under oath and would not be transcribed. Since then, Democrats have rejected that proposal out of hand, and White House Counsel Fred Fielding has said both Miers and Bolten are immune to the committee’s requests because they fall under executive privilege.

The White House will continue to claim privilege, and is unlikely to give up easily. It would also be worried about the precedence of letting the House question White House officials over this matter could be used again later; and this is not something that the current White House is guilty of. Previous White Houses have also taken this defense and only when the courts have forced such testimony has it been given.

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